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How to Write a Great CV: Tips, Examples and Structure

posted by Rosie on Thursday, 15 April 2021

Whatever job you’re applying for, a CV is your foot in the door. These professional profiles have the power to make or break your future career, so it’s essential you give yours the attention it deserves.

To help you write a job-landing CV, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide with everything you need to get it right.

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What to Include in a CV?

Given that a great CV should be no longer than two sides of A4, you don’t have much space to play with. The trick is to know what and not to include, and to keep information concise and impactful.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at what you should include in your CV, in the order that it should appear.

  • Contact information – start the CV with your full name followed by your contact details, including your address, phone number and email. Check the job listing to see if any other information is required, such as a photo, date of birth or your social media handles.
  • Personal profile – next comes your personal profile, which acts as your introductory statement. Here, you should draw attention to experience and skills which align you with the job in question. But keep things brief – 100 words or less will do.
  • Work experience – starting with your most recent role, list your work history, including your role and long you worked in the positon. Then, beneath each job listing, outline your key responsibilities and achievements/accomplishments.

 

man writing up his CV

 

  • Education – next, you’ll want to list your education, again starting with your most recent qualifications and working backwards. If you lack relevant work experience, here is an opportunity to highlight skills and achievements earned through relevant courses.
  • Skills and achievements – this is an opportunity to highlight any additional skills and expertise that may support your application. For example, you may speak a foreign language, have taken a first aid course, or have won an award at work – anything that boosts your employability and helps your CV stand out.
  • Hobbies and interests – arguably the toughest part of your CV to get right; it’s time to list your interests. But it’s not as simple as that. Ideally, your hobbies should relate to the job you’re applying for (if only loosely). For example, if you’re applying for a job as a fashion buyer, listing an interest in fashion and clothing trends is a good way to align your interests with the role.
  • References – while some people list references on their CV, it’s not necessary. Instead, you can simply write ‘references available upon request’ at the bottom of your CV to save space. Just make sure you do have references in place should the employer ask for them!

 

How to Make Your CV Stand Out

Recruiters, HR staff and hiring managers are inundated with CVs, and trust us when we say that they’ve seen every trick in the book. So, how do you get their attention and avoid being swept straight into the recycling bin?

Here are some simple ways to make your CV stand out and get hiring managers to take notice.

  • Tailor your CV to the role – nothing grinds recruiters’ gears more than generic CVs which have clearly been forwarded to dozens of similar roles and businesses. Businesses want to see that you’ve gone the extra mile in pursuit of the position they’re offering, so be sure to tailor your CV to the role. More on this below.

 

candidate sat in interview

 

  • Avoid tired phrasing – writing an impactful CV is tough, and it can be all too easy to lean on tired terms and phrases to get your point across. But this won’t do you any favours in the eyes of recruiters. Avoid things like ‘highly motivated’ and ‘hardworking’ and instead focus on highlighting your tangible skills, experience, expertise and attributes.
  • Prioritise your CV how you see fit – don’t have a whole lot of work experience? Then it doesn’t make sense to list this above other areas of your CV, like education. If your proudest achievements and most relevant skills relate to your academic history, make sure this comes above your work experience – and vice versa.
  • Watch your spelling and grammar – there’s no surer way to wind up in a recruiter’s ‘no’ pile than poor spelling and grammar. Even simple typos give a bad impression, so always use a spellchecker and have someone you know read through your CV carefully before you hit send.
  • Nail the tone of your CV – if you want to sound professional, positive and proactive on your CV, it’s important to get the tone right. When talking about yourself, for example, avoid using ‘I’ and instead refer to yourself in the third person. Here’s an example: “An experienced teaching assistant with a proven track record in working with vulnerable children in a classroom environment.” You should also use active and engaging language throughout.
  • Always include a cover letter – most hiring managers expect candidates to include a cover letter when sending through their CV. This should be a short letter, similar in tone to your personal profile, which highlights why you’d be a good fit for the position. Often, a well-written cover letter could be all it takes to find your way onto the ‘invite for interview’ list.

 

working on laptop drinking coffee

 

Tips for Formatting and Editing Your CV

 How your CV looks is as important as what it contains. So, to avoid falling short in this crucial area, here are some essential tips when it comes to formatting and editing your CV:

  • Choose an appropriate font – Arial or Calibri work best, at a size between 10-12 point. It goes without saying that you should avoid unprofessional fonts, like Comic Sans or Impact.
  • Centralise and bolden section headings – including ‘Profile’, ‘Work Experience’, ‘Education’, etc. You don’t need to make the headings bigger; just hit bold and centralise to save space.
  • Use bullet points where you can – recruiters don’t have time to read reams of text, so bullet point information where you can.
  • Name your CV in the file name – for example, Rachel Smith CV 2021. This keeps things professional when it comes to attaching your CV in an email.
  • Always list work experience and education in reverse chronological order
  • If you’re physically sending your CV, use white, A4 paper only

 

Should You Change Your CV for Different Jobs?

Yes, you should. As we touched on above, recruiters want to see that you’re applying for their position, not simply forwarding your CV in the hope of landing an interview. This could come across as lazy, and you certainly don’t want that to be their first impression.

Almost every aspect of your CV can be tweaked to more closely match a specific position. The trick is to reference the job description at every turn, paying attention to what they want before tailoring your CV accordingly.

For example, they may be looking for someone with ‘excellent communication skills’. If that’s the case, be sure to reference this directly within your CV, leaning on your experience (either in work or in education) to highlight why you meet this specific requirement.

 

We hope this guide helps you pen a CV you can be proud of. Ready to take the next step on your career journey? Whatever your goals and aspirations, our distance learning courses could help get you there. For more information or to browse our complete range of courses, visit the homepage or call our experienced course advisers on 0121 630 3000.