Writing a CV

A curriculum vitae (CV) outlines your personal details and your relevant skills, experience and qualifications.

It is used to help you "sell yourself" to a prospective employer by highlighting your strengths and achievements. The aim of a CV is to get you an interview.

Writing and then updating a CV is a useful technique during job search as it helps you keep track of your skills and experience in one document. It can also help you think about what you have done in employment, education or leisure activities in preparation for completing application forms.

CV basics

There is no right or wrong way to set out a CV, but there are some standard sections that it should contain.

These are:

  • Personal and contact information
  • Education and qualifications
  • Work history
  • Skills relevant to the job
  • Interests.

Types of CV and when to use them

The most common types of CV are:

Skills-based

This is also sometimes called a 'targeted' or 'functional' CV. It is often appropriate when there have been long gaps in employment as it highlights skills rather than gaps.

This type of CV:

  • highlights your skills and abilities related to the specific role you are applying foremphasises the transferable skills and experience you have gained, avoiding any reliance on work in date order
  • is appropriate when changing careers, when skills are more impressive than employment history
  • is appropriate if you have had a range of unconnected jobs.

Chronological

A chronological CV lists your details, under appropriate headings, in reverse chronological order. Chronological CVs work best when you have had continuous employment with no gaps.

This type of CV:

  • Is a traditional format where work experience is organised in reverse date order
  • Is useful when staying in a similar field, or if your last employer's name may be advantageous
  • Shows career development, and might highlight progress in a certain area.

Personal Profiles

A personal profile introduces you as an applicant. They are one paragraph and outline your key strengths, achievements and goals.
The following examples offer an outline of the different styles you can use:

  • "A college leaver with excellent computer skills. My college course work and work placements have enabled me to gain good research and presentation skills and an ability to communicate with the general public. I also see myself as an enthusiastic and reliable team player who is willing and able to develop new skills quickly."
     
  • "I regard myself as a cheerful and friendly person, who is reliable and trustworthy. I am keen to learn new skills and use my considerable abilities within a garage/car business environment."
     
  • "I am currently looking for work in the computer industry, I am very familiar with most aspects of computing and have used computers for many years, always confident in learning anything new."

Skills and achievements

This section of your CV allows you to sell yourself through listing your main skills and experience. You can use the following outline of skills to help you judge your abilities:

Skills with individuals

  • Communicate well using the telephone
  • Persuade or sell to individuals
  • Deal with customers
  • Manage and supervise individuals
  • Delegate work to others

Skills with groups

  • Communicate to small groups
  • Lead seminars
  • Perform or entertain people
  • Persuade a group
  • Take part in group debates
  • Brief a team
  • Chair meetings

Commercial skills

  • Manage or run a budget
  • Spot potential markets
  • Develop a new business
  • Design a marketing campaign
  • Look after customers well
  • Develop new sales initiatives
  • Promote or sell by telephone

Skills with information

  • Research a topic
  • Gather information by interviewing people
  • Check information for errors/proof read
  • Analyse information
  • Organise or classify data
  • Retrieve information
  • Write reports

Physical skills

  • Manual dexterity
  • Ability/strength/speed
  • Craft/sewing/weaving
  • Painting/finishing/restoring
  • Washing/cleaning or preparing
  • Setting up or assembling
  • Growing/tending

Buzz Words

There are some words that stand out on a CV, which are often called buzz words. The following work areas and associated words may help when putting together your CV:

  • Coping with routine: conscientious, consistent, controlled, coped, dealt with, efficient, managed, performed
  • Working with others: advised, co-operated, counselled, facilitated, guided, managed, negotiated, participated, presented, supervised
  • Achievements: accomplished, achieved, co-ordinated, created, developed, formulated, revitalised, recommended
  • Problem-solving: implemented, improved, instigated, interpreted, initiated, inspired, introduced, investigated
  • Initiative: created, designed, developed, devised, directed, established, formulated, innovated, motivated, negotiated, organised, originated

Summary

Your CV has around 10-15 seconds to impress a potential employer.

To recap:

  • Limit your CV to a maximum of two sides of A4 - keep it concise.
  • Keep it clear and specific - simple language works best
  • Use positive and active language
  • Highlight your selling points (skills and achievements) clearly
  • Make sure you have checked the spelling, punctuation and grammar.

More information

For more information and advice to help you in your job search, the following factsheet may be of use:

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