Writing a CV
A CV (curriculum vitae) is a short list of facts about you and your work history, skills and experience. A good CV is essential when looking for work and it is worth spending time getting it right so it sells you to an employer.
Five basic principles for a good CV
Concentrate on the essentials
- a CV must be brief: in most cases one to two pages are sufficient. In any event, do not exceed three pages
- if your work experience is limited, describe your education and training first; highlight work placements during training
- if language skills are important for the job you are applying for, fill in the Europass Language Passport available on this site and attach it to the CV
- be positive, it should emphasise your achievements, strengths and successes
Be clear and concise
- use short sentences
- concentrate on the relevant aspects of your training and work experience
- explain any breaks in your studies or career
Adapt your CV to suit the post you are applying for
- before sending your CV to an employer, check that it corresponds to the profile required
- do not include work experience or training which is not relevant to the application
- highlight your advantages according to the specific needs of the prospective employer
- be positive, it should emphasise your achievements, strengths, successes and how you have contributed to your employers making a profit (add figures to support facts whenever you can and use positive action words, for example: 'consulting', 'negotiating', 'managing', and so on)
Take care over the presentation of your CV
- be neat, type if possible and to the best standard you can achieve in both content and layout
- set out your skills and competences clearly and logically, so that your advantages stand out
- pay attention to details such as spelling and punctuation. For example, print your CV on white paper and retain the suggested font and layout
Check your CV once you have filled it in
- remove any spelling mistakes, and ensure it is laid out clearly and logically
- have someone else re-read your CV so that you are sure the content is clear and easy to understand
What to include
There is no set format. How you present your CV is up to you. However, you should include the following:
- your name
- your address
- your phone number
- your email address (if you have one)
- your career history
Laws on age discrimination mean that you do not need to put your date of birth, or your age, on your CV.
Put your most recent job first and include dates. Employers will be more interested in what you have done recently. Don't leave gaps between dates, because employers will want to know what you did during those periods.
If you don't have much work experience, you could include temporary, holiday, part-time or voluntary jobs too. If you've had many different jobs, emphasise the skills and experience you have gained across those jobs (for example, skills in dealing with customers or communication skills). Below are some examples you may want to include:
A personal profile
This is a short statement at the beginning of your CV to sell yourself, to show your skills, experience and personal qualities. You can include positive words such as 'competent', 'adaptable', and 'conscientious'. Tailor the statement to the requirements of each job that you apply for, so that you make it clear to the employer that you're the right person for the job.
Mention things you did well in your past jobs which could which could be relevant to the job you're applying for.
Qualifications and training
Include any qualifications and training from previous jobs (for example, training in health and safety or a certificate in food hygiene), put the most recent first, include qualifications you got from school or college.
These can support your application if your hobbies and leisure activities highlight responsibilities and skills that are relevant to the job you're applying for, perhaps you belong to a club or society which you organise activities for, or you use leadership skills or teamwork as part of the activity.
It is up to you whether to include this, but it can be helpful if there are gaps in your CV. If you had a career break because you were caring for your children or elderly relatives, make this a positive thing and think about the skills you used doing this. If the job you are applying for is different from what you have done in the past, explain why you are interested in the new type of work.
You may not want to include these details on your CV but it's good to have two or more people who can provide a work or personal reference. Ideally, one should be your most recent employer but if you haven't worked for a while it could be someone who has known you for a long time who can comment on your qualities in relation to the job. You should ask the person to agree to this beforehand.
Ask a friend or relative to read through your CV to make sure it is accurate and that it shows your skills in a positive way.
How to use your CV
To apply to companies to see if they have any jobs available
You can send your CV with a covering letter or email asking if they have any current or future vacancies. You can find names and addresses of companies in newspapers or in trade or telephone directories.
To remind you what you've done
You can use your CV to help you remember all the dates and information each time you have to fill in a different application form.
To help with applications by phone
Having your CV handy when applying for jobs by phone can help if you are asked for more information about previous jobs. If you have hearing or speech difficulties and use textphone or Typetalk, having a copy of your CV can cut down the length of time you spend making a call.
Having your CV with you while you're waiting to be called in can help to refresh your memory. It is also handy to leave a copy with the interviewer(s) if they do not already have one.
Registering with recruitment agencies
Agencies may sometimes ask to see your CV before you register with them.