Some people find it straightforward to write a cracking CV which secures jobs. However, many of us are left scratching our heads, wondering what we should include, what we should leave out and how to present it.
A CV is essentially an advert for you. It is used to highlight the experience, skills, qualifications and achievements which a recruiter will find desirable.
In this article, I'm going to walk you through how to write a CV and give you tips which could help to improve your CV and make it stand out amongst others.
When writing your CV, you'll need to use a word processor. Many recruiters require CVs in either Portable Document Format (PDF) or Microsoft Word format (DOC/DOCX).
There are now online, or cloud-based, word processors available which will work across all devices including Windows, macOS and ChromeOS.
You can use them through your internet browser (or on mobile devices, download the apps from the Google Play or Apple App Store) meaning you don't need to buy or install any additional software.
There are other free word processor programs available to download, but they often come with additional software that you don't want when you're downloading a specific program, often comes in the form of an anti-virus program, and if you accidentally install some it can be hard to uninstall all elements of it.
With free cloud-based word processors, you don't need to install anything, and you get peace of mind that there won't be any viruses being installed. They will also work on your mobile devices by downloading the appropriate app.
Microsoft Word is a favourite of recruiters and can be bought standalone or as part of the Microsoft Office suite.
There is also an online version which offers most of the features of the paid version. It's familiar to those who have used Word in the past. All that is required is a Microsoft Account such as an Outlook, Live, or even your old Hotmail account. If you don't have a Microsoft Account, you can easily create one by clicking here.
Once signed in (or signed up), the document will be securely saved online in the cloud to your Microsoft OneDrive.
Word Online constantly saves the document to the cloud so you don't have to worry about losing data if your computer or web browser crashes. However it is dependent on an internet connection, so if your internet goes down, it won't be saving during the outage. That said, internet connections are very reliable these days.
It would be a good idea to save the document to your computer or device periodically, just in case, to prevent data loss in the event of an internet blackout.
Google Docs is similar to Word Online, it offers many of the same features and also continuously saves the document to the cloud. It requires a Google Account such as one set up on an Android device or one created to use Google's email system - Gmail, so it can save the document to your Google Drive.
If you don't have a Google Account, you can create one by clicking here.
Google Docs has all the same advantages and disadvantages as Word Online when it comes to saving the document, so remember to periodically save the document to your computer or device to reduce data loss in the event of an internet blackout.
Both cloud-based word processors can open and save documents in a variety of formats, including PDF (.pdf) and the recruiter-friendly Word (.doc or .docx). I find that Google Docs is a bit more user-friendly for those people who either haven't used a word processor, or Microsoft Word, before. But I suggest trying both and seeing which one works best for you.
Note that in the workplace, it's highly unlikely that you'll encounter anything that isn't Microsoft Word.
There are things that a Recruiter expects to see in your CV; this is what you should use as the backbone of the document.
Although the structure of a CV is flexible, allowing you to adapt it to your own skill set and experiences, if any of these core things are missing, it's likely that your CV will be quickly dismissed.
All sections (after your name and contact details) should have a title, also called a header, to help to separate the sections and include a bit of white space. White space splits up the CV, makes it easier to read and makes it look professional.
Here are the basic things a recruiter expects to find on your CV.
First and foremost, never lie on your CV or in an application to a job!
It is a criminal offence under the Fraud Act 2006 to lie or exaggerate on application to a job. You could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and/or receive a fine. This can also affect you being able to secure employment in the future.
The prosecution has to have a very strong case that you lied or knowingly gave false or grossly exaggerated information and that your intention was to get the job through deceit. This can be easily proven through thorough background checks.
If the employer has suffered financial loss by the direct result of a lie or lies on an application or CV, you could also face a compensation claim from the employer. This can get into the thousands, although the Courts will determine how much you would have to pay.
Positioned right at the top of the page, this first part of your CV should not have 'Curriculum Vitae' or 'CV'. Recruiters know what they are receiving is a CV so giving it a title of Curriculum Vitae is just wasting valuable space.
It should have your name, professional title (if you have one) and your contact details. Your name and professional title is the title of the document, this can be made bold if you like.
Include essential contact details, these are your email address and a contact number. It used to be the case that it was customary to include your full address. Not any more, just your town/city and county are required.
Don't include a picture of yourself. Some CV or Resume guides people find on Google Search are written by people in other countries. Including a photo on a CV is sometimes practised in other countries, but not in the UK.
It should look something like this;
Top tip: Create Hyperlinks
If you have a fully up to date LinkedIn profile, you could also include a link to that. Don't type out the full URL of your LinkedIn profile though - it's ugly. Use a Hyperlink!
Your CV is likely to be read on a computer or a portable device first, so make any email addresses and URLs clickable by creating a hyperlink. (Note that if the recruiter is using any Applicant Tracking Systems / Software (ATS), it will strip the formatting into something basic and any successful CVs will be printed out onto paper. I cover Applicant Tracking Systems / Software (ATS) later in the article.)
This is an easy thing to do in most word processors and usually just involves selecting the text you want to be a link, right clicking on it and selecting either 'Link' or 'Hyperlink' then fill in the box with the URL or email address.
In the case of your LinkedIn profile link, rather than typing the full URL 'https://www.linkedin.com/in/yourusername', you could type it as follows;
Or even just;
Then do the following;
Select the text to become a link by double-clicking on it,
Right-click on the selected text,
Select 'Link' or 'Hyperlink' from the menu that appears,
Either copy & paste or enter the full URL into the 'Link' or 'URL' box,
Click 'Apply' or 'OK'.
The text will turn blue with an underline indicating that it is now a clickable link. Always click on it yourself to make sure it works and goes to your LinkedIn profile!
Now, the section should look like this;
Or like this;
For those examples, I made them right-justified on the page. I think it looks professional and adds a nice bit of white space. If you prefer you could centre the text on the page. The rest of your CV, however, should be left-justified.
Also known as a Personal Statement, Professional Profile or Career Objective, your Personal Profile is a short paragraph that comes after your name, professional title and contact details. It's there to give Recruiters an insight into who you are as a person and what makes you tick - career-wise.
You should tailor your Personal Profile to the job you're applying to. That's easier when you already have a solid one written, as you can simply edit it to suit and save it as a separate file.
It should be short and sweet, keeping it down to just a few sentences. The sort of thing you want to be addressing in your Personal Profile is; who you are, what can you offer this recruiter and what your career goals are.
If you need assistance writing your Personal Profile, there are many tips and examples available online.
The next section is your employment history. List your history in reverse chronological order - so your current or last job is listed first.
The things you should include in your job history are; job title, who you worked for, the dates you worked there, a single line to summarise the role, bullet points for your key responsibilities, skills and achievements.
You could format it like this;
If you've got (or had) a long list of duties, choose the ones that are most relevant to the position you're applying for. If you've got a long job history, don't include any older than from 10 years ago, or consider omitting details from older positions if you'd rather show continuous employment.
If you do any volunteer work - such as working in a charity shop at the weekend - do include it on your CV. You can either provide those details here or as an extra section. I cover these later on in the article.
If you've got any gaps in employment, its best to mention it in your Employment History. Recruiters will be suspicious of any gaps so put a positive spin on things.
List it like you would a job in its correct chronological place between jobs. If you were receiving any benefits such as; Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, say what you were doing with this time.
Things such as; job seeking, attending courses, developing personal skills and volunteering and so on. This shows a good attitude when faced with a potentially negative situation, that you do everything you can to make the best of your time, and are always looking to improve your skills and your position.
If you're upfront and honest about employment gaps, you should find that any decent recruiter, especially in this day and age of job insecurity and layoffs, will be sympathetic and understanding, as long as you can, if asked, prove that you have been actively seeking work and/or going on courses.
This part is straight forward. Like the Employment section, it should also be listed in reverse order. If you have up-to-date vocational qualifications - for example, an electrician might have their IET 18th Edition Regulations qualification - these should be listed first.
List the University, College or Institution, with the dates attended, and list the qualifications or subjects - relevant to the job you're applying for - with the grade you achieved.
Mathematics and English are usually things recruiters are looking out for in addition to relevant qualifications so make sure to include them.
If you have university-level education, you can safely omit any A-Level and GCSE qualifications, unless they are particularly interesting - e.g. an unusual foreign language, such as Japanese.
Name of University/College/Institution - From/to dates
Subject/Course - Grade
If you've attended any additional courses from which you gained qualifications that are relevant, you can also list them.
Qualification, grade - Name of Institution - Year
That covers the basics of a CV. However, you may wish to add extra sections if you feel your CV is lacking or if there are some things you want to emphasise. You should also edit the formatting of your CV to make sure it looks good and is clear to read. We'll cover these next.
There are many different extra sections you could add, but any of these should only be added if they add extra strength to your CV. You don't want to be adding any information that isn't relevant to the position you're applying to.
Here are some examples of the typical extra sections you could add;
If you have some skills relevant to the position you're applying for, you could add a skills section. The best place for this would be right underneath your personal profile. You should aim to have about four or five relevant skills listed.
There are different types of skills which you can list;
Transferable Skills - Skills which you have gained in one job and can be used in another job. These are skills such as; reading and writing, computer skills, management, commercial etc.
Job-related Skills - Skills in which you have gained through training to do a specific job. These are skills such as; Fork Lift licence, HGV licence, computer programming, customer care etc.
Adaptive Skills - Skills which showcase your personality. These are harder to prove as it depends on personality traits rather than learning. These are skills such as; creativity, team-work, time-management, adaptability etc.
Write a list of all these different types of skills that you possess, and then cherry-pick those that are relevant to the position for which you're applying, and that you're strongest in. You should fulfil as many as possible of the skills that are listed as "required" or "desirable".
You can add a little extra to your CV by adding a small section listing any relevant hobbies or interests. This section should be at the end of your CV (unless you want to add a References section). You shouldn't add any standard hobbies or interests such as you enjoy reading or going to the pub etc. You should add relevant hobbies and interests or ones that make you stand out from the crowd.
If you are applying for a position at a computer software company and you have built your own website from scratch, using HTML and CSS, which you manage and update regularly. That would be an ideal hobby to mention because its relevant to the position you're applying for.
If you're applying for a position in digital media and you make videos for your YouTube channel, that would also be a relevant hobby to mention.
References used to be required on a CV as standard. That has changed now.
These days people may put a single line saying, "References are available upon request.".
Many recruiters expect you to have a couple of references anyway, you can omit this completely if you wish or if you don't have enough room to add this section.
Note that many employers - especially larger organisations - will only ever provide a reference that confirms the dates of employment and nothing more.
Top tip: Add All Extra Sections
Create a 'Master' CV document, where you've included all or as many extra sections you want to include. Then, once you've saved it, you can remove any sections you want when formatting to keep the CV to 2 pages maximum and save that as a separate CV document that you'll use to apply to a job. Don't save over the 'Master' document as you'll lose all that hard work!
This will save you lots of time because you've already got all the information you could include in the 'Master' document. That way you won't have to write out entire sections again while trying to remember what you had entered under them. Then all you need to do is edit them to suit the job you're applying to.
The format of your CV affects how it looks. Formatting can include things such as font type, font size, page margins and layout. If you followed this guide from the start, you will have a basic layout already with the different sections titled/given a heading to help split the document up.
If you're having trouble with the layout, you can search the internet for CV templates which come preformatted, then you just enter your information into them.
Jobsinteesside.com have our own pre-formatted template for a CV - it's the profile you can fill in upon sign up if you don't have a CV already prepared to upload.
Note that if you are required to submit your CV in Word or PDF format, it will be automatically reformatted into something quite basic - often using the fonts Arial or Times New Roman, so keeping it simple is important.
Font type refers to the typeface that your CV is displayed in. You want to completely avoid any fonts that are hard to read. You also want to avoid the font "Comic Sans" at all costs.
You should choose fonts that are easy to read and are available on all different types of computer, tablet, mobile phone etc. The ideal fonts to use would be Arial or Calibri. These are standard fonts that all digital devices can display. They are also very clear and easy to read in printed form.
Ideally, you want to display your font at a size that is clear, not too little or too large. The acceptable size for the titles/headings of your sections is between 14 and 18 points. For the rest use a font size between 10 and 12 points.
The page margins are formatting tools which control how close the text is to the edges of the document. Think of the white space created by margins as a frame, frame your CV so it looks appealing to the eye.
You'll find the options for the margins in the following places;
Word Online: On the menu bar, go to Layout > Margins
Google Docs: On the menu bar, go to File > Page Setup
You can reduce your page margins from the default settings to about 25mm (2.5cm) but make sure you don't go any lower than 12.7mm (1.27cm) otherwise you'll make your CV look nasty and cluttered.
By now you will be able to see how long your CV is, i.e. how many pages long.
Word processors display your document as a virtual printout, they display what it will look like on paper. You'll see that there are "pages" on your screen. You can easily see how many pages you have either by scrolling through them or looking at the page count which most word processors display on-screen.
If you're printing your CV;
One page is a single sheet of A4 with text on one side.
Two pages can either be;
One sheet of A4 with text on both sides or,
Two sheets of A4 with text only on one side of each sheet.
For most people, two pages are the preferred limit, although some professionals may need to reduce to one or extend to three pages. Recruiters may print out your CV onto paper too, so be aware of that.
If you opted to add any extra sections, make sure you still have the room after you've formatted your CV. You may find that you have the room to add extra information. You may find that you've gone over two pages and need to delete one of the extra sections.
If this is the case, you could either delete the hobbies/interests section or the references section or even both. You might need to go back and look at what you've entered in previous sections and see if you can condense some information. You could perhaps reduce your page margins, remembering not to go lower than 12.7mm (1.27cm).
Now that you've got your CV all formatted, you'll need to proof-read it.
Make sure that titles/headers are all the same font size as each other, that the body text is all the same size, that the same font is used throughout. Make sure that the spaces between titles/headers and the body text are the same, and that the spaces between the sections are all the same.
Use a spell checker. Correct any misspellings and punctuation faults, but remember these are just handy aids, and they're not perfect. You may have typed an incorrect word into a sentence, but you've spelt it correctly. "They're", "Their"; and "There" are perfect examples. If your word processor has a pretty good grammar checker built-in, it should pick things like these up. But don't make any change until you've read it using the word it's suggested, as they can sometimes make a mistake themselves.
After you make corrections, proof-read it again. You're now looking for any misspellings or grammatical mistakes that you and the spell checker have missed on the first run. You also want to check that the document flows when you read it and that it reads easily and well. Double check the formatting: you don't want any mistakes to slip through the net. I proof-read my documents at least three times.
Ideally, get someone else to read it (if you don't mind) to see how it reads to someone other than you. Your CV may read and look perfect to your eyes, but someone else may have different feelings about it.
Remember, it will be someone else who reads your CV when you submit it. Discuss any changes they suggest with them, make any that you both agree are required, and then begin the proof-reading process again. Also, make sure the length of your CV hasn't gone over two pages due to changes. You may find that you have streamlined your CV, and now have room for an additional section. You don't have to add any other additional sections, especially if it doesn't give any weight to your CV, it isn't relevant, or interrupts the flow.
By now you should have a pretty sweet looking CV which is almost ready to be sent or submitted. But now you must decide what file type to save it as.
Short for "Document" and is used by many different older word processors as standard. It was also the default file type used by Microsoft Word up until 2007.
It can be read by almost all word processors. Recruiters will have a compatible program that can display DOC files so it can be a safe file type to save your CV as. Even though Microsoft introduced an enhanced version of the file type in 2007, DOCX (.docx), Word can still read and save as DOC files.
DOC files can be fairly large, and there can be compatibility issues between different word processors with regards to the formatting of the CV, it may not display on the recruiter's screen the same as it displays on yours.
DOCX files are easier to read by compatible programs and are a fraction of the size of a DOC file. They are the default file type used by Microsoft Word 2007 and upwards.
DOCX maintain the formatting across different compatible programs better than a DOC file and has now become the new standard. Many more modern word processors have been updated to read DOCX files, but there is the chance that the Recruiter is using an out of date program that cannot read DOCX files.
However, if the Recruiter is using a word processor that can read DOCX files, there's a greater chance that there will be little to no compatibility issues with regards to the formatting of the CV. It should display on their screen the same as it displays on yours.
ODT stands for Open Document Text file. It is very similar to Microsoft's DOCX file type and is used by the word processor "Writer" in Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice.
ODT files used to be incompatible with Word 2007 and earlier versions. Microsoft did eventually release a plugin to support ODT files in its older versions of Word and offers native ODT compatibility in Word 2010 & 2013.
But unless the appropriate compatibility plugin is installed or the Recruiter has Word 2010 or 2013, then the file will not open. If you've used these programs, made sure to save the CV as a Word or PDF file.
PDF stands for Portable Document Format and was developed by Adobe in the 1990s. Just about every device in use today can open a PDF, whether its a computer, tablet or smartphone.
A PDF fixes the formatting of your CV so it appears exactly the same on any device it's viewed on, no matter what program is used to open it. This has its advantages because you have the knowledge that all that time you've spent on formatting your CV to make it look perfect will pay off because it'll be viewed identically across different devices.
Most up to date word processors will allow you to save as a PDF. If you happen to have one that doesn't, you can use a free online PDF converter to change your .doc, .docx or .odt file into a .pdf. Although I would be wary as there is a lot of your personal information in your CV. You don't want it being intercepted when you're uploading it to a converter and your personal information ending up in the wrong hands.
What file type you chose depends on how you're submitting it to a Recruiter.
Job Sites - Most job sites, such as jobsinteesside.com, will accept CVs saved as either DOC, DOCX, ODT and PDF. These are emailed to the Recruiter or show up in the Recruiter's dashboard for them to view when an application to a job is submitted. This is only if the Recruiter doesn't require you to complete your application on their own website.
Recruiter's own careers/job site - If you must complete your application on the Recruiter's website, you would be best using DOC or DOCX (and perhaps ODT if they allow that file type). This is because an increasing amount of Recruiters are using Applicant Tracking Systems / Software (ATS).
ATS is a tool that is meant to speed up the sorting of job applications. Amongst other functions, they collect and sort thousands of CVs far quicker than any human can. The problem with this is that it removes the human element and just sorts them by desired keywords entered by the Recruiter. ATS systems can currently only search for these keywords in DOC or DOCX files. They cannot search PDF files and these get discarded immediately.
There is a risk that, even though a Recruiter has selected their preferred method of receiving applications is via email, an ATS system may be managing all incoming mail to that email address. So even if you've uploaded your CV to a job site as a PDF and the application is sent to the Recruiter's email address, your application could still be prematurely discarded.
My advice would be to save every CV in a variety of file types just to be on the safe side. Carefully look to see if a Recruiter requests only a specific file type and use the appropriate one. If you'd prefer to err on the side of caution, just keep to DOC and DOCX file types.
I hope that you've found this article helpful. I would strongly suggest that you also look at other sources of information regarding CVs as this article just reflects my own research and opinions into writing CVs. I, in no means, suggest that by following this guide you will be 100% successful when applying to jobs, but it's a good place to get started.