Writing a CV/résumé
Before beginning to draft your CV/résumé, read the advert carefully so that you are clear about the specific requirements of the job you’re applying for. It’s important to tailor both your application letter and the CV/résumé to the job in question, focusing on qualifications and experience that are particularly relevant.
Dos and Don’ts
Here are some general points to bear in mind when preparing your CV/résumé:
- keep your CV/résumé brief and concise: there is no need to go into a lot of detail about your education or employment history.
- try to keep your CV/résumé to one or two sides of A4 paper.
- use brief, informative sentences, short paragraphs, and standard English.
- when describing your responsibilities and achievements, start each point with an action verb (such as teaching, leading, developing): this creates more impact.
- use bold type or bullet points to highlight key information.
- proofread for spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes: many employers routinely discard CVs/résumés that contain this type of mistake.
- update your CV/résumé regularly as your situation changes.
- go into too much detail: employers are too busy to read rambling or unfocused CVs/résumés.
- leave gaps in your employment history: add a sentence or two explaining any periods that are not accounted for.
- use too many different fonts or typefaces: keep to one or two that are clear and easy to read.
- use inappropriate colours, graphics, or photos.
- name people as referees unless you’ve confirmed that they’re happy to provide a reference for you.
Structuring your CV/résumé
A CV/résumé should be clear and well structured, with a limited number of main sections, so that an employer can pinpoint the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. Here are some broad guidelines on how to structure an effective CV/résumé.
Always begin with your personal details, i.e.:
- telephone number (home and/or mobile)
- email address (personal, rather than work)
- personal profile
There’s no need to include your date of birth, your marital status, or your nationality unless the job advert has specifically asked you for this information.
A personal profile is a way of introducing yourself to a potential employer. It outlines who you are, what skills and qualities you have, and why you would be an asset to the company. It also provides a good opportunity to tailor your application to the requirements of a job before you move on to the details of your experience or qualifications.
Beginning with your current job, if you have one:
- Give a brief outline of your current role, responsibilities, and skills, focusing on those which are most relevant for the job you’re applying for.
- Work backwards through other jobs you’ve held, giving a brief summary of each, highlighting any aspect that’s particularly relevant to your application. Include work placements and voluntary work, if applicable.
- Unless you’re very young, or you’re applying for your first main job, it isn’t necessary to list all the less important jobs you may have done. You could summarize them as, for example, ‘various temporary administrative posts’.
- Avoid leaving unexplained gaps in your employment history as this can create a negative impression. If you've been bringing up a child, unemployed, or taking a career break, for example, add a sentence explaining this.
- Treat any significant periods of unemployment in a positive way: you could outline any activities you engaged in while you were out of work, such as carrying out voluntary work or learning new skills.
- If you’re still studying, start by giving this information, making it clear that your studies are ongoing and when the course is due to end.
- If you’ve completed any other further or higher education, outline this next.
- Then give your secondary school or schools and the dates you attended, together with:
o a list of your A level (or Scottish Higher or equivalent) subjects and gradeso brief details of GCSEs, Scottish Standard Grades, NVQs, or equivalent qualifications (only give full details of these if the employer has specifically asked for them or the subjects are relevant to the job in question)
Any other skills, achievements, or training
- List any relevant courses or training you’ve completed (e.g. to gain IT skills or knowledge of a foreign language).
- Mention any significant awards you have received or other professional achievements that would be relevant to the job you are applying for.
Interests or pastimes
- A brief outline of your interests and hobbies can help to give a potential employer an insight into the type of person you are. They may also indicate skills you have that you are not using in your current position.
- Give the names and contact details of people who would be willing to give you a reference. Ideally, one person should be from your current (or most recent) place of work, while the second could be from a previous employer.
- If you’re applying for your first job, you could give the name of a tutor, teacher, or anyone who knows you well enough to vouch for your character (apart from members of your family).
- Always make sure that the people you have in mind are happy to provide a reference for you before you add their names to your CV/résumé.
Here are two examples of CVs/résumés. The first CV/résumé is for a student starting out on her career who’s applying for a job as a Business Analyst with an international company. See her accompanying job application letter.
We take a look at several popular, though confusing, punctuation marks.