In a competitive job market, your CV is your prime marketing tool. It is essential you take time to prepare your CV as this is the employer's first impression of you.
Recruiters often receive hundreds of CVs and it is vital that your document has maximum impact. Many good applicants are rejected due to hastily written job applications.
Your CV should always be accompanied by a covering letter.
Writing an effective CV
This video explains how to 'sell yourself on paper' and make a great first impression (4 minutes).
"Employers only give 30 seconds to a CV so you need to have immediate impact.
Make sure your CV is relevant to the position and well presented."
- Jan Perrett, Deputy Director, Careers and Employability Service
Target your CV
You will need to target your CV so that it is suitable for the recipient. Each employer will have different requirements. The targeted approach may sound like hard work, but it's worth it to show the employer you have done your research and are a good fit for the position.
If you don’t target, you are giving the employer the task of trying to find out why you are suitable. Don’t make employers work to find your relevant information ─ they will be busy sifting through many applications. They will simply move on to the next CV which does provide them with the information they need.
How to target your CV
Research the job, the employer and the industry. Has the employer indicated what type of person they are looking for? Employers often outline the skills they seek and will shortlist according to candidates providing evidence of these. Always look closely to try and find out what is required.
Ways to target your CV include:
listing relevant degree modules and coursework that could evidence your skills
listing all your work experience ─ including casual jobs or voluntary work ─ as these can evidence skills such as teamwork and the ability to work under pressure
giving examples of when you have demonstrated the attributes a job requires ─ use the job profiles on the Prospects website to find out which attributes are associated with the role you are applying for
moulding your experience around the job profile ─ there are likely to be gaps, so consider what you could do in the future to try and bridge these
There are many styles you can adopt when writing your CV. Each style presents your information in a different way. The most common styles are:
This CV outlines your experiences in reverse chronological order with sections for education and relevant work experience. This is easy to compile and is especially good if you have relevant experience, however it may not be suitable if you have little or no relevant experience in the role you are applying for.
This format focuses on skills and provides evidence of these, usually in a bullet point format. Unlike the chronological CV, in a skills-based CV the education and work experience is kept brief. This type of CV can be relevant for people who have little experience in the role they are applying for. They are also appropriate when applying for casual work. Always match your skills to ones the employer requires.
This format is for PhD students who are seeking a career in academia. Please note, if you are applying for a PhD, do not use an academic style CV, use either a skills-based CV or a chronological CV.
Primarily the difference between styles is in the layout of the content. Which style you choose will depend on which information you want to highlight most prominently.
The length of your CV depends on the vacancy you are applying for so check if the employer has indicated a specific number of pages. In the UK, CVs are typically two pages long.
When to use a different CV length:
one page CVs are sometimes requested by investment banks and preferred in some countries such as the USA
research or academic CVs can be three pages or longer to allow for lists of publications and research paper
CV for countries around the world
The content or format of a CV can vary from country to country, so make sure you familiarise yourself with the preferred style and content used in the country where the vacancy is advertised.
Should you need to explain what the UK equivalencies for international qualifications are to potential employers, check this guidance sheet produced by the International Office. Remember, if you are applying for positions in the UK, don’t forget to use a UK spell-check on your PC.
How to find out about the CV styles of other countries:
Going Global contains advice on producing country-specific CVs
Prospects website contains country specific information including information on CVs
The Global Resume and CV Guide which outlines CV formats in 40 countries is available for reference only from our office.
More information on writing an effective CV
After you have written a CV using these resources, a member of staff will be able to review your CV and offer further advice. You will need to book an appointment.