How to write a CV

Interviewer reviewing points on a CV

STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO EACH SECTION

The importance of a well written CV cannot be underestimated. It is the one thing that stands in the way of making it through to the job interview. Every aspect should be carefully crafted and tailored to the role, taking great care to ensure it covers the main job specification.

But what if you’ve never written a CV before?

If you have little to no experience in CV writing and would like some help covering all the sections, we have a great guide for you. Here’s what you should include in your CV.

Personal contact details and professional title

The first thing the hiring manager will expect to see on your CV is your name and contact details. Our advice would be to ensure your name is highlighted and/or in a larger font than the rest of your CV. It doesn’t have to be too large, but should stand out so your name is clear for all to see.

A CV is essentially a sales brochure for yourself, so the main title of that brochure is your name. It should sit proudly at the top so the employer can easily remember who you are. Below your name should then be your contact details – email address and mobile number. You may want to add anything else, like a second mobile phone number if you wish. But we would advise sticking with two simple contact details. Your email and one contact number is more than enough.

Finally, if you label yourself with a professional job title, this should also appear underneath your name. For example, if you specialise in a particular field – Nurse practitioner, Digital marketing manager, Chartered legal executive – you should state this underneath your name. The font size can match your name but could also be slightly smaller, yet still larger than the rest of your CV.

Always provide up to date and accurate contact information. If the employer can’t get hold of you because of a spelling mistake in your email or a missing number in your mobile number, you will never get an interview.

Personal statement

Also known as a personal profile, career profile, and career objective; your personal statement will be the first main section for the employer to read. It will act as an introduction to your CV and briefly discuss three main points:

  1. Who you are – ‘I am a Digital Marketing Manager with 8 years experience…’
  2. What you have to offer the company – your unique skills and qualifications
  3. Your career goals – which should align with the company’s

This personal statement should be written specifically for the company and the role on offer. It should not be generic and therefore could not be used for any other position. It has to be completely unique to the company and offer them a brief insight into what you’re all about and what you have to offer that nobody else has.

Keep your personal statement as brief and to the point as possible, as you do not want to bore the reader and prevent them from wanting to read the main parts of your CV. Your statement should ooze passion and dedication to your chosen career and make the manager want to read more.

Core skills

This could also be called ‘key skills’ and can sometimes sit beneath your personal statement to instantly confirm that you have what they need. Typically, you will find that the employer has confirmed the skills that are required within the job advert and job description. It is your responsibility to ensure those core skills are listed within this section. You may not have them all, but that doesn’t matter – unless stated as mandatory.

Please note – the skills section may not be needed at the top of the page underneath the personal statement. Only in certain professions would this be appropriate. For example, a computer programmer would benefit from having a ‘core skills’ section on the first page. However, a lawyer would benefit more by having their qualifications and education listed before as this would be more relevant.

Try to keep those core skills down to between 4-6 at the most, unless it’s absolutely necessary to list more in accordance with the role and the job description. Bullet points can be used here to keep everything formatted nicely and easy to read.

Employment history/work history

Your career history is the heart of your CV and must make a memorable and positive impression. Although work experience isn’t always relevant, especially with entry level positions for school leavers, it is mainly seen by employers as an important deciding factor. Someone with more direct and relevant experience may have the upper hand on someone with less but who is more qualified. It means less training and time spent for the employer, and an increased chance of excellent performance.

Your work history should be listed in reverse chronological order – so start with your most recent roles and work your way back. If you have a long list of roles spanning back decades you may not need to detail everything. The most recent and relevant should take precedent in your decision here.

The standard approach to creating a work history section of a CV is to list the following information:

  • Job title
  • Company details
  • Dates to and from of employment
  • A brief summary
  • A list of tasks and responsibilities – the main aspects of the role

Keep your list of tasks down to a minimum and only focus on the most relevant to the new employer. They do not want to read a huge list of tasks for lots of different roles if they are not relevant to them. They are mainly looking for relatable work experience, skills and achievements.

Expand upon the relevant roles with a few brief examples of performance. This can be in the form of numbers, stats, figures, charts, targets hit, sales, revenue, contracts signed, customer service examples, or anything you deem important. This will give the employer an indicator of your level of performance which could be transferred over to them. This is very important if you want to stand out against the other candidates.

Education/qualifications

Your education and qualifications listed in this section should focus again on the role. For example, if your GCSE or A-level results are not relevant, then you may not need to list them. This may be the case if you are required to have certain qualifications for the role and those are only important.

Your education and qualifications should be detailed in reverse chronological order. This will again help the employer to find the most relevant information quickly. State the name of the institution and the dates you attended. Follow that with your qualification and grade achieved.

This section is quite open to add more detail if deemed necessary. For example, a recent school leaver would have very little or even no work experience to account for. So they may need to expand upon their degree and go into more detail about projects, essays, dissertations, assignments and even modules.

Skills section

When a ‘core skills’ section is not needed you will need to create a skills section. This would typically follow on from your more important education and qualifications section. Again, remember to evaluate which is more important before you decide on the placement of your skills section.

The employer doesn’t want to spend too much time reading yours or anybody’s CV. They want to quickly be able to navigate to any section they want and everything to be presented in the correct order. So choose wisely as to where your skills section goes and how much you want to expand.

Hobbies and interests

Although this section may seem unnecessary and irrelevant, you’d be surprised at how many employers take an interest. There are certain hobbies which can actually add value to your CV and further demonstrate certain soft skills. You’ve already listed your specific skills but the employer also wants to know how well you will function on a daily basis. How are you at communicating and working with others? Are you a good problem solver? Can you think logically and create an organised work area?

Soft skills are equally as important as hard or specific ones to the employer. Your hobbies may further prove you are capable of what you say. Sporty and creative hobbies can demonstrate the following soft skills:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Dedication
  • Passion
  • Creativity

You could consider leaving out this section if your hobbies are quite ‘run of the mill’. Reading, going to the cinema, walking the dog, socialising with friends on the weekend – are not going to add any value to your CV.

References

Finally, your references can be stated here. List the person’s name, company name, job title and even a brief description of their role. Some employers are also happy for you to simply state ‘Available on request’ if you don’t want to add them at this stage.

You should consider contacting all of your references to gain their approval. This is a polite approach and helps to ensure your reference knows who may be contacting them. It will also give you the chance to discuss what you are now applying for and the focus of the role. This could help the reference to narrow down their review and provide more accurate and relevant information to the new employer.

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