Writing a CV is one of the toughest challenges you face when applying for jobs. How do you get all of your skills and experience down on a piece of paper, plus your qualifications and your contact details? It can feel like it’s pretty much impossible. But that’s where this guide comes in; the GoThinkBig guide to writing the ultimate CV.
Sounds pretty obvious but your name should be the first thing on the piece of paper. Put it in a clear bold type at the top of the page and make it bigger than the rest of the text on the page, centring it is normally a pretty good idea too. This will help potential employers easily identify whose CV they’ve printed out and possibly make them like you a little bit more because you have an easy to read CV.
Don’t feel like you need to put ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top. It should be pretty clear to anyone reading your CV what it is and that can take up valuable space.
You need to let people know how they can get in touch with you to offer you an interview because they’ve been so impressed with your shiny new CV. Make sure you include a phone number that you can normally be reached on – and make sure that it’s a number that has voicemail just in case you can’t be reached.
Definitely make sure that you include your email address too, a lot of employers will prefer to send an email to contact you. But make sure you do regular checks of your junk mail for the email on your CV – you’d hate to miss out on an interview simply because your spam filter is a little over zealous.
We’d recommend including your Twitter handle on your CV as well. Employers are bound to go looking for it anyway and this way you’ll know for sure that they’ve found the right person. And this way, once you’ve followed all our tips for making sure your Twitter profile is job search ready, potential employers will only see what you want them to see.
It’s really up to you whether you want to include a personal statement on your CV – some people love ‘em, others can’t stand ‘em. They’re pretty good to give a really quick snapshot of your experience, but they can be hard to write. If you do want to include a personal statement, we’ve got a whole post dedicated to personal statements, so check that out.
There’s a bit of a debate about how you should organise your experience on your CV, but generally there’s two ways that we think are best. Either you list it by date order, starting with the most recent and working backwards. Or you start with the most relevant to the job that you’re applying for and then put other experience after.
Whichever way you decide to do it, the information you need to include about your work experience is the same. Put your job title (if it was work experience or an apprenticeship, say it was work experience or an apprenticeship – don’t lie on your CV), put the dates you worked there, and then include a brief description about the responsibilities you had while you were there. Notice the word brief. We don’t need to know every little thing you did while you were there. Give an overview of things you did – make sure you mention any projects that you are particularly proud of and would like to be asked about in an interview as employers are likely to pick up on those kinds of things on your CV.
If your experience is in a field slightly different to the job that you’re applying for, remember to include all of those transferable skills that you gained from your experience – particularly the ones that you know will be relevant for the role you’re applying for.
Obviously you need to include your education on your CV, but potential employers don’t need to know every single thing you’ve ever done at school. And they certainly don’t need to know what primary school you went to.
In fact, we reckon that you only need to give a detailed description of your highest qualification. So whether that’s your Masters, your BA, or your A levels, give the most information about that. For the others, just give an overview. For example, if a degree is your highest qualification, put your grade and an example of some of the modules that you studied, particularly if they’d be relevant to the role you’re applying for. For A levels you might want to give the subjects you studied and their grades and then for GCSEs you’d probably just give an overview of the grades you received – for example 10 GCSEs grades A* – C.
Deciding what your CV looks like can also be really tough. You have to decide whether to include a photo or not, whether to make it colourful or stick to black and white, and how to arrange all of the information.
Photos and colour really are down to personal preference. It’s entirely up to you what you choose to do on that front – but always remember who’s going to be looking at your CV and whether they’d be impressed with a colourful CV or if they’d prefer something more traditional.
With arranging the information, we’d recommend using subheadings to help split up the sections and definitely utilise bullet points – they’ll help you to be concise in your explanations and also make the most of quite limited space. And if you’re required to have a one page CV (some employers like to challenge candidates and ask for this) we’d definitely recommend using columns to make the most of the space available on the one page.
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