Why a great CV is so important

Your CV is the primary instrument you need to apply for a job. It is your opportunity to describe your working life, education, experience, skills and qualifications in a way that demonstrates your value to the company and the benefits of an employer hiring you.

To leave the reader with no doubt about your suitability, you must present a strong CV that clearly conveys this information.

To do this, below you’ll find our tips on how to write a CV. Alternatively, you can download our CV template.

How long a CV should be

Don’t get too hung up on length, Just ensure everything in it really is relevant to the role. If not, remove it or, at the least, simplify your language. On your resume, you must get to the point, so don’t use ten words to say something you could say in five.  

What NOT to include

You have limited space, so unless relevant to the role, do not include every job you’ve ever held, such as casual positions you had in high school. Concentrate on quality over quantity by ensuring every line shows how you are relevant to the job you’re applying for. 

Similarly, if you have an advanced degree, few people are going to be concerned with the exams you took when you were 16. Instead, only include training that is relevant to the position you are applying for.

We also advise against listing hobbies or interests. Focus instead on the experience and skills that make you right for the job you are applying for.

There is no need to include references. A recruiter or employer will reach out for details of your referees at the appropriate point in the recruitment process.

Aim for clarity. Avoid decorative fonts, pictures, and ornate borders. You want to be noticed for what you say, not how you present it. It is important to be consistent with fonts and formatting, suing the same style for headings throughout for example.

Bear in mind most recruiters will remove colour and pictures, so make sure that you don’t depend on ‘extra touches’ for your CV to be clear.

Best Layout

Have a clear structure that is easy to understand and read. Your aim is to present facts about yourself concisely. Leave enough white space to enhance readability.  Use a simple font like Arial, or Times New Roman 10 or 12 point, and keep formatting, such as italics and underlining, to a minimum.

Bullet points can help you say what you want to say in the limited space available. Keep them short and concise. Start each one with an action verb if you can (‘designed’, ‘managed’, ‘produced’, ‘improved’ etc.), rather than ‘I’.

Check your CV carefully. Always run a spell check over it carefully and re-read to ensure accuracy. Ask a friend to proofread it also. Your CV is the first impression your potential employer will have of you. Take the time to get it right, you may not have a second chance.

Most Recruiters will upload your resume into their database so make sure it is in a commonly accepted format that follows the below structure. We recommend a simple Microsoft Word document with no images, and no fancy formatting and fonts.

Give your CV a clear filename, Including your full name: JohnSmithCV.doc

Step by step guide to writing a great CV

Follow the below standard resume structure when looking to write your resume.

Contact information

Add your name, phone number, and email address (make sure the email address you use sounds professional)

Professional summary 

In 50 to 150 words, describe your relevant experience and skills. Prove your value by focusing on what you have to offer.

Skills summary 

Grab the readers attention by making it immediately clear what you can offer. Provide a brief bulleted list of the systems, skills and competencies that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. Use keywords from the job description.

Achievements 

A future employer will be interested in where you went above and beyond the job that you were paid to do and achieved something great. So, next list your key career achievements, supported by facts, statistics or links. For example, if you over-achieved on your sales targets, you need to say by what percentage and over what period.

Work experience 

Your work history should be the most detailed section of your resume, with positions listed in reverse order, beginning with the most recent. Include employer names, positions and primary responsibilities.

Focus on the value you added in each role, rather than simply listing what your duties were. This section shouldn’t read like a job description, it should tell the story of your unique strengths and accomplishments. One way to help you do this is to use action verbs such as “managed” or “produced”, as these verbs force you to focus on what value you brought to the role.

Include months when stating dates you started or finished a role. Writing "2020 - 2021" could be interpreted as employment from December 2020 to January 2021 unless you say otherwise. 

Never leave gaps in your work history. If you took a year out or carried out interim assignments, say so, and try to illustrate it in a positive way. Focus on experiences and knowledge gained, otherwise employers can suspect the worst.

Education & qualifications 

Keep it concise by listing the academic qualification obtained, year of completion, the institution’s name and a one-sentence summary.