How to Write the Perfect CV

Kathryn Handley
April 2, 2021

What to Include 

Contact information

Start your CV with your contact details at the top of the page. Include your first and last name, your current address, phone number and email address. You should also include any additional links, like an online portfolio, that are relevant to the positions you’re applying for. 

You shouldn't use your educational institution email, as you may lose access to this at a later date. If you don’t have a more “professional” email address yet, now is the time to create one. Keep it simple and consider just using your name (janedoe@emailprovider.com).

Education

Students and new graduates should always include their education at the top of the CV, under contact information. Once you have more work experience under your belt, you should move this section under experience. 

You should check what educational qualifications jobs in the area you are applying for require, and work chronologically backwards from the most recent.

You should include any post-graduate degrees, your undergraduate degree, and your graduation month and year (or expected graduation date). You can include predicted grades if they are backed up by an academic references, or by results in previous years. You can also list specific courses or projects (for example, your dissertation) that are relevant to the job. 

Some jobs will require you to also include your A Levels and GCSE results. Unless specific GCSE results (e.g. Maths and English) are required, then you can summarise this, e.g. GCESEs: 5As, 4Bs.  

You should also include a separate section for academic honours, scholarships or awards you have received ( usually labelled “Achievements”). 

Experience

This should also be listed in reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience listed first.

Included in this section is current or previous internships, volunteering and part-time or summer jobs. If you don’t have much previous work or internship experience, emphasise your involvement with clubs and organisations, and other ways you’ve taken on leadership positions. 

You should include the employer or organisation name, the dates that the experience started and ended, the job title you held and list a few bullets describing your responsibilities and achievements. Keep these brief and to the point, but include the transferable skills you gained or demonstrated that make you suitable for the role. Include numbers, percentages or other concrete measures of success whenever possible. 

Skills

Include any relevant skills, such as knowledge of a foreign language or an industry-specific software program. Your skills should demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the industry and role you’re applying for. If you have skills that are mentioned in the job description, definitely list them here!

Personal Interests (Optional)

This is a short section on what you enjoy doing outside of work. For some roles it might not be necessary or even desirable to include this. However, for others it can personalise your application and make you a more appealing candidate for the role! 

References

Many jobs will ask for a personal and a professional or academic reference. You should include their full name and title (e.g. Dr, Professor), job title, phone number and email address. Always ask permission before including someone as a reference - people tend to write more glowing reports when they haven't been taken by surprise!

Ask for feedback

When you have drafted your CV, and proof-read, ask for feedback from friends, family members or someone with professional experience. They should be checking whether you have phrased your experiences clearly, whether the form and layout is effective and whether you have included the right information for that particular role. 

Then contact your university Career Centre and make an appointment to go over your CV together. Your careers services staff are experts on what makes a great CV, so make sure you reach out to them for advice.

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How to Write the Perfect CV

Kathryn Handley

January 26, 2021

Crafting a CV is one of the most daunting aspects of applying to a job—but it doesn’t have to be. This guide breaks down the sections of a CV and what information to include in each. You’ll also find tips to help you avoid common mistakes.

What to Include 

Contact information

Start your CV with your contact details at the top of the page. Include your first and last name, your current address, phone number and email address. You should also include any additional links, like an online portfolio, that are relevant to the positions you’re applying for. 

You shouldn't use your educational institution email, as you may lose access to this at a later date. If you don’t have a more “professional” email address yet, now is the time to create one. Keep it simple and consider just using your name (janedoe@emailprovider.com).

Education

Students and new graduates should always include their education at the top of the CV, under contact information. Once you have more work experience under your belt, you should move this section under experience. 

You should check what educational qualifications jobs in the area you are applying for require, and work chronologically backwards from the most recent.

You should include any post-graduate degrees, your undergraduate degree, and your graduation month and year (or expected graduation date). You can include predicted grades if they are backed up by an academic references, or by results in previous years. You can also list specific courses or projects (for example, your dissertation) that are relevant to the job. 

Some jobs will require you to also include your A Levels and GCSE results. Unless specific GCSE results (e.g. Maths and English) are required, then you can summarise this, e.g. GCESEs: 5As, 4Bs.  

You should also include a separate section for academic honours, scholarships or awards you have received ( usually labelled “Achievements”). 

Experience

This should also be listed in reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience listed first.

Included in this section is current or previous internships, volunteering and part-time or summer jobs. If you don’t have much previous work or internship experience, emphasise your involvement with clubs and organisations, and other ways you’ve taken on leadership positions. 

You should include the employer or organisation name, the dates that the experience started and ended, the job title you held and list a few bullets describing your responsibilities and achievements. Keep these brief and to the point, but include the transferable skills you gained or demonstrated that make you suitable for the role. Include numbers, percentages or other concrete measures of success whenever possible. 

Skills

Include any relevant skills, such as knowledge of a foreign language or an industry-specific software program. Your skills should demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the industry and role you’re applying for. If you have skills that are mentioned in the job description, definitely list them here!

Personal Interests (Optional)

This is a short section on what you enjoy doing outside of work. For some roles it might not be necessary or even desirable to include this. However, for others it can personalise your application and make you a more appealing candidate for the role! 

References

Many jobs will ask for a personal and a professional or academic reference. You should include their full name and title (e.g. Dr, Professor), job title, phone number and email address. Always ask permission before including someone as a reference - people tend to write more glowing reports when they haven't been taken by surprise!

Ask for feedback

When you have drafted your CV, and proof-read, ask for feedback from friends, family members or someone with professional experience. They should be checking whether you have phrased your experiences clearly, whether the form and layout is effective and whether you have included the right information for that particular role. 

Then contact your university Career Centre and make an appointment to go over your CV together. Your careers services staff are experts on what makes a great CV, so make sure you reach out to them for advice.

General Tips
  • Read through the job description and pick out keywords you can include in your CV. This will help your application get noticed when recruiters (or recruiting software) are quickly scanning it.
  • Keep your CV to one page, two at most. Your references can go on a separate page.
  • Use the same font, layout and style throughout (that includes spacing, indentation, capitalisation, verb tense and bulleted lists).
  • Don’t use abbreviations or slang.
  • Choose a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri, and stick to size 11 or 12. 
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar errors and typos. One tip for efficient proof-reading is to change the font and colour of the document, then read it through again. This is much quicker (and more environmentally-friendly) than printing out numerous copies!
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