Skip to main content

Top tips for writing your CV

CVs come in all shapes and sizes and the format it will take will be down to you and the type of job you are applying for. Whatever format it takes however, you need to persuade potential employers that you have the right skills for the job.

Pass the 30 second test

Studies show that employers will give your CV an initial scan spending just 6-30 seconds. This means you need to get the best stuff high up on the first page. 

Personal Profiles

Using a personal profile can be a really great addition to your CV if done well, if not it can be a huge turn off for employers. Think of it as a film trailer about you – the best 3 points about you. Don't just fill a paragraph with subjective adjectives about how you are reliable, hardworking and a great team player, and avoid clichés like "excellent at working on your own and in a team" Make your profile unique by talking about your skills in context of your experience. Then tell them what you want to do.

A CV is not a job description – sell your achievements

The aim of your CV is to sell yourself to employers as the right candidate for a role and to be invited for an interview as a result. A CV should be an overview of your skills and experience. Focus on your achievements. Instead of writing long paragraphs keep them punchy – try starting your sentences with "action verbs" i.e. developed, managed, identified, negotiated, organised and if you can try to quantify results – i.e. you improved efficiency by X% or raised £100 for charity. Give a context, did you help co-ordinate an event for 10 people or 200?

Keep it concise

Keep your CV to no more than two sides of A4. In some industries such as creative roles and investment banking a one page CV is required. When it comes to your previous job history, don't feel obliged to describe every role you've ever worked in.

Provide more details about your current or most recent role, especially if it's relevant to the job you’re applying for, but don’t feel the need to describe every job you ever did. If you've done a placement or have some good internships, then potentially you don’t need to list the paper round!

Tailor your CV to the role

You will need different CVs for different roles and if you're applying for part time jobs then it’s a good idea to have a "part time" CV and a "professional" CV. 

Look at the skills required for the roles you are applying for and show through your work experience how you can demonstrate these skills. There is no point in mentioning skills with no evidence of how you developed them!

You might find it helpful to theme your CV. For example, if you're going for marketing roles, your most recent role is a part time job at Asda but actually the year before you did a placement / internship in marketing, then put the placement on the first page with a title "Relevant" or "Marketing" experience. Then add a title "Part time jobs" or "Customer service roles" or "Other experience". That way, your best experience doesn’t get lost at the end of the second page – remember, employers are skimming quickly so make sure the information is on the first page.

Play around with the layout

Your CV doesn't have to be a basic word document; you can make it more exciting than that. There are lots of templates available. For jobs in creative advertising, graphic design etc. you may need to develop a more creative format.

Worried you don’t have enough experience?

Employers are interested in your experience but also they want to see your potential, so don't panic if you don’t have lots of relevant experience yet. Instead, focus on the transferable skills you've developed at university and what you've achieved. Highlight any extra-curricular activities you got involved with, any part time roles and shout about your volunteer work. If you participated in the Global Talent Programme make sure you highlight it.

Check it, and then check it again

Employers with a pile of CVs to read through will filter your CV out if they start to find grammar or spelling mistakes. Having errors in your CV can come across as a basic lack of attention to detail. It's impossible to proofread your own work, so don't even try - find a friend or family member and ask them to proofread your CV for you. It’s a relatively simple thing to do, but it could make all the difference.

There are plenty of resources on MyCareerHub, check out the CV Booklet for hints, tips and CV and cover letter examples. There is also advice on cover letters and LinkedIn profiles, crucial in the application process. 

If you'd like your CV to be reviewed by a Careers Adviser please make an appointment via MyCareerHub or come along to a drop-in session in the Careers Centre (outside the library, Talbot Campus), these are also advertised on MyCareerHub. N.B. If you're applying for a mandatory placement that is part of your course then book an appointment with your Placement Coordinator, when writing CVs for all other roles, book an appointment with a Careers Adviser.