A CV is a form of marketing or advertising for and about you.
A CV is often a person’s first insight in to you as a candidate who is potentially interested in a role and let’s be clear, the CV is more often than not what gets you in the door for an interview so although the interview stage is crucial in any process, without the right CV you may never get to this stage.
In this page we will work through the basics of what a CV should look like as well as some tips as to what information is best to use and what to avoid!
If you prefer to download all of the information, our helpful guide is available when you click here.
The word Curriculum Vitae is early 20th century Latin and literally translated means “course of life”, today’s dictionary meaning is:
A brief account of a person's education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application.
A CV is a professional document detailing your achievements and skills in the best light. As recruiters will sieve through CV’s in a logical manner, knowing clearly what they want to see from prospective employees, they will often be making a decision within 15 seconds.
You have ONE chance to grab their attention and show that you match their positions needs.
Remember you are competing against what could be a large number of other applicants who are also trying to sell themselves. So the challenge in CV writing is to be more appealing and attractive than the rest.
This means that your curriculum vitae must be presented professionally, clearly, and in a way that matches the role in which you are applying for.
In this section we will look at some bullet points of what a good CV should include as well as some styles and templates commonly used.
A good CV will:
A CV is a personal document and can contain whatever you think is relevant but I would advise you to take a step back and think of it as a marketing brochure and ask yourself “what is important to sell?, what would you look for in a candidate?”... “What makes me stand out?”
Here are some ideas:
The most common style of CV is Reverse Chronological, what this does is list in reverse order your experience and roles so that the most recent role is first. This will draw the reader to what in most cases is the most relevant experience and your most senior position in most cases.
As well as highlighting past roles and achievements there is other content in which when highlighted can help you build an effective CV. The typical headings are (In order of how we would recommend presenting on a CV).
Name, address, contact details
You must make these details obvious straight away and obvious to the reader, they can be shown at the top of your CV or some people do choose to put it in the footer.
A good profile can be an excellent start to garb the reader’s attention on the CV, it is important to be factual and concise in this though and showcase achievements. Do not write generalist comments such as:
“Hardworking and punctual with a can do attitude”
This tells the reader very little and adds no value so we would recommend something more like:
“A people manger with experience of looking after teams of 20+ and proven experience in Maximising P&L”
This sentence gives insight that you have managed a team and a number and that you have P&L experience with a successful history.
A reverse chronological ordering of roles and functional skill base
Education and Qualifications
In this section it is best to emphasise what is most important to the role you are applying for so match your relevant qualification to ones that match the desired or mandatory ones shown in the job specification.
Interests is a section that can be very useful, if you have any positions of responsibility outside of work such as Chair of a school of governors or treasurer for a local sports team then this can show some transferable skills.
At this stage your format and content should be perfect, the last thing you want to do now is make a mistake on the presentation of this great information.
Use the following checklist to make sure your CV is ready to use:
A covering letter is an introduction/ letter of motivation to push the reader to read on!
In the case of a covering letter for a CV you want to introduce yourself and in no more than 1 page match your experience to the needs and wants of the job specification. This can be in a bullet point form or in a paragraph and this should be tailored specifically to each role you apply to.