How to write a CV
Want to write a CV? With so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming at times. Our professional guide will give you a step-by-step process to write a winning CV.
You write your CV. You check to make sure your contact details are correct and ask your friends to glance over it. After, you proceed to send your application and get an email confirmation.
And then, pure silence. No sight of a phone call or an interview. How come you didn’t get the job?
The issue with most job ads is demand outstrips supply. A recruiter may receive up to 115 applications for a single job. So, the question is, how do you write a CV that will get an answer?
That’s where we come in. With our know-how and knowledge, you will be able to write a CV that gets interviews and success.
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So if you are short of time, you can create your CV here.
Apply the right CV Layout
How to start your CV in the right manner? Use the correct CV layout for your job application. The layout of your CV entails all things font, font size, line spacing, style, colours and so on. Before the recruiter gets a chance to read your CV, the layout plays a crucial role.
Recruiters, on average, look at a CV for 6 seconds.This means a choice has been made without even reading it. The CV layout is a leading factor to get a call back.
Apply these guidelines to write a great CV.
Pick out a clean and concise font to write your CV. Try not to go with the most used font such as Helvetica. A touch of brilliance can make a big impact.
Here is a list of fonts you can use on your CV:
- Franklin Gothic
After choosing the correct font, next comes the right font size. Keep in mind the ultimate goal is to highlight your goals in a readable manner and get an interview. For body text, font size should be kept between 10 and 12. If you choose Gotham, pick a 10 font size. If you choose Arial, go for a 12.
For segment headings, increase the font size by 4. It demonstrates clearly where each segment begins without overwhelming the recruiter. Precise usage of bold can be a great way to highlight key achievements or results.
Spacing and Alignment
Space your lines to 1 or 1.15 for your CV. Provide slightly more space on your CV to maintain clarity and professionalism.
As a rule of thumb, the shorter the better.
Here is a guideline on CV length:
- One page CV: For recent graduates and subsequently limited work experience.
- Two page CV: For mid-career professionals. This can range from 5 to 15 years into your career.
- Three page CV: For professionals with extensive careers and accomplishments. It is reserved for those with significant achievements or technically complex careers. For example: Neurosurgeon, Petroleum Engineer.
Send your CV in the specified format on the job description. If there isn’t a predetermined format, use PDF or Word. These are the formats regularly used by employers and easy to open.
Pro Tip: Never send a CV using Powerpoint. There is no certified rule for formats, however, a powerpoint format will skew your CV format.
Apply the correct filename for your CV. It should consist of the job description title and your last name.
For Example : Data Analyst Robinson CV.pdf or .word
If you do not personally name your CV, it will get lost in the mirriad of other CV files with the same name. Your task is to make an employer’s life as easy as possible. Don’t use cryptic initials or names for your CV as it will most likely end up in the trash bin.
Implement the right CV format
When writing your CV, you may initially feel confused between CV format and CV layout. The CV layout is like the decorations in your house whilst a CV format is the construction of your house.
A CV format will provide a framework for you to present your work experience, your education, your skills and hobbies.
The main CV format used in the United Kingdom is the Chronological CV.
Chronological CV format
The most commonly used CV format in the United Kingdom. A Chronological CV format is widely recognised by employers and candidates as the easiest CV to read.
- Simple concept to understand.
- Start with your most recent work experience and work backwards.
- Includes your education, skills, languages and hobbies.
- Easy to read by ATS software such as Pinpoint and Workable
- Reduced time to read a CV
This CV format focuses on your professional work experience and achievements. It is a logical step for any candidate, especially those seeking a career change.
How to build your Chronological CV
- CV Header.
- Personal statement.
- Professional Work experience.
- Skills and Hobbies.
In the next segment, we will break down each part. Every tool you need to write a winning CV will be provided.
Build a great Chronological CV Header
A CV header is the first segment of your CV. It consists of your full name and personal contact details. It’s essential to get this part right as this is what employers see first.
Naturally, the first element you look at on a CV is the name and contact details. Therefore it is important it stands out clearly. Your full name should be in bold with a 15 font size. The header can either be placed on the left or in the middle. Make the choice based upon the layout of your CV.
After you have provided your name, put your personal contact details. This includes your contact details and professional email address.
Verify that the email address you use is professional. Include a credible domain name which employers will recognise. If they are suspicious of the domain name, they will most likely ignore your CV. As a matter of fact, using an unprofessional email address significantly reduces your chance of success.
Pro Tip: Add your Linkedin profile to your CV. Even better, share your QR Code. This demonstrates you are keeping up with current trends. It can also be a great way to showcase other aspects of your CV.
Keep in mind the following features when writing your CV header for the UK employment market:
- Date of Birth : Not required by UK employers. It could be seen as discriminatory depending on your age and job application.
- Picture : Prohibited by the Equality Law Act set forward in 2010. It forbids candidates to include their picture on their CV. It is seen as discriminatory and unnecessary.
- Marital status: Once more, due to the Act of 2010, placing your marital status is against the law. It adds little value to your CV.
If you are unsure, it is better not to include it in your CV at all.
Once the CV header is finished, it is now time to create a personal statement.
Make a zestful Personal Statement
A personal statement, otherwise known as a CV personal profile, is a short summary of yourself to entice employers. Like the back page of a book cover, it’s a small paragraph designed to grab the reader’s attention and read the rest of the book. In your case, the rest of your CV.
Place your personal statement just underneath your CV header. Demonstrate your worth in this section of the CV for the role. Keep in mind, you need to impress the recruitment manager and the ATS software they are using.
Pro Tip: Before you start writing your personal statement, consider the following questions.
- Skills and Experience: Why should an employer choose you and not another candidate? What is your skillset? Why is it better than any other candidate?
(Experience, Variety of TransferableSkills, Previously working with competitors)
- Goals and Vision: Where do you see this job taking you and your career in the long term? What is your final goal at the end of your career?
- Motivation: Why do you want to apply for this job? Or work in this industry? ( Salary, Status, Passion, Social Benefits, Give back to society)
To begin with, use a pen to underline the keywords of the job specification. Your CV personal statement should be tailored for each job specification. If you apply the same CV template for all your applications, you will not get any phone calls.
If the keywords of the job advert do not feature in your CV, a recruiter will not be interested. Nor will any ATS software. It’s important for a personal profile to start with your experience and achievements. Back these up with tangible results such as key figures. This can be increased sales, increased operating margin or reduction in costs. Next, set out your aspirations with the company by moulding them with the current challenges and vision of the company. This will demonstrate you have done more than just scratch the surface. Ensure to list the company name in your CV profile. It creates a symbolic bond and will make employers relate.
Let’s see how this translates for a candidate with work experience. And one without.
CV Personal Profile with Work Experience
If you have been a career professional for more than 5 years, leverage your personal work experience. Assign yourself a specific job title which represents you best. After all, you have the experience to back it up. The last thing you want is to sound generic. If you can, assert your credentials by designating yourself as the same title you are seeking.
For example here is a real life job advert:
We are currently looking for a Forklift Engineer to join our clients dedicated Engineering field service team in their commitment in providing a high standard of service output for their customers.
Forklift Engineer Main Duties:
Service, maintenance and repair of diesel, gas and electric forklift trucks and telehandlers
Fault Finding & Diagnostics
Forklift Engineer Required Qualifications:
City & Guilds or NVQ Level 2/3 Maintenance and Repairs.
Highlighted in red are keywords to structure your CV profile around. Your job title in the personal statement should be Forklift Engineer or Fault Finding specialist.
Keep it Short and Simple
If you are seeking a job role where professional qualifications or accreditations are necessary, mention them in your CV profile. However, make sure to only use the abbreviation in this section. You can go into further detail in the CV work experience section. The idea of a personal statement is to package as much information in as little wording.
Examples of Accreditation abbreviations:
- RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
- CFA (Chartered Financial Institute)
- CIM (Certificate in Professional Marketing)
CV Personal Profile without Work Experience
Your personal statement without past experience differs slightly. It is common for graduates and recent college leavers to use this type of CV profile.
Whereas an experienced professional can use their experience as a framework, graduates must use their education. Graduates possess less hard skills and more soft skills. They must draw upon their goals to succeed rather than experiences to fall back upon.
Start your personal statement with your most recent qualification or degree. Ideally, this should be a distinction or 2:1. State which university you have graduated from and why securing a job would help you. Demonstrate which type of skills you have already developed at university. Finally, provide insight into your future vision. Attempt to be as specific throughout these 5 sentences.
Now that you have completed your CV profile, it’s time to write out your work experience.
Write out your work experience
You are now starting to see the CV format come together. It’s now time to write the core of your CV, your work experience. If you are a graduate, this section can be replaced with your education.
We will show you how to structure your CV work experience in the right manner.
Work Experience Segment
Your CV work experience should consist of the following elements:
- Employment Date: State the month and year you started and ended a role. There is no need for specific dates.
- Occupation: The header for each work experience. Make sure to use a bold font. This will help separate the job title and its tasks for the reader. Remember, your role is to present a concise document.
- Company and Location : Next to the occupation should be placed the name of the Company. It can be highlighted in Italic. Again, it provides clarity. State the town or country you occupied this position.
- Main Tasks and Key Results: Use bullet points to outline the main tasks you occupied in this role. If you can, use numbers that can demonstrate tangible results.
Pro Tip: Remember to include job keywords throughout your work experiences. Emphasise your hard skills. Provide tangible results wherever possible. If you can, use keywords that were highlighted in the job advert. It will show you have tailored your CV for this job application.
Remember, whatever achievement you claim to have, you must be able to back it up.
CV Work Experience Length
If you are a recent graduate, you most likely don’t have this issue. If you are a professional with 5-10 years of experience, should you include all your work experience or not?
Consider the fact that a CV should not exceed one A4 page, with an exception for two A4 pages for long careers. This means CV work experience should cover a maximum of 5 job occupations. In an ideal world, use your 5 most recent work experiences.
However, if the role you are seeking relates more to work experience carried out a long time ago, include it. Apply common sense throughout your CV. There is no one size fits all approach for the perfect CV.
Ensure you keep the chronological CV format.
Okay, things are starting to shape pretty nicely. You are more than halfway to creating a successful CV. The next stage is to include your academic achievements.
Add your Education to your CV
This is a section you can complete no matter how old you are. Therefore, it is essential to write the best CV education segment to make your achievements stand out. If you are a recent graduate, this section will have more prominence. If you are a seasoned professional, this section is more of a formality.
Graduates should place this section above their work experience. It is important to put your most relevant section first. For a graduate, academic achievements and extracurricular activities will play a greater role. For career professionals, the type of work experience you have had the last 5 years will be more vital.
GCSEs and A levels are your guideline if you have left school before your final exams. Job adverts which do not require finished A levels will be very tolerant. They are most likely focused on the practical skills you can bring to a company. Focus your attention on hard skills you understand and want to develop.
Put your most recent education first in the education section. Just like the CV work experience, work your way backwards following the chronological CV order. Mention the topic you are studying, a pathway if relevant, and expected date of graduation. Of course, mention the name of the University and location.
Add your core modules by making bullet points for each one. Emphasise on those which relate most to the job advert you are applying for. It is exactly the same framework as work experience. The principal idea is to demonstrate through tangible results your skills.
Write out your most recent degree if you are a Master’s degree graduate. List the degree title and the pathway chosen, if applicable.
For example: Business Management with Financial Services pathway (BA)
Mention your core modules which will help you to find work in your chosen industry. Don’t forget to include your dissertation thesis. Employers can be curious and decide to read a copy.
Once again, use a chronological CV methodology, especially if you have several degrees or you are postgraduate.
Work Experience without Education
For a career professional who went straight to work, bypassing university, work experience remains your most crucial asset.
There is little need to mention your GCSE or A Level results if you have been actively working for 5 to 10 years.
Include only certificates, qualifications, diplomas which can be beneficial for your application.
Now you’re thinking, that’s my CV all completed and ready to send. Almost, but not quite yet! To really take your CV to the next level and stand out, it requires a few more sections. Let’s get to it now.
Skills are the heartbeat of a CV. They determine whether you are capable of carrying the tasks an employer is outsourcing. It demonstrates your capacity to carry out tasks effectively, be productive in various workplace settings and show your expertise in your profession.
They are the words which will define the likelihood of a position becoming yours. To provide a well-rounded set of skills in your CV is paramount.
Just like any other topic, there are different categories of skills. The ones most sought after are hard skills. However, to perform them effectively requires a strong grasp of soft skills.
Soft skills are intangible but necessary. They don’t have a specific purpose. They can be used in a variety or scenarios.
Soft skill examples:
- Critical Thinking
No matter which job advert you want to apply for, soft skills are a necessity. They are hard to define and prove.
Hard skills are specific skills which are required to carry out a specific task. However menial it may be, a hard skill is always required to perform properly in a job.
Hard skill examples:
- Typing Speed
- Trading a specific market
- Servicing cars
The list is endless and we all possess them.
You may have numerous soft and hard skills to choose from. If so, that’s great. However, only list those which are relevant to the job description. The employer doesn’t care if you are the best wave surfer when applying for a restaurant job.
Follow the skills and needs the employer has. Not the skills you simply want to showcase. Take the time to underline the keywords of the job advert. Those are the skills you need to demonstrate.
How to demonstrate a skill:
- State a skill on your CV.
- Explain how you obtained that specific skill.
- Demonstrate how you developed this particular skill and continue to do so.
Pro tip : To stay on top of the leaderboard, skills must always be honed and improved on a regular basis. Proving that you have that particular skill with tangible results and examples will go a long way on any type of CV.
And there you have it. You have now listed all the wonderful skills you possess needed to round off your CV. But..
There is always a but for a perfectionist. One final section is necessary to earn the cherry on the cake for an excellent CV.
CV Hobbies and Interests
You have come this far. You now have in your hands a perfect CV layout, amazing CV format, breathtaking CV personal statement, mesmerising CV work experience and CV skills to make everyone jealous!
Unfortunately, you are not the only one with such credentials. Numerous job-hungry candidates have perfected the same set of skills and experiences.
How to really set yourself apart and show your personality? How to win a recruiter’s heart? Through your CV hobbies and personal interests.
Just like every other segment of your CV, your hobbies and interests will depend on the stage of your career. If you have just graduated, you cannot have the same level of depth as a veteran.
The key however, is to make sure it is always relevant to the job specification. Not the other way around.
Use the final section of your CV to showcase skills, experience or interesting facts that cannot be covered elsewhere on your CV. This is your best chance to make a managing recruiter change his mind on your credentials.
Let’s say you are applying to be a Financial Analyst for a banking firm in the City of London. A great way to boost your chances is to showcase skills which demand concentration and observation. Just like an analyst.
Hobbies or preoccupations could include:
- Chess Master, play in club tournaments every weekend.
- World of Warcraft video game player.
For an analyst, chess is a great way. It demands strategic thinking throughout and analysis of an opponent’s game under pressure.
Attend conferences to gain insight from industry veterans and learn new knowledge. It’s also a great way to network and potentially meet like-minded individuals. Place this on your CV and an employer will be quietly impressed. Going to conferences shows confidence, eagerness and a drive to better yourself.
Conferences examples for a Financial Analyst:
- Ted Talks
Unable to find paid work experience? Or simply want to help out in society? Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and help at the same time. You can learn just as many skills by working in a volunteer program. Unlike other hobbies, any type of volunteering is welcome for all types of CV’s.
Expressing yourself fluently in a foreign language is a joker card for a CV. In the globalised world of today, where supply chains and business networks are without boundaries, languages play a crucial part. They are always handy for any type of workplace. If you have passed official exams, state your grade to validate your language proficiency. If not, you can self-assess your language proficiency using the CEFR framework.
Levels of competency on a CV:
- Beginner, basic understanding
- Intermediate or professional environment only
- Fluent or native speaker or mother tongue
There it is, you have officially written a CV from head to toe. You see, with the right guidance, anything is achievable. Before you go, there is one final element you can add to your application. A great cover letter.
CV Cover Letter
A cover letter is like that extra goal at the end of a match to add gloss to the scoreline. It may not be compulsory but you know the manager will be pleased with the extra effort. According to a survey carried out by ResumeLab, 83% of recruitment managers believe a cover letter is beneficial.
Follow the same rules as you would write a CV. Stick to a clear and concise font, to make your cover letter readable. Ensure font size remains between 10 and 12, spacing between lines to 1-1.15. Finally, a cover letter should never exceed one page. No matter the level of experience. You are not writing an autobiography.
Start your cover letter by addressing it to the person in charge of the job application. Call the company if you are unsure. This demonstrates you have researched the role before writing. It also increases the likelihood of the reader continuing to read your cover letter.
Once again, the goal is to expose your skills, your experience and your ambitions through the words you use on your cover letter. You are like a product at an auction house, you want your auction to be the highest bid.
Here is a final rundown on everything you need to know on writing a great CV. Don’t skip this part. It’s the most important.
Key Points for how to write a CV
There we have it, a CV so worthy that if it were listed in the stock market, traders would be scrambling to buy it! Creating a CV should not be a chore, it is a reflection of who we are. To build a winning CV, you only need to follow our framework and professional tips. Before you know it, you will be signing a six figure salary contract.
Before you go, here is a rundown on what needs to feature in your CV:
- Use the right CV layout for you. The right font, margin and spacing will help clear the first hurdle. Making sure the reader is still interested.
- Choose the right CV format. For most candidates, the obvious choice is the chronological CV.
- Grasp the reader’s attention with an enticing personal statement. You don’t want the recruiter to think twice about reading your CV.
- Deliver a killer core CV. With a plethora of work experience, education, academic achievement and unique skills, you will not disappoint. This part is the main reflection of who you are, who you were and who you will become.
- Lay out your joker cards in the hobbies and interests section. Don’t be shy in this section. Differentiation is your ally in this section.
- Proofread your CV before sending it to employers and recruitment managers. You don’t want your application to end up in the bin because of a typo.
- Add a tailored cover letter with your CV. This shows you have gone the extra mile to understand the role and its dynamics.
Still have questions on how to write a CV? Struggling to transfer specific skills or know-how on to your CV? Get in touch here and we would be more than happy to help you create a winning CV.