Curriculum Vitae (meaning "course of life") is a personal marketing document that promotes your unique blend of experience, qualifications and skills.
The type of CV you need depends on the type of job you're applying for. A CV for a technical or scientific position will look different to a CV aimed at securing a role in the creative industry.
Be prepared to change your CV for each role you apply for to ensure it gives you the best chance to secure an interview. It's worth the extra time and effort.
If you're asked to post your CV, always send it with a first class stamp.
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.
A CV should include the following sections (but not necessarily in the order outlined below).
When considering how to layout your CV read our guide to different types of CVs further down this page. Most importantly, don't bury your best material!
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 address (home and semester-time), telephone (landline and mobile) and email.
Under updated equal opportunities legislation, it is no longer necessary to include your date of birth. It is advisable to include nationality, plus work permit status for international students.
A profile statement is a three to four line summary of your main selling points related to the job. Incorporate your main skills, attitudes, knowledge and experience and indicate where they have been gained. It should not be a list of 'desirable' attributes unconnected to your own experience. This section is optional as it could be included in your covering letter.
A profile should say three things:
- Who you are - eg 'BA Business Management graduate'
- What you are good at - eg 'with exceptional skills communication and customer service skills developed through numerous customer-facing and supervisory roles'
- What you want to do - eg 'seeking a challenging graduate trainee management role.'
Avoid generic statements like 'enthusiastic self-starter' as these will be unlikely to impress a potential employer.
List your education information in reverse chronological order. Give some detail of your current course (ie list three to six 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. Something like "9 GCSEs (A*-C) including Maths and English' is normally sufficient.
Begin with your most recent work experience. 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.
If you have a wealth of experience, it can be a good idea to divide your work experience into 'relevant work experience' and 'other work experience', which will enable you to draw attention to the experience you have had that is most relevant to the role being applied for. For relevant experience, you can highlight specific aspects of a previous role which will be of use in the role being applied for. For non-relevant experience, you should focus on the transferable skills (see below for examples).
You may list additional transferable skills with your own examples or you may use this section to highlight skills such as computer literacy and additional languages. Examples of transferable skills include:
- Communication skills – such as presentation skills, interpersonal skills, customer service skills and diplomacy
- Working under pressure – including working to tight deadlines
- Multitasking – including prioritising of tasks and time management
- Leadership – such as delegation and diplomacy skills
- IT skills
Use this section to show a more personal aspect of your life, demonstrating your level of motivation and participation in the activities mentioned, eg 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 a lecturer or 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 eg local sports team captain. Do not use family or friends.
The combination of a well written covering letter and targeted CV is key determinant of success. Outlined below are various types of CV and suggestions about when they might be appropriate to use.
In this type of CV information is presented in reverse chronological order. Chronological CVs are commonly used when the applicant has directly related experience for the role. If you are a post graduate student who is taking a course to build on existing skills and experience and are hoping to develop further within your existing career this type of CV may be best for you.
This type of CV could be used when you do not have a lot of directly related experience or you are going through a career change. You will need to find evidence from your experience (work, study or leisure activities) to indicate you have – or can develop – the skills required by the position: these skills are usually referred to as transferable skills.
This type of CV is targeted and focused on one particular role. Always support any mention of skills with evidence of how and where these skills were developed. Try to quantify with evidence as far as possible eg 'sales increased by' or 'number of customers increased by'.
Typically this would be a chronological CV as above, giving details of any experience within the law sector.
This CV should contain more detailed information on coursework (including final year projects), technical equipment used and outline of the procedures followed. There is a real role for scientific jargon in this type of CV.
The medium of black print on paper might not always be appropriate for creative CVs (eg if for applying for jobs in advertising or the media). Use your imagination and creativity but ensure the content is not overwhelmed by style! Don't forget to make sure the content demonstrates your suitability. If you are looking for inspiration, click here to visit a site with some outstanding examples of creative CVs.
One page CV suitable for a part-time jobs
This type of CV is appropriate for part-time non graduate jobs where the employer only needs to know that you have the necessary skills and experience for a specific role.
When considering employment in countries outside the UK it's important to check for any local conventions (eg in France an even greater emphasis is placed on academic qualifications and these need to be stressed).
For examples of CVs appropriate in different countries, visit the careers information rooms where we have materials geared towards various countries. Other useful information is on the Prospects website.
Electronic / scannable CVs
Increasingly employers are scanning CVs they receive and filtering electronic CVs. Selection can often be based on a demonstration of appropriate skills, abilities and key words. This again highlights the need to make sure that the CV is focused, targeted and employs good use of vocabulary.
Visit our careers advice for research students webpage for further materials on how to target your CV effectively for positions both within and outside academia.
Where to get help
Are you still unsure whether your CV is the right type for your particular blend of qualifications, skills and experience? Our career consultants can help; contact us today to book an appointment with a consultant.