Writing a CV

If you’re looking for work, whether it’s a part-time job or full-time career, most employers will want to see your CV. Here’s our guide to writing a good one.  

So, what is a CV?

It stands for Curriculum Vitae, which can be translated from Latin into ‘course in life’. It’s also known as a ‘resume’ in America. Basically, your CV should be a list of all the qualifications, courses and experiences you’ve had in your life that are relevant to work or education.

Why do you need a CV?

Most employers ask for a CV when you apply for a job. It helps them to find candidates with the right skills and experience. When employers don’t ask for a CV, they usually ask you to fill in an application form. Filling in a form usually requires the same type of information as a CV, so spending time learning how to write a good CV is always useful.

What should you include in your CV?

Your CV should include contact details and information about your education, work experience and skills. Our CV template will show you what to include and where, but make sure you also read our top tips before you write your CV, fill in an application form, or create a profile on LinkedIn.

To create your own CV, download the CV template below. To tailor your CV for a specific job, download the CV skills and qualities document and use the tables to help you think about how you match what the employer is looking for.

Before you start, read our top tips

There’s no need to name your CV

Firstly, don’t waste precious space by writing ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top – just start with your full name and contact details. It will be obvious that your CV is a CV, by how your information is laid out.

Check your contact details

Potential employers need to be able to get in touch with you. Make sure you include up-to-date contact details (a mobile telephone number and email address at least) and check and double-check that these details are correct. You should also make sure your email address is appropriate – something like charliesexykitten@hotmail.com probably won’t make a good impression.​

Introduce yourself

It’s a good idea to have a brief profile section at the top of your CV, just below your name and contact details. This is where you can introduce yourself and say what kind of work you are looking for. For example, you might say you are in your final year of school and that you’re looking for customer service work at the weekends. This lets the employer know a little bit about you.

Keep it short

When employers are looking at CVs and job applications they don’t have much time. In some companies you’re lucky if your CV gets a 10 second glance! That’s why you need to keep it short and sweet – two sides of A4 paper at the most, but try to keep it to one side if you can.

Start with the good stuff

Some CV templates have quite a rigid structure. For example, they might tell you to start with your qualifications, then list your work experience – but what if your qualifications aren’t that great? Thankfully some employers are more interested in the experience you have, rather than the grades you got. However, every CV should include (at least) the following sections:

  • contact details – how else will they invite you to an interview
  • experience – including work experience, paid work and voluntary work
  • education – your qualifications and any courses you’ve done or are doing
  • references – it’s okay to put ‘references available on request’ if you don’t want to list other people’s contact details.

Other sections you could include are:

  • a profile at the start – it’s a good way to introduce yourself
  • some skills – maybe as a list of bullet points 
  • your hobbies and interests – especially if they link to the job somehow, but it’s also good to show that you’re a real person, not just a CV! 

It’s always best to start with the information that is most relevant for the job or course you want.

Don’t tell lies

It’s an absolute no-no to lie on your CV – you’ll almost always get caught out and it won’t help you in the long run. Just focus on your strengths and play down any weaknesses.

Don’t use abbreviations

Don’t use abbreviations or make assumptions about what the person reading your CV knows already. Instead, always write things down in full. For example, not everyone will know that ‘DofE’ stands for ‘Duke of Edinburgh’.

Don’t list every activity you have ever done

Don’t list every activity you can think of. This may give the impression that you are not really committed to anything in particular. Instead, focus on a few activities that you are fully committed to and that are relevant to the job. This will allow you to give more detail about these activities – for example, you could say what you did, how you contributed and how often you attended. You can also reflect on the skills you have gained through these activities and describe any training you received.

Don’t just have one CV

It’s important to adjust your CV for the job you are applying for. Make sure you have a copy of the job description and understand what qualities you will need for the job. Then use your CV to highlight the skills and qualities you have that will make you suitable for the role.

For example, if you’re applying for a job serving customers and you have some experience working with the public, make sure you include this clearly at the start of your CV. If you are going to apply for an office job as well, have a separate version that highlights your organisational and IT skills instead. Some people change their CV for every job application – not a bad idea at all.

Make sure it looks good

There are some things to remember when you are formatting your CV – number one is the font that you use. Make sure you use a font that is easy to read. Avoid old-fashioned fonts like Times New Roman because they look out of date. Choose a more modern, fresh font like Arial, Calibri or Tahoma. Size 11 or 12 is good for the main text, perhaps using bold size 14 or 16 for headings. You should make sure your name is big at the top of your CV – at least size 28.

If your CV goes onto a second page, put your email address at the bottom of each page as a small footer. This way the company can still get hold of you even if they lose the top page.

Check, check and check it again

You’ll probably spend quite a bit of time on your CV, so make sure it isn’t let down by poor spelling, grammar or punctuation. A top tip for checking written work of any kind is to read it out loud. That way you should pick up any mistakes. It’s a good idea to get at least one other person to look at it too. You don’t want to realise you’ve made a mistake after you’ve sent your CV out!

Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a website designed for networking online – a bit like Facebook, but for professionals. That means you shouldn’t treat it like Facebook – no pictures of you out with your mates and definitely no text speak! When you set up a LinkedIn profile, you will need to add similar information to what you have in your CV, but it also asks you to include a photo. Make sure it’s a professional looking picture of you, and look out for random things or people in the background!

Once you’ve completed all of the sections, you can connect with people you know. It’s best not to add your friends – instead try to keep it professional and only add people you know from work related activities. Some people use LinkedIn to contact potential employers. If you are doing this, make sure your LinkedIn page looks professional and is up to date, otherwise it can do more harm than good!

Just like with your CV, make sure you get someone else to check your page before you ‘go live’ with it. You should also be cautious about meeting anyone who contacts you on LinkedIn. Be just as careful as you would if it was someone contacting you through Facebook or Twitter.