How to write a CV

Your CV, or curriculum vitae, needs to be good since it’s your best bet at getting a job. And we all know that that’s pretty tough nowadays. To help out, The Mix explains how to write a CV, including what to put in a CV and how to stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market.

A young man is giving a presentation on how to write a CV. This is a wide-angle image.

What should I write on my CV?

First and foremost, let’s start with the basics on how to write a CV a.k.a curriculum vitae (which literally means the course of one’s life for all you Latin buffs out there). 

Use simple and clear language, and stick to the point. An employer wants to be able to check out your key skills and experiences by just glancing at your CV. If they have to put effort in to get this information, odds are they’ll just turn to a different application. This means that you should use bullet points where appropriate, but don’t just have bullet points (we’ll explain more in a minute).

How much should I write on my CV?

How to make a CV in the UK is truly a balancing act. You have to keep it brief, but not too brief. Generally speaking, two sides of A4 is usually enough for a professional CV.

Recruiters hate wading through pages of paper, no matter how interesting and vital you think the information is. Equally, they don’t wanna have to google you to find out what you’ve been up to for the past few years because you haven’t included any details. So make sure you give them what they need to know. And ONLY what they need to know i.e. don’t go listing what you had for breakfast that morning.

How should it look?

Since how to make a CV in the UK has gone digital, it means that you can make it uber-creative but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Remember, the answer to ‘How to write a CV’ will almost always be clean and simple. So before you start experimenting with comic sans in neon orange, pause for a minute. 

Instead, go for a simple and legible font in black, use bold for section headings and ensure it is neatly laid out. Another tip is to avoid having big blocks of text as this can look uninviting. And make sure you put your name and contact details clearly at the top of the first page.

What to include in a CV

One of the most common questions when it comes to applying for jobs is what to include in a CV, so we’re gonna break it down for you. 

There aren’t really many different types of CVs, so you shouldn’t get too creative with the format. Basically, your CV should be divided into specific sections. These are: covering personal details, employment history, education background and interests and achievements. We should also mention that it’s becoming more and more common for people to put an opening statement before all their info as well. You may want to prepare a cover letter. In that case, we’ve got an article on how to write a cover letter here.

If you’re just graduating or have limited employment history, it’s best to put your education before your employment. But if your employment history is more relevant to the job you are applying for, then make that the first thing they see. We should also mention that tailoring your CV to different job descriptions gives you a better chance of standing out to your potential employer.

Opening statement

An opening statement is a short paragraph (two or three sentences) that outlines who you are and what your skills are. So you should add some personal statements as well as work-related ones. Essentially, it’s a ‘teaser’ of what’s to come in the rest of the CV.

With this part of your CV it’s really important to identify the things that make you stand out from other applicants. That’s why you should always avoid bland and generic statements like ‘hard-working’ or ‘well-rounded’; we hate to break it to you, but they don’t make you sound as special as you think they do.

Personal details

It’s essential to include:

  • Your name
  • Address (where you can be easily contacted)
  • Mobile phone number

You may also want to include:

  • Whether you have a driving licence and access to a car
  • If you’re not a British Citizen, whether there are any restrictions on your employment in the UK

Employment history

Show your employment history in reverse chronological order. With that logic, your most recent position should be the one that is covered in most detail. Remember to list your job title, the employer, dates of your employment and outline your main responsibilities.

For jobs that are less relevant to the role you are applying for, it may be worth simply listing the job title and employer.

If you’re a graduate then milk any relevant work experience for everything it’s worth (e.g. placements through college or summer internships). This’ll probably catch your potential employer’s eye more than that Saturday job at Tesco.

Education background

You should list all schools, colleges, universities and specialist courses attended. Keep in mind, you’ll also have to add the relevant dates and grades. If you leave the grades off, employers may think that you’re trying to hide something. Although, it’s important to note that if you attended further education, employers are far less likely to be interested in your GCSE results.

Interests and achievements

This is where you can list any non-employment hobbies and interests, a.k.a the bit that makes you sound more human. Here you should give details on any hobbies or volunteering work that you’ve been involved in. And if you’ve been abroad for more than a family holiday or friends trip, it’s defo worth listing where you’ve been.

It’s also not the time to be modest. Make sure you list any achievements, awards or recognition you’ve received. And any skills you’ve got, such as languages you can speak or musical instruments you can play.

Once you’ve finished your CV

We know it may seem like a waste of time but please ask a friend to read your CV to check the grammar and spelling. You’d be surprised at the things that you don’t catch. Plus, there’s the added bonus of them being able to give you any constructive feedback before you start applying for jobs.

If your CV isn’t working

In the current job market you can write a CV, tick all the right boxes and still find it difficult to secure a job interview. If that’s you then don’t panic. Now you’ve got the basics of how to write your CV, take a look at our guide for how to make a CV in the UK that stands out from the crowd here.

Next Steps

  • Young Women's Trust offer a free telephone and online coaching service for women aged 18-30 to help with anything from work, life or building confidence. You can also get free advice on your CV or job application. Call 0808 808 8099.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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CV

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 11-May-2022