A curriculum vitae (CV) is a detailed summary of your past experience. A CV allows you to present information about your past employment and education history in the way that you wish. By adapting your CV you can highlight your skills and experiences that are particularly relevant for the job that you’re applying for, but make sure that that what you write is a true representation of your experiences and that the dates match up.
A CV can be too long or too short, so a good rule of thumb is to aim for two sides of A4. You will need to tailor the information that you present to include the most relevant information for the job that you’re applying for. In some instances your CV may be longer or shorter than this.
If you’re applying for work experience or an apprenticeship the employer will not expect you to have a lot of experience. Don’t try to fill the space with irrelevant information: submitting just one side of A4 that’s well-presented and concise will give a better impression.
Be positive and to the point when writing your CV. The object of a CV is to tell the employer about yourself, your abilities and your skills, and highlight your key strengths. Try to start with a punchy statement that will catch the attention of the reader. You need to make your CV stand out enough that an employer will want to read it right to the end and follow it up!
This should include your name, address, telephone number (including the local dialling code), date of birth and any other details you wish to include.
Name the schools and colleges that you have attended together with any exams taken (or to be taken), starting with the most recent and finishing with your secondary education. Accurate dates are important.
Normally the number of GCSEs at grade A*-C (or equivalent), the subjects studied post-16 (with grades) and any more recent qualifications should be included. If you have failed an exam you should state that you studied the course.
Put these in chronological order starting with the most recent job you had. Say where the job was, your job title, and briefly describe your responsibilities, the skills you used and the experience you gained.
If you’re applying for work experience, an internship or an apprenticeship you may not think that you have any work experience to detail, but even including Saturday jobs and short work experience placements will show further skills and improve your chances.
Here you can demonstrate to the employer that you’re a well-rounded person with balanced interests. Be selective about what you put down, and never exceed four or five points.
Use this section to detail any sports teams you’re involved with, any volunteer work you do or any committees you sit on. You can use these activities to highlight your skills such as leadership, team work, attention to detail, ability to get on with people, creativity and teaching others. Emphasise any activities or skills which relate to the job you are applying for.
Don’t include any interests such as drinking, socialising or other activities of this sort.
You should normally include at least two references on any CV, with at least one from a previous employer when possible. If you are currently employed, always include your present employer. Try to choose referees who know you well and who will be able to point out your skills. If you are still at school this may be a teacher or a sports coach, but you should not use a parent or a relative.
Before giving details of a referee make sure that you check with them. Give their full job titles, address and contact details. If you prefer not to let them know you are applying for jobs yet, you can put ‘References available on request’ at the bottom of your CV.
The format of a CV varies depending on your level of education, the type of job you’re applying for, and your personal style, but it should always be word processed and well presented.
Keeping your CV clear and well organised using subheadings will make it easier for the employer to spot the relevant information. Don’t try to fit in more information by using a smaller font or reducing the spacing between lines. You can find lots of example CVs and format ideas online.
If you’re applying for jobs abroad remember that different countries have different presentation styles when writing CVs. For example, most European countries outside the UK would expect you to submit a professional photo with your CV. This is something that’s worth checking before applying.
If you’re submitting a speculative application or are replying to an advertisement, always include a covering letter with your CV.
This letter should be used to introduce yourself and your current position. State why you are writing and the job that you are applying for, detailing the job title, reference number and where you saw the vacancy.
The rest of the letter should be used to explain why you are applying for this specific role within this particular company, and how your past experiences, qualifications and interests make you suitable for the job. A covering letter should not just be a repetition of your CV, but should be used to highlight your most relevant experiences for the role that you are applying for.
Like a CV, a covering letter should be word processed and well presented. Try to find out the name of the person who deals with the applications for the company and write to them directly.
Accepting CVs means that candidates can submit the same CV to various employers within the same job field. Some employers don’t accept CVs to avoid generic applications, but make their own application form instead. This gives employers the chance to specify the information they want to know, allowing candidates to be compared on an equal level.
See Completing an application form for more information.