A CV is your personal marketing tool, so needs to be a summary of your relevant experience and skills, which will persuade an employer to interview you.
A CV is sent in response to a job advert asking you to send a CV and covering letter or is sent by you as a speculative application. A speculative application can help you to find opportunities before they are advertised or may even persuade an employer to create a new job.
CVs - where to start
Start with the job description - what skills and experience are required?
Demonstrate you have the experience and skills by using examples from your degree, previous jobs or internships and extracurricular activities.
Make sure the information that is most relevant is on the first page near to the top of your CV and use active verbs as listed on our CV leaflet.
The presentation of your CV is crucial - use clear headings and bullet points rather than chunks of text.
Types of CVs
The two main types of CV are called chronological and skills based.
- A chronological CV means you list your experience in chronological order (from most recent to past) with examples of your skills.
- A skills-based CV focuses on skills you have developed through activities such as extra-curricular, work experience and your degree and shows an employer how your transferable skills match the job description.
Content of your CV
- No need to put the titles - name, address and email as it’s obvious what the copy is
- Use a professional sounding email address and remember that your university email address will not be available after you graduate.
- Consider including links to your LinkedIn profile, personal blog, or professional Twitter page if the online content is appropriate.
Personal statement or career objective
If you decide to include a personal statement or career objective, then it should be a couple of sentences that states clearly who you are, what you have to offer and why you’re applying for the job or career area.
Avoid clichéd buzz words like hardworking and responsible – would anybody say they weren’t hardworking and responsible?
Education and qualifications
List dates, institutions and overall grade with most recent education first. If it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, include details of:
- titles of relevant modules studied
- the title of your dissertation or a significant piece of work
- key academic or transferable skills gained
- work placements or industry experience included in the course
- any competitive scholarships or academic awards achieved
Employment history and work experience for a chronological CV
- Stress any work experience that is directly relevant first.
- List the employer, location and dates and then bullet point your main responsibilities and key achievements.
- If you have had a lot of general part-time work experience and are short of space on your CV, you could group these jobs together and list the key skills you feel you have gained.
Skills profile for a skills-based CV
- A skills profile lists the key skills needed for a specific job and gives examples from across your experience that shows you have these.
- From the job description, decide what the most important three to five key skills required are.
- Use these key skills as subheadings.
- Under each subheading give brief, bulleted, examples of how you’ve demonstrated this skill.
Additional qualifications and skills
Other qualifications such as language qualifications, IT skills, medical or first aid qualifications and having a driving licence could go in this section.
You can include details of any other significant achievements but consider the relevance of these and suggest how your achievement can be transferred to another context.
Positions of responsibility
If you include significant positions of responsibility, remember to consider the relevance of these and suggest how your experience can be used in another context.
- On your CV you can either list your referees’ name, job title and contact details or state ‘References available on request.’ If you’re running short of space it’s not even crucial to do this as employers assume you will have referees available.
- Ideally have one academic referee and one from a work situation or a position of responsibility. Make sure you have asked your referees and if you get an interview, let referees know and send them details of the job you have applied for.
How to create an effective CV
Cathy Sibley, Employability Education Projects Officer, gives her top tips on how to make sure your CV stand out and placed in the 'To Interview' pile.
From an employer's perspective
When looking at job applications I'm as interested in the contents of the CV and cover letter as I am academic performance.
Clearly, good grades are a litmus test for taking the conversation further, but I want to know more about what you can bring to our company and how we can develop you too.
Extracurricular activities, self-development and society interactions are a few of these indicators of a great candidate.
Aaron Dicks, Managing Director, Impression (Digital Marketing Agency) Nottingham
Frequently asked questions
How long should a CV be?
Usually two sides of A4. There may be specific industry sectors such as finance or consultancy who will specify a one-sided CV.
Should I use the chronological or skills based CV format?
- If you have relevant work experience and especially if it’s with an employer relevant to the career you’re applying for then a chronological CV may work well.
- If you’ve got very little direct, relevant experience in the job you’re applying for, then a skills based CV can be a good way to show how skills you’ve gained from other activities are transferable to the job you’re applying for.
What if I don’t have any experience?
- Make a list of all your activities such as your degree; any work or placement experience, spare time activities and sports
- Analyse the transferable skills you are gaining from these experiences and use them as examples for your CV.
- Have a look at this blog post for some great ideas.
- You could book an appointment to talk about this with a trained adviser.
What font should I use?
Use a modern font such as Verdana or Calibri with the font size 10 or 11 for the main text, 14 for sub-headings and a larger text size for your name at the top of the page.
Should I put a photograph on my CV?
No, not for the UK job market. Also UK convention is not to include date of birth, marital status or race.
What about creative CVs?
Very creative CVs are generally used be people going for creative jobs in design. If you’re interested in looking at some different CV templates then take a look at Canva
CVs around the world
CVs, or resumes as CVs are often called in other countries, may have different conventions around presentation and content.
Photographs and dates of birth are not required on UK CVs, yet in Asian countries they may be a requirement. If you’re writing a CV aimed at an overseas job market, then take a look at Passport Career for guidance on writing a CV for over 80 countries.