Learning how to write an effective CV (Curriculum Vitae) is an important exercise in professional development and an essential part of the job hunting process. Writing a good CV can be challenging. This guide will help you with content, layout and tone.
There are many ways of writing a CV to fit your current level of experience. For example, if you have very little to no work experience it may be appropriate to put education directly after your personal profile section. However, if you are looking to move industry sector you will need to highlight transferable skills gained from previous experience to support your application.
Content and layout
CVs should never be longer than two pages and in some cases one page. Never sacrifice content and clarity for design. When producing a creative CV, write out the content of your CV first then later add design elements and a layout to fit your brand.
On average an employer will look at your CV for 6 to 10 seconds, so it’s important to focus on impact and clarity.
You can adapt the layout to suit the style of your CV however all CVs should include the following sections:
- Contact details
- Work experience
Contact details and profile
An effective profile section is essential to helping an employer understand what you do, who you are and what you’re looking for.
Within your contact details we recommend you include your name, mobile number, email address and any relevant links, i.e. portfolio and LinkedIn.
Keep the profile section short and straight to the point. Avoid generic statements such as you ‘work well in a team’ and that you are ‘good communicator’.
Be specific, use industry terminology and tailor your profile section to each position you apply for.
Reference live job descriptions when writing your profile section and CV in general. What skills are they looking for in a motion graphics designer or a runner? Once you’ve taken notes from job relevant descriptions you’ll be able to effectively tailor your CV to the roles you’re applying to.
Your work experience section tells a story about you and your career. It is your chance to highlight your successes, career history, duties within your roles and will also allow you to tailor your CV to the roles you are applying for.
Your work history should be written in reverse chronological order. For each role include dates, company name and 3-4 bullet points about about your duties and achievements.
Don’t be afraid to include any volunteering or part time roles you may have undertaken as any work you do can be considered work experience.
Volunteering and part-time work can also show that you are employable and are evidence of transferable skills, for example teamwork, leadership, organising stock, handling money.
Include any awards, prizes or other research you have done in your own time or as part of your course.
Some employers will require applicants to have a particular level or subject of study related to the role. Make sure you include course name, level of study, institution name, dates you undertook course and in some cases a sentence or two to outlining the course.
Additionally, we recommend you use reverse chronological order.
If you are including your GCSEs only include English, Maths and other GCSEs that relate to your studies or the roles you are applying to.
Include BTECs, A Levels and foundation diplomas and always include your degree. If you are still studying then enter the date you’re expected to finish your course.
Ensure you reference live job descriptions to get an for an idea of relevant skills to include for the role and sector.
Include technical skills such as Photoshop, CAD, camera operation, etc and also include transferable (also called ‘soft’) skills, such as communication, interpersonal skills, computer literacy, teamwork, leadership organisation and planning.
Include any other relevant skills, such fluency in other language or other experience and creative competencies.
You will always also be expected to provide references at some stage in the hiring process. It is acceptable to write ‘ references available on request’ on your CV and provide references when requested after the interview process.
Examples of good referees include are tutors, colleagues and current or managers.
You might be a freelance designer and the role you are applying for is a graphic designer at a small fashion label. They mention that they want applicants to have a keen interest in fashion and have strong communication skills to liaise with internal and external stakeholders. Already as a freelancer, you liaise regularly with people to ensure that they’re happy with the work you’re doing and that they get what they want. As for showing and interest in Fashion you can demonstrate this in your cover letter or maybe you have worked with clients in the fashion sector.
Learning to write a good CV comes hand-in-hand with understanding and evaluating the duties and the role you are applying to.
Links and further advice
If you need to speak to one of the Careers Team about your CV, your job or finding work, networking advice or any other careers-based issues then come along to meet one of the Careers Team on the mezzanine from 12:30 - 2:30pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during term time.
If you wish to make an appointment for another time during the week please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org