Curriculum Vitae (meaning "course of life") is a personal marketing document that demonstrates how your unique blend of experience, qualifications and skills make you suitable for the role or course you are applying to.
Be prepared to optimise your CV for each opportunity you apply for to ensure it gives you the best chance to secure an interview. It's worth the extra time and effort.
Visit our CV advice and principles page for more information about how to adapt your CV for different roles, sectors and even countries.
What to include in your CV
The key to a good CV is to make sure the material you use promotes your experience and skills relevant to the position you're applying for. You can use different sections within your CV to draw attention to specific areas, such as experience in a particular sector or technical skills, however it will usually include the following sections. Likewise you can change the order according to importance.
Your first name and surname will usually be at the top as a heading in large bold letters. It is not necessary to write 'Curriculum Vitae'. Include your postal area (but not necessarily your full address, see safer jobs), mobile, email and if relevant your Linkedin profile.
Under updated equal opportunities legislation, it is no longer necessary to include your date of birth. It is advisable to include your nationality and work permit status for international students.
Profile statement (optional)
A profile statement is a three to four line summary of your main selling points related to the job. Incorporate your main skills, knowledge and experience and indicate where they have been gained. It should not be a list of 'desirable' attributes unconnected to your own experience laid out in the rest of your CV.
A profile should say three things:
- Who you are – e.g. 'Second year BA Business Management undergraduate'
- What you are good at – e.g. 'with exceptional skills communication and customer service skills developed through numerous customer-facing and supervisory roles'
- What you want to do – e.g. 'seeking a year placement in financial services’.
Technical Skills (optional)
For some roles, such as in the science, IT or the creative industries, the employer will want to know whether you have particular technical skills/knowledge, so a specific section early in your CV describing your experience and/or proficiency with them will be important, e.g. 'C++ - thorough working knowledge'.
List your education information in reverse chronological order. Give some detail of your current course (i.e. list relevant modules or assignments and mention your dissertation if applicable). Briefly include A level subjects (or equivalent) and summarise GCSEs (or equivalents). There is no need to list all of your GCSE subjects; employers are likely to be interested only in Maths and English and in some cases Sciences.
Again list your workplace experience in reverse chronological order, although if you have some relevant experience you want to draw attention to you can have a separate section for this and include it ahead of your other experience.
For relevant experience, you can highlight specific aspects of this role which will be of use in the role being applied for. For non-relevant experience, you should emphasise the transferable skills gained through the specific activities completed.
Include placements, part-time and voluntary work, as well as permanent and temporary jobs. Be concise and focus on your skills and achievements rather than on tasks, unless they are relevant to the job. Group similar jobs together if the list becomes too long.
Use this section to show a more personal aspect of your life, demonstrating your level of motivation and participation in the activities mentioned, e.g. sports, artistic activities, community involvement and other achievements.
Avoid dull lists of interests such as 'cinema, sport, socialising' and instead go into a bit of detail about each of your interests: Why do you do them? How long have you been doing them? How often do you do them? What skills have you developed as a result of the interest? Above all, make your interests interesting!
Indicate that 'references are available on request' at the end of your CV. You should have two referees who have given you their permission to be contacted for a reference by employers, when appropriate.
One should be an academic referee; this is usually your personal tutor or a course tutor who knows your work. The second referee should be a current or previous employer from paid or voluntary work or even an activity where you have participated actively e.g. local sports team captain. Do not use family or friends.
Different types of CV and examples
For more information of what to include in your CV see our reverse chronological CV template. In some situations, such as for career changers where your degree and/or experience are not related to the role you are applying for a skills based CV which stresses your transferable skills may be appropriate.
You can also find a range of CV examples for different sectors, including part-time roles, by searching within the resources section of Engage.
Where to get help
If you need help with your CV our career consultants and placements teams can assist you, contact us to book an appointment with a consultant.