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Writing your CV
A good CV should be clear, concise, relevant and logically arranged. Our advice will help you to craft the basis of an excellent CV.
Structuring your CV
The first and most important thing to remember about your CV is that it should be composed of the highlights of your career or work experience, and the experiences you have had which especially qualify you for your prospective job and which will help you to stand out from other applicants. In other words, an unedited biography of your life and times will not help your chances. Our view is that even those with the best CVs should be able to fit the information onto a single page with some sensible formatting. It will also often be necessary to tweak your CV depending on the job for which you are applying.
A good CV also organises the information it contains for maximum impact and easy accessibility. Broadly speaking, you should divide your document into six distinct sub-headings: Personal Details, Education, Work Experience, Skills and Interests (inc languages), Achievments and References. Use a different font or typeface to distinguish these subheadings from the rest of the text, consider using the Microsoft CV Wizard or a similar programme to divide each into a separate box or take a look at our sample CV.
For each listed item a date should be given in a column on the left hand side, with the most recent first.
Don't be tempted to go into too much detail here. Simply put down your email, telephone, home address and date of birth
Here you should write down your degree first, included grade achieved or expected grade, your A-Levels or equivalent and a summary of your GCSEs.
Work experience should be a brief account of all relevant placements and jobs, together with their dates to show times of duration. When listing your past experiences, if you have done a job which you are hesitating to list because you think it portrays you in the wrong light, don't immediately dismiss it. Your future employers may not be impressed by gun-running on the Mexican border, but if you did a job that was hard work for low pay like bar-tending it can show that you have stamina, social skills and a good work ethic. If you spent four months stacking shelves at Sainsbury's to pay for travelling in your gap year, put it down. Work experience is one of the most influential factors in deciding your chances of success, and if its looking a bit thin it can be worth writing to various companies and individuals asking if you can shadow them or at least visit their offices for a day. Employers want to be able to see what you have done at a glance, they don't want to have to read long sentences to be able to extract the point of what you are saying. Be succinct - bullet points and sub-headings are ideal.
Skills and Interests & Achievements
If you have any trouble deciding what to write in these sections, here are some questions which may help stimulate responses: Are you a member of any teams or sporting groups? Do you belong to any societies or clubs? Do you hold any positions of responsibility? Do you do any charity or community work? Have you ever won any prizes or talent-based competitions? As regards languages, even if you don't speak the target language very well, list it and put your degree of proficiency afterwards in brackets. 'Basic' is the best way of giving a very simple understanding a positive ring, whilst 'Fluent' should be reserved for a second language or one studied at University - you may well be tested on it!
Finally, references should be at the end. Offer these only on request but have referees ready in case you are asked at short notice. Give two referees if you can, one academic and one professional, with a brief account of their relationship to you.
If your CV has a professional look, the information is well organised and you have given the most appropriate details, you will greatly increase your chances of being called to that interview. Thereafter it is worth keeping an up to date copy of your CV on your computer at all times - you never know when your next exciting career move will happen!
Need help with your personal statement? Why not visit the Personal Statement Homepage where you can get top tips on how to fill out your UCAS form and browse through our library of over 350 personal statements.