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Writing a CV

Writing a great CV is one of the most important first steps you can take towards getting a job. It’s your chance to pitch yourself and your skills to potential employers.

Your CV is the first chance that recruiters will have to get to know you. It should cover:

  • your education and employment history
  • the core skills that you will bring to the workplace.

It may seem daunting to write about yourself at first, but these steps will help you to present yourself in the best possible light. It's standard to use word processing software such as Microsoft Word and to save in the .doc format. 

CV building tool (

CV template

Using a CV template can save time and looks professional.

  1. Open the CV template in Microsoft Word or a similar program. If you use a Mac, you can open it using the ‘Pages’ software package. You can also open and edit it online if you have a Google Drive account. Go to your Google Drive and then click ‘new’ followed by ‘file upload’. Select the file (this may be in your computer’s ‘downloads’ folder).
  2. If you’re using a Windows PC, select ‘save as…’ from the ‘file’ menu at the top. Call the file something like ‘CV_Your Name’. On a Mac, save the file as a .doc file by selecting ‘file’ then ‘export to’. And select ‘Word…’ from the drop-down menu.
  3. Type your name at the top of the template.
  4. Enter your address and postcode.
  5. Enter your email address. This should be a professional-sounding address using your real name.
  6. Complete your personal profile. This should be a few paragraphs about yourself, your experience and your skills. It should show how you will be able to add value to a team.
  7. List your skills that relate to the role you are applying for.
  8. Enter your employment history. Start with your most recent job first and work backwards. You do not need to go any further back than 10 years unless it is related to the role or you have been out of work for a long time.
  9. Enter your education history with your most recent qualifications first.
  10. Discuss your genuine hobbies and interests in a few sentences. Tailor these to the job if you can. Make sure you can talk about them!

Formatting your CV

The content of your CV is the most important thing but make sure it looks professional too.

  • Make all your text black and use a clear font such as Arial or Calibri.
  • Use headings.
  • Be consistent. Use the same font and formatting throughout.
  • Have clear spaces between sections.
  • Keep it short. Try to aim for a couple of A4 pages. It’s OK to do more if you have a lot of relevant experience.

What to include in your CV

Highlight your strengths and show why you are the right person for the job. Use positive examples of your skills and experience from your previous jobs, education and training. You can also use experience from any voluntary positions you may have had.

Highlight what you see as your most valuable skills and greatest achievements. This is your chance to sell yourself. If you have received any relevant awards or commendations include these in a section titled ‘awards and achievements'.

What not to include

You are trying to impress, so do not include any negative points in your CV. You will be able to discuss what you think of as your weaknesses and strengths in your interview.

Your CV should match the type of job you’re applying for. For standard CVs, it’s best not to include a photo of yourself. If you are applying for a job as an actor, model or similar it may be appropriate to include a recent photograph.

Do not say anything that is untrue or exaggerates your experience and skills. If this comes out later, you could lose your job.

Completing your CV section by section

Personal information and contact details

This should go at the top of your CV. Include your name, address and contact details such as your phone number and a professional email address with your name. 

Personal statement

Make your personal statement positive and engaging. You should write this section in about 5 or 6 sentences.

Your personal statement should show how your experiences and skills relate to the role that you are applying for.

Your skills

Make a list of bullet points covering what you see as your most important skills. Be concise, specific and refer back to the role that you are applying for. Here are some examples:

  • Excellent communicator with experience in email marketing
  • Quick learner
  • Exceptional IT skills with experience in X, Y and Z software packages
  • Experienced in using a till

Identify your skills (Career Smart)


Start with the most recent course or qualification and work back. Each entry should include the:

  • name of the educational institution
  • title of the course
  • dates you studied from and to
  • qualification or grade that you gained

For example:

September 86 to October 89 Warwickshire University Fine Art (BA Hons 2:1)

If you have little work experience, you may wish to place this section before your employment history.

Employment history

Include your employment history for the past 10 years or more if it's relevant. Begin with your current or most recent job and work backwards. For each entry you should include:

  • the name of the company you worked for
  • your job title
  • the dates of when you started (‘from’) and finished (‘to’)
  • a short description of your role, main duties and responsibilities

How to deal with employment gaps

When looking at your CV, employers often look at any gaps you may have as well as the roles you have had.

For long employment gaps due to illness or impairment it’s often best to briefly explain these in your personal statement or in a cover letter. This avoids the risk of recruiters jumping to their own conclusions.

Writing cover letters

You may wish to use the phrase 'actively seeking employment' to explain these gaps in your CV.

If you are concerned about the gaps and do not wish to explain them at this point, another approach is to transform your CV into a ‘functional CV’. To do this, group your employment history by skill set rather than in chronological order. For example:

  • Managing suppliers with an example from company A
  • Working with difficult customers with an example from company B

This approach may help to ease concerns over gaps. Recruiters are likely to focus on your skills and experience rather than on specific dates.

Awards and achievements

This is an optional section where you can list any awards you may have received at work or in education that you think are relevant. You can also include achievements here, such as “exceeded sales targets by 200% at company x”.

Hobbies and interests

This section is a chance to let your potential employer know a little more about you. You should be honest here. But it’s also important that the interests that you list reflect characteristics that you would need in the role. For example:

  • If you’re applying for a technical role and you enjoy playing chess, this would illustrate that you have an analytical mind.
  • If you’re applying for a role meeting customers, you may want to list active hobbies or team sports.

Tailoring your CV to the role

You must tailor your CV for each role that you apply for. Matching up your skills and experience with those listed in the job description will increase your chances of getting the job.

This is your opportunity to present yourself as someone who closely matches the employer’s requirements.

It’s helpful to have your CV and the job description alongside each other so that you can go through point by point. Identify which of your skills match up with those in the description and consider anything that you can add in or make more prominent.

Any changes you make to your CV must be true. If not, this will seriously harm your chances.

Keeping your CV up to date

Make sure that you are sending out the most recent version of your CV.

Update your CV regularly, particularly if you have recently gained more experience or completed a training programme.

Checking your CV

You are trying to impress recruiters with your CV so it must be professional. Check for:

  • spelling mistakes
  • words or phrases that you repeat often
  • grammatical errors
  • formatting issues (such as the wrong font or extra spaces)

Ask a careers adviser or someone with a professional background to read your CV and check it for errors.

Using the right phrases for the job

  • Customer service and retail roles: excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Cleaning roles: ability to work as part of a team as well as individually
  • Hospitality and catering roles: polite and friendly

Choosing the right words

  • If you use words like ‘team player’ and ‘flexible’, provide details to back up these claims.
  • Use positive words like ‘accurate’, ‘confident’ and ‘adaptable’.

The best time to send a CV

If you’re applying for an advertised role, apply as soon as possible before the deadline. Some recruiters may close the application process early if they receive a lot of CVs.

If you’re emailing your CV to an employer who has not advertised a role, then the best time to send it is probably between 8 and 9 pm. It will then be near the top of the recruiter’s inbox when they start work the following morning. Avoid sending CVs on Monday or Friday. These are busy days and your email may be ignored or forgotten in the rush.

Phone them within a week to check that your CV has arrived. This will show your enthusiasm and get your CV noticed.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 03/11/2021

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