CV writing – a guide

Waiting for a job interview


Your CV (curriculum vitae) or Resume has just one purpose – to get you the interview!

The ideal CV is a written communication that clearly demonstrates your ability and experience in a specific field in such a way that the reader wants to meet you. Your CV is a marketing tool, usually two pages long, designed to make a prospective employer want to meet you. Your CV needs to highlight your strengths and accomplishments, matching your experience and abilities to the job requirements in a manner that sets you above other candidates.

The creation of a CV requires you to spend a sensible amount of time and effort in the collation of information, preparation, layout, proof-reading and analysis. Generally, your CV has just 30 seconds (or less) to impress the professional recruiter before being discarded in the round filing cabinet on the floor!

Accept that your first effort will, almost certainly, require tuning, editing, modification, perhaps re-writing. Prepare, print-off, examine, re-examine after a couple of days, have your friends and family examine.

Your CV performs two functions in your job search. Firstly, it acts as a sales tool, illustrating why you should be considered for a position, in something less than thirty seconds! Secondly, your CV will form the framework for any subsequent interview; employers often use your CV as a basis for their questions regarding your skill, experience and suitability for the position in question. Put the most attractive, and relevant, information at the top of your CV.

CV – communication


Your CV(curriculum vitae) or resume need to communicate:

    • Your personal details – name, address, telephone number, email address
    • Applicable skills
    • Education
    • Experience and work history
    • General interests

The order in which the above appear is dependant upon your individual circumstances. There is no one, single presentation that is right for all individuals; what is suitable for one person may be less than ideal for another. What matters is achieving a combination of content and layout that works for you.

Apart from the free advice given on this website we are able to provide both CV and cover letter templates or, if you prefer, a full advisory/writing service that will substantially improve your chances of achieving that winning interview.

CV preparation


It is essential that you take the time, and make the effort, to ensure that your CV adequately reflects your experience and capability. If this is your first attempt to produce a quality CV, then be prepared to devote several days in its preparation. The CV is your sales leaflet; make it the best you can!

The CV is your sales tool – do not sell yourself short! We have seen, time and time again, highly competent individuals who undersell themselves and thus fail to impress sufficiently – your CV is no place for understatement. It is essential that you fully illustrate both your potential and your achievements, particularly with regard to the position being sought.

The provision of CV(curriculum vitae) or resume information should be as complete as possible.

This stage forms the basis for the ongoing task.

Contact – ensure that you include 24/7 contact information, permanent address (use your parent’s address if newly qualified &/or about to move), landline telephone number, mobile telephone number, email address

Competencies and Skills – list all competencies and skills.

  • competence is that which you do well
  • skill is a measure of that competence (a credential might take the form of a degree, certificate etc.)
  • Example:
  • Competence – that which you know, from education, training or experience e.g. electrical engineering, litigation

For example, skill is the ability to perform the identified competence – by experience, qualification and so on.

Application – where/how you use your skill e.g. development engineer, commercial litigator.

Summary – review and summarise the above information by writing an introductory paragraph for your CV, using third person, describing yourself in terms of your life-skills and areas of specific competence.  This area should contain as many relevant keywords as possible; it is the first paragraph that any reader will see and needs to excite them as much as possible, to ensure that the rest of your CV is read with interest rather than simply skimmed over or even discarded.  It is this area that you should consider personalising for each and every application, emphasizing those areas of your experience or knowledge directly applicable to them.

Your summary must, immediately, convince the reader to keep on reading; it must gather the best elements of your experience, accomplishments and personal characteristics, as relevant to the employer, and provided the best reasons for hiring you, rather than someone else.

It is important to communicate the strongest reasons for wanting to meet with you at the very top of your CV.

The summary does not need to include all your accomplishments and experience, just those that really matter for this particular opportunity, those that will be the most impressive to your potential employer.

Read more on this: Writing a personal statement for your CV

Education – list all qualifications, training etc. giving dates, establishment, subjects, and highest attainment first, i.e. the most advanced first.

Work Experience – list all work experience in reverse chronological order.  Note specific achievements, giving £value where possible.

The name and location of each employer should be given, along with titles of positions held.  Include also details of duties performed and results achieved.

When describing your duties, emphasize the results rather than responsibilities, performance rather than qualities.  Be sure to clearly identify any promotions or increases in responsibility received.

Note specific accomplishments, improvements for time or money saved.  Quantify wherever possible e.g. 15% reduction in production cost, 23% increase in sales, 17% less filing time required, 36% increase in gross margin.  Equally, put £ values to these accomplishments if possible.

Interests – include if at all unusual, these may well form a talking point at any subsequent interview, allowing you to build a relationship.  For example, do include mountaineering, trekking etc.  I know of one young commercial litigator who is a sports motorcycle fan, owning a 150mph Honda machine – it transpired that the senior partner conducting the interview was a born-again biker.  She got the job!

Newly qualified graduates, with little work experience, should list all relevant extra-curricular activities – employers look for these sorts of things as they show initiative.  If you have been Hall Representative at Uni, say so!

More info on this section: Should you put hobbies and interests on your CV?

Other – dependent upon individual circumstances there may be other areas that need to be addressed.  A new graduate may refer to coursework, research undertaken, community work, publications, anything else you may consider worthy of comment.

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