Give yourself the best chance of success by writing a CV that demonstrates why you are the perfect candidate. Use the advice here to write the best possible first impression. 

What is a CV?

CV stands for curriculum vitae, which is Latin for ‘course of life’. It is a summary of your experience, skills and education.

In the USA and Canada it is known as a résumé – this is the French word for summary.

How long should a CV be?

A standard CV should ideally be no longer than two sides of A4. CVs may be longer depending on your experience and in general a senior vacancy may require three or four sides, but for the most part it is best to keep it as succinct as possible.

What should I include in my CV?

Your CV needs to be packed with relevant information to help an employer make the decision to hire you. It should include:

  • Contact Details – include full name, address*, mobile phone number and email address;
  • Education – list and date all previous education, placing the most recent highest up the page. Include any professional qualifications;
  • Key Skills – for example, the ability to work in a team, manage people, customer service skills, or specific IT skills;
  • Work Experience– this can be internships, voluntary roles or previous jobs. Make sure to place the most recent highest up the page and only add the most recent /relevant positions and examples of tasks. Any further than 10 years back and you can explain that ‘details can be given on request,’ or summarise with one or two lines.
  • Referees – two people who can provide positive comments on your previous employment or experiences. This should be at the end of the CV;

What should I leave out of my CV?

You should exclude the following information from your CV:

  • The Term ‘Curriculum Vitae’ Or ‘Résumé ‘- CV will suffice in the UK;
  • A Photo – unless you’re applying for an acting or modelling job;
  • Date Of Birth Or Place Of Birth – this is unnecessary and can lead to identity theft.

* – An important point for those posting their CVs online: don’t include your home address, as you could be targeted by fraudsters.

Do I need to add a profile?

You don’t have to add a personal profile but it will help your CV stand out.

Placed at the beginning of the CV, a profile is a concise statement that highlights your key attributes or reasons for deciding to work in a particular field. Pick out a few relevant achievements and skills, while clearly articulating your career aims.

It must focus on the sector you are applying to, as your cover letter will be job-specific. You should keep it short and snappy – 200 words is the perfect length for a personal profile.

This section of your CV is also known as a personal statement, career summary, career aim or simply a profile.

Do I list work experience or education first?

If you’re a recent graduate and don’t have much relevant work experience then it will be best to begin with your education. The opposite would apply if you have plenty of relevant experience.

Should I include hobbies in my CV?

It’s not compulsory to include hobbies in your CV, but you may want to mention any that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. An example might be volunteering as a sports coach, or learning a language in your spare time.

Generic examples such as reading, going to the cinema, or listening to music are not worth including.

How do I write a great CV?

There are many ways to create an exceptional CV, but for a solid foundation, concentrate on four main points:

  • Grammar – there should be no mistakes in your CV. Use a spell checker and enlist a second pair of eyes to check over the text. Try and include as many active words as possible to increase the impact of your CV. Use active verbs to replace passive verbs and nouns wherever possible. For example, you could include targeted words like ‘created,’ ‘analysed,’ and ‘devised’ to present yourself as a person that shows initiative.
  • Layout – place your most attractive skills and talents towards the top of your CV to boost your chances of impressing an employer. The same rule applies to listing grades – always place your highest grade first.
  • Presentation – keep your CV neat and make sure it is easy on the eye. Bullet points should be used to tidy up any lists. Your choice of font can have more impact than you might think. The University of Kent careers service suggest using 10 point Verdana or Lucida Sans with a larger typeface for headings and sub-headings. You should always avoid Comic Sans.
  • Style – there are various types of CV you can employ. Think carefully about what style will suit your needs.

What are the consequences of lying on my CV?

Never lie on your CV or job application. Not only will you demonstrate your dishonesty to a potential employer, but there can be serious consequences too. For example, altering your degree grade from a 2:2 to a 2:1 is classed as degree fraud and can result in a prison sentence.

Do I need to explain gaps in my CV?

You must always inform a potential employer of a gap in your CV to avoid it being misinterpreted.

You can provide an explanation for any gaps in the CV in a cover letter or simply state the reason for the gap with the dates lasted in your CV.

Do I need to write a cover letter?

You should always include a cover letter unless the employer states otherwise. It will enable you to personalise your application to the job. You can draw attention to a particular part of your CV, disclose a disability or clarify gaps in your work history. You don’t need to go overboard with this but highlighting some key points to draw the eye could be the difference between an interview or not.

Get help with your CV

If you are a student or recent graduate then you can get professional CV advice from your university careers and employability service.