a guide to writing the perfect cv

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a short list of facts about you and your work history, skills and experience.

This document informs potential employers about your skills and experience to help make a decision about employment or invitation to interview. It is essential to have a good CV when looking for work and, as such, it is worth spending time getting it right.

Your CV should:

  • be neat, typed and to the best standard you can achieve in content and layout
  • be positive. It should emphasise your achievements, strengths, successes and how you have contributed to your employers making a profit (add figures to support facts whenever you can and use positive action words for example: ‘consulting’, ‘negotiating’, ‘managing’ etc)
  • make a good impression, this means presenting the facts about yourself in a clear and positive way.

What to include

Personal Details

This part of your CV can be very brief and should only contain:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Contact telephone numbers
  • Nationality.

Do not include your date of birth, marital status or NI numbers.

Skills and knowledge

This is your first chance to sell yourself and create a picture of yourself and your skill set.

  • Outline your key skills and achievements
  • Include personality traits to enable people to build a picture of you
  • This section should be kept to a short paragraph to interest prospective employers enough to make them read on

Employment history

This is the most important section of your CV, so make sure you get it right!

Write this section in chronological order, working backwards in time. Always include:

  • the company name
  • the position held
  • accurate dates of employment

Give an outline of the duties your role included and make the most of duties that are relevant to the role you are applying for.

Make sure this section is clear and easy to read and use bullet points rather than paragraphs If your career history goes back a long way it is acceptable to just state date, company name and position held for jobs older than 15 years If you have any gaps in your employment history make sure they are covered by a brief explanation

Education/qualifications

This should be kept to your main qualifications i.e.

  • GCSEs
  • A Levels
  • Degrees
  • Other qualifications relevant to your career.

Clearly state these from the most recent going back in time.

  • Include the College/School where the qualifications were gained as well as dates Grades for these qualifications should also be clearly stated
  • Do not add in any short courses like First aid courses to this section

Personal/ Hobbies/ Interests

This section is very much personal preference but it is nice to offer prospective employers an insight into your personality.

  • Include any interests that you have that show that you have good social skills, e.g. any clubs you help with
  • Do not add interests on your CV that you are not passionate about

Additional Qualifications

  • This is where you can add any additional courses and qualifications that you have achieved. Companies are often interested in first aid courses so add these in
  • If you have been a fire warden or health and safety officer at previous roles then add these in
  • Any music exams passed can also be added in here

References

References are personal preference, but if you do add them onto your CV, you must be prepared for them to be contacted straight away!

  • All referees should be previous employers or business associates
  • Do not include personal references
  • Do not add your current employer as a reference on your CV as they should not be contacted until you have accepted the new role and have handed your notice in
  • Make sure you are confident that your referee will give you a good reference
  • Always ask someone before you list them as a referee on your CV If you do not want to supply references on your CV it is perfectly acceptable to state ‘references available on request’

Check, check and check again!

Now that you have all of the information down on your CV, it is essential that you check, double check and triple check it all.

  • Make sure all of your contact details are current and correct
  • Check all spelling and grammar – simple typos can ruin your chances
  • Make sure the typeface you have chosen is business like and clear to read Avoid making the typeface too big or too small
  • It doesn’t matter if your CV spreads over more than two pages as long as the information is clearly written and is relevant
  • Do not write your CV in boxes; this is old fashioned and they usually move around the page when opened with different programmes
  • Photographs are not necessary and should not be submitted unless specified
  • Make sure your CV is typed in a programme and format that most computers operate with
  • Now that you are completely happy with your CV… check it one more time
  • Ask someone you trust to check it.

10 CV mistakes to avoid

Putting together a great application takes time. Here’s our guide to common and easy application mistakes that can make the difference between getting a job interview and having your CV put straight on the ‘no’ pile…

  1. Mr Jones? Oh, sorry, Mr James…
    It may seem obvious but make sure that you have spelt the name of the person you’re sending the application to correctly on the email and on the cover letter. Just to be on the safe side double-check the company and product names that your spellchecker wouldn’t have caught.
  2. Check it
    Spell check
  3. Right application, wrong company
    If you’re sending out lots of applications at once check that the right CV is going to the right job. Every CV should be different – slightly tweaked to make sure it fits each job advert. If you send the wrong CV to the wrong job then you can really harm your chance
  4. Get attached
    Attach your attachments! It doesn’t look good if two minutes after you press send you email them again with ‘and this time with attachments’. This is especially true if you’ve listed attention to detail as one of your attributes
  5. Ready, set, format!
    Make sure the format of your CV is easy to open for all computers – or at least most of them. There are so many different versions of Word now that some machines can’t access the files attached so it’s best to save your CV as a standard .doc file that any computer can open
  6. Judge a book by its title
    Your CV should have your name in bold and clearly laid out at the top of the document. You don’t need to write ‘CV’ at the top or even ‘Curriculum Vitae’. You want them to remember your name!
  7. Think about it
    Make sure the email you’re sending the application from isn’t a cutesy personal email address. Beerlover69@hotmail.com isn’t likely to be taken seriously. This is also true of the email address you have added to your CV as a point of contact
  8. Once more for luck…
    Spell check again!
  9. But remember….
    Spell checkers aren’t infallible. Go through it yourself and look for grammatical errors; if you’re not confident in editing your own work then get a friend or family member to go over it for you
  10. Finally
    Now, take a breath. Have one more read through and if you’re sure everything is 100% correct press send.