What should my CV look like?
Ideally, your CV should take up no more than two pages, but if what you have to say takes up three pages, ask yourself the following questions:
• Is all the information relevant to the job I want?
• Will the reader want to read the whole CV?
• Does my CV tell the reader enough to recognise I’m right for the job?
If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions, spend some time reworking your CV until you get what you need, which is a document that makes the reader want to meet with you. The CV won’t get you the job but it can get you the meeting with the employer that gets you the job.
We don’t aim to be too prescriptive about format/appearance, because after all, everyone has different tastes, but follow these simple guidelines:
• Choose a font that is easy to read and stick to it; don’t be tempted to use more than one
• Staying with the “easy to read” theme, make sure you have enough white space on the pages, i.e. not too crowded
• Be consistent with layout: if you use bold and italic variations, make sure you use them for the same elements throughout your CV
Download our CV Template
What information do I need to include?
• Contact information: (the best phone number where, if you can’t answer, the caller can always leave a message – ideally a mobile number too). Have your email address on the CV as well, giving options for contacting you (a sensible one based on your name rather than firstname.lastname@example.org for example).
• Location/address: if you are applying for a role that is further away than commuting distance, you need to make sure you indicate clearly that you are looking to relocate. Employers could be put off if they think there is the slightest possibility you will leave them for something closer to home.
• Roles sought: you have a job title but are likely to have in mind a number of potential titles that you could suit. A list of roles sought is very useful as agencies and employers will be using job titles as part of their search criteria – particularly in electronic search on job boards and within recruitment software programmes. You increase your chances if you have the specific job title on your CV, even if you can’t include it in the “Career History” section.
• Profile: think carefully about what you want to say in your profile. Make it meaningful, giving a brief outline of your key skills and strengths (relevant to the role) and your objective. When you’ve written it, read it back to yourself. Does it say something that couldn’t possibly be about anyone else? This needs to contain all relevant keywords for the role – rather than “good team player” and “motivational” type words.
• Qualifications: see the section below on where to put this section, but wherever you place it on your CV, make sure your most relevant qualification is at the top, and if you have a long list of qualifications, your GCSEs/’O’ levels could be omitted.
• Work-related training: you really don’t need to include every single one-day course you’ve ever been on, but anything that might be relevant is worth a mention
• Career history: start with the most recent job first and ensure it gets onto the first page of the CV. Include the company name, start and finish dates, and job title (as we mention in another section, if your job title doesn’t give a true reflection of what you did, change it to something more relevant, particularly if it’s the same as the job you’re applying for. Give a summary of what you did; avoid making it look like you’ve copied from your job description and try to match what you did to the job you want. Include some key achievements. Keep it short – get the facts in but there’s no need for wordy sentences rambling around them. Use bullet points if it helps
• Personal information: driving licence information is always useful, particularly if it’s an essential requirement for the role. How much other information you include concerning your marital status, date of birth, and how many children is up to you. Is it relevant? If not, why include it?
• Hobbies and interests: these can be useful, particularly if your interests/out of work activities could give you some skills that can be transferred into the workplace. If you’re going for your first management/leadership role, your role as Captain of a sporting team or committee member in some voluntary capacity could demonstrate you are already engaged in a leadership capacity. Warning: having too many outside interests could suggest you have too much going on to give enough time to work (and it’s hard to get your golf handicap under 10 without taking time out during the week!)
Where should the information go?
This depends largely on a number of factors, but mainly what type of job you are going for and where you are with your career history. For example, if you are a relatively recent graduate, how you did with your degree and ‘A’ levels is far more important than if you have 20 years’ experience behind you. So, if your qualifications are likely to be a deciding factor for selection, get them on the first page. If experience is the more important criterion, make sure you have your most recent job on the first page. What if the relevant information is from a job you did two or three jobs back? If this is the case, you can include a section listing your “Key Experience and Achievements” (maybe replacing the profile) which is where you put all the information that the person doing the shortlisting needs to see, thereby encouraging them to turn to the second page.