It can be difficult to get your CV and covering letter right. We can look over your CV and covering letter with you and give advice.  Find out how to get in touch.

View our video on CV building

Curriculum Vitae - general guidelines

There is no single right way to compose your CV and everyone's will be unique. Remember it is your own personal advertisement and, as such, should show you off to best advantage. CVs are simple to produce but difficult to get right. The following guidelines will be helpful when setting out.

Length

  • Your CV should be a maximum of 2 sides of A4 (unless you are including an extra page for your publications if these are important for the post).

Appearance

  • It should look good. As with an interview - initial impressions are vital so it should look attractive even before someone starts to read the detail. Take time to plan the layout and make it individual.
  • If you are sending your CV via email make sure you use a common typeface - some readers will not recognise the more unusual fonts.
  • If you are posting your CV use good quality paper - your CV will then not only look good but feel good! Use the same paper for your covering letter and a large envelope (A4 preferably) to avoid folding.
  • Make the most of using headings and sub-headings to draw attention to your main selling points.
  • Avoid large chunks of text - they look indigestible and tend to be ignored. Break it up with sub-headings or bullet points.
  • Remember Recruiters may have hundreds of CVs to look through and will often be looking for reasons to reject so it is important key facts stand out and there are no errors.

Content

  • Use space wisely - allocate more space to more important items.
  • The information should be very readily accessible - put the most important points you wish to be noticed in the most obvious positions to grab attention.
  • Update and change your CV as necessary. Bear in mind the job you are applying for and change the emphasis of the information accordingly e.g. a Solicitors firm will be interested in the grades and subjects of your law degree but this will not be so relevant to a publishing company.
  • Ensure your CV is accurate and bear in mind the checks that employers undertake if you are offered a position. You do not at this stage need to mention any criminal convictions, medical conditions etc. If you have received poor grades you could state the qualifications you have rather than specifying the exact grades at this stage.
  • Few companies appreciate a wacky CV but this might go down well when applying to some advertising agencies so be sure to adjust your CV accordingly.
  • Make sure you send your CV with a good covering letter.

Main Sections

These are example sections but you can use alternative ones:

Personal Information

  • Put your name as the title of the document rather than ‘Curriculum Vitae’
  • Provide key contact details – address, telephone number and a professional email address
  • Date of birth, nationality, marital status and gender are optional so do not need to be added

Education

  • Start with the most recent first
  • Include the Institution's name, subject studied, predicted or achieved result and any further details that may be relevant to the role you are applying for
  • You should include A Level and GCSE information (or equivalent) at this point as well as your degree. For GCSEs employers are often mainly interested in Maths and English at this level so you do not need to list all the subjects but could for example state ‘9 GCSEs grades A-C including Maths and English’ which will help save space

Work Experience

  • Again start with the most recent first
  • Include the job, title, organisation, location and dates you worked there
  • Describe your tasks or achievements and key responsibilities making use of action verbs
  • Ensure the tense used is consistent i.e. use past tense when referring to past experiences and present tense when referring to current experiences.

Skills  

  • IT Skills
  • Language skills (indicating level of verbal and written ability)
  • Driving Licence
  • Other – First Aid, technical skills etc

Interests & Achievements

  • This area is often of great interest to recruiters
  • Mention key interests, roles of responsibility, awards, volunteering, travel, sports, music etc
  • Try to avoid just listing these and instead give more specific information about what you do
  • Try to avoid using phrases such as ‘socialising with friends’

References

  • Always ask for permission before adding a reference
  • To save room you can state ‘Available on request’
  • If asked you will need to provide full contact details of 2 referees which will usually be your current or most recent employer or your tutor

Relevant websites

Relevant Resources

CV and covering letter review service

We can look over your CV and covering letter and give you advice and suggestions. Before getting in touch, please ensure you have:

  • Read our guides to creating CVs and Covering letters
  • Prepared a CV and/or covering letter to bring with you
  • If you're applying for a job outside the UK: read our county specific covering letter and CV advice and prepared a copy of your CV and covering letter in English to bring with you

When you have completed these steps you can visit the Career Zone or get in touch.