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CVs - getting started

The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. It needs to show what you can do, and why you're a good fit for an employer. Learn more about what your CV should look like, and what information to include.

Key things to keep in mind:

  • Employers may take just 15-20 seconds to initially scan your CV, so it needs to be well organised and clearly set out. If you make a good first impression, they will read your CV more closely.
  • Tailor your CV for each job. This means making sure your CV highlights the key skills, experience and achievements that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Look at the job advertisement for clues on what an employer is looking for.
  • Use plain, simple language in a business-like tone. Avoid clichés, and jargon and abbreviations that might be unfamiliar to an employer.
  • Look at the job advertisement and reflect the words used in the job description. If it talks about 'personnel', use the word 'personnel' rather than human resources.
  • Avoid long sentences – bullet points and key phrases keep the word count down and your CV looking tidy.
  • Do a thorough spell check before sending off your CV and have someone read over it to check for mistakes.
  • An application for a job should always include both a CV and a cover letter.
  • When emailing a CV, make sure it is in a very simple file format, such as a Word doc. If in doubt, email your CV and cover letter as a PDF.
Sarah McIndoe, Career Consultant

"Everybody who is going for a job needs a CV. The point of the CV is to get you an interview. Think of it as a one-page marketing document. It needs to tell an employer what skills and attitudes you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, as well as a bit about you."

Sarah McIndoe, Career Consultant

    Which CV style to choose

    Which CV style you choose will largely come down to your personal circumstances. You can put emphasis on either your work history or your skills by placing either of these sections at the front of your CV, after your personal statement. This is the major difference between the two CV styles advocated on this website:

    • Skills-focused CV
    • Work-focused CV.

    Things to consider depending on your employment history

    Are you applying for your first job?

    • If you are new to the workforce, we recommend a skills-focused CV. A skills-focused CV highlights your skills over your work history by bringing them to the front of your CV. 
    • If you have recently completed a period of study and feel your education is more relevant to the job you are going for than your work experience, you may decide to list your education after your skills and before your work history.
    • You can include skills and experiences from your non-working life to demonstrate your suitability for a role. Any sports, volunteering or other relevant experience can demonstrate skills you have acquired. 

    Have you got a long work history?

    • You do not need to write in detail about every job you have had since your first paper round. Focus on the most recent jobs you have held and any earlier jobs that are directly relevant to the job you are applying for. Any other jobs can be listed or covered briefly.

    Have you been out of paid employment for a long time? 

    • Use a skills-focused CV to emphasise the skills and attributes you have that relate to the position you are applying for.
    • Emphasise the positive things you have been doing during periods of unemployment, such caring for family members, training courses you have attended or travelling.
    • If you are returning to work after raising a family, list the skills you have developed, such as planning, decision making and budgeting. 
    • Highlight any new skills or qualifications you have gained.

    Have you spent a long time working for one employer?

    • If you have worked in various positions for the one company, list each position to show how you have progressed.
    • If you have worked in the same role, emphasise your skills rather than your work history by choosing the skills-focused CV style.