Curriculum Vitae

Although the profile may be the first thing that’ll get you spotted by employers, your CV is what will get you into that next stage of the application process. First impressions count. So, it’s crucial that you get your CV right the first time in order to stand out from the thousands of other graduates. Here are our handy tips to bear in mind when creating your CV, or in a more realistic case, CVs!

First Impressions – What is a CV

A CV (or Curriculum Vitae if you’re feeling fancy) should summarise your experience, education and skills to sell yourself successfully to potential employers. An employer will gain an impression of you as a person from the moment they set their eyes on your application. Your profile, CV and the way you present yourself, either through email or on the phone, will all play a huge role before they’ve even met you – nerve wracking, we know.

To ensure all goes well and you stand out from the job-hunting competition, create your CV so that it is easily accessible and saved in a universal format such as Word or PDF. The eyes should be drawn to the top of the page, where the viewer will be able to instantly establish who you are and how to get hold of you. Present the best version of you – choose which area of your life you wish to put forward as a main focus of your CV: your academic success or your fantastic experience.

Structure and Formatting

The formatting and structure of your CV will reflect on you as a person. If you have inconsistent headings and fonts you may appear disorganised and unprofessional.

  • Add bullet points and clear spaces between paragraphs; an employer shouldn’t have to spend minutes searching for crucial pieces of information when they pick up your CV – these are very busy people at the end of the day.
  • A standard CV in the UK should be no more than two sides of A4, with standardised alignment and style to make sure that it is consistent throughout to keep the reader’s attention.
  • Small things, such as choosing a professional font (Arial is a great option for a CVA) in an appropriate size (size 10 or 12, nothing smaller) will go far in producing a competent-looking CV and indicates that you pay attention to detail.
  • Section headings are also a great way to break up the formatting of the document and using a larger font (size 14 or 16) for these can help a recruiter pick out the most important pieces of information.
  • Be concise. List all your most important and recent achievements first, with the rest following in reverse chronological order. After all, it’s the person that you are now that employers are most enthusiastic to find more about.
  • Keep to safe colour scheme. A rainbow coloured CV may not be as quirky and fun as you might want to come across.

Spelling and Grammar

Ever since we were knee high to a grasshopper, we’ve always been told to check our spelling and grammar. This is especially important when it comes to a CV as an almost instantaneous judgement will be made – not want you want when there’s a job on the line.

  • Don’t be afraid to read through your CV carefully to make sure that everything is up to scratch. Sometimes it can hard to double check our work, but struggle through and make sure any grammar errors are corrected.
  • Use spell-check! Sometimes we don’t always notice our own minor errors, we’ve all been a victim of this. These tools are designed to pick up on our errors and so there really should be no excuse for poor grammar.
  • If in doubt, utilise those around you (friends or family) to double, or triple, check your CV and get their opinions before sending it off into the big wide world.

What to include

Contact details

Include your full name, home address, mobile and ‘adult’ email address (an employer won’t want to see the address you made when you were twelve and thought it was cool to get creative) at the top of the page where someone to easily see. Don’t assume that if you apply through a job board who have your contact details that these will automatically be sent.

Personal summary

This is crucial in letting the reader know who you are and what you can offer them (except the amazing CV creating abilities). For many recruiters, this could help them decide whether you proceed to the next stage of the process so it’s vital to gain their attention by appearing compelling. Pick out a few interesting achievements or skills and state your career aims for the beginning of the page. Keep it short and sweet, no more than 100 words.

Employment history

Provide a rundown of your previous roles, responsibilities and notable achievements in reverse chronological order so an employer knows what you can do. Provide the name of the employer, your position and your start and finish dates. Ensure everything you mention is relevant to the role you’re applying for. If you’ve managed to gain plenty of relevant work experience while at university, this should be a breeze and a good idea to place this before education – if you’re applying to a graduate role an employer will assume you’ve been to university.


List and date all previous education, including any professional qualifications you may have, placing the most relevant to the role first. Include relevant units and modules to the role. If you’re going after an opportunity that is more academic in nature, then it may be good to emphasise the success you have had academically.

Skill and achievements

If you actually managed to pick something up during your French A-Level with any success or can speak Spanish fluently, this is the moment to mention it – employers really do care about this sort of thing in a graduate role where you may lack actual experience. Any foreign languages, IT packages or volunteering you’ve completed should be pride of place and not exaggerated as you may be expected to discuss this in an interview.

Further interests

To put it bluntly, these interests should match with the job you’re applying to. A recruiter will take note of your hobbies as evidence of the type of person you are. Instead of listing ‘reading, playing tennis and swimming’ in this section, giving examples that are relevant to the role you’re applying for is key. This is your chance to really sell yourself as a person and catch the attention of potential employers. Including examples such as writing for your university newspaper if you’re interested in journalism, or volunteering with a local National Trust property if you’re after a career in heritage preservation will help you stand out from the crowd.


It’s not necessary to provide the names of your references at this stage, or even include that ‘references are available on request’ – most employers will assume this fact. Just make sure that you have the correct contact information from your references and that they are okay with you using them!


Tailoring your CV to the roles you’re applying to is incredibly important. Most graduate job hunters will send the same CV to hundreds of vacancies without taking note of what a recruiter wants. So, it’s better to have a tailored CV listing all the qualities the employer is seeking and stand out from the crowd. Reading the job description in detail and making sure the skills and qualities that the employer is explicitly asking for are reflected throughout your CV is key. Only include information about yourself related to the role to prove to employers that you pay attention to what they want in a candidate and take the application process seriously.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely re-write your CV for every application, but, making small adjustments will ensure that you’re prominent to that employer. One way to do this is by editing your personal summary, experience or skills section: include the essential skills mentioned in the job description to ensure that at a first glance an employer won’t skip over your application to the next. For instance, if an employer is specifically demanding a 2.1 degree and you have this, you need to make this obvious.

Our Top Writing Tips

  • Try to avoid using cliché terms and phrases such as ‘hardworking’ or ‘team-player’, and instead provide actual examples where these skills were utilised.
  • Use active verbs (such as ‘developed’ or ‘investigated’ where possible to convey your initiative.
  • Always include a cover letter unless stated otherwise. A cover letter will allow you to personalise your application to a specific role and draw attention to specific parts of your CV and explain to an employer just why you want the role. Need to know more about cover letters? Click here.
  • Take a break after writing and come back to your CV later with fresh eyes. When reading through it again, check for mistakes and make sure you have conveyed your personal brand and accomplishments well. Make sure you have included all the essential information you need – don’t miss out your phone number or degree award.
  • Read it out loud. You’ll be able to identify the tone and flow of your CV and confirm you haven’t just created a huge list.
  • Check your spelling and grammar! We cannot stress enough that simple mistakes in your writing will discourage an employer from taking you seriously. Use a spell check tool and ask plenty of people to have a look over it for you. If these are professionals in the field, take their criticism and utilise it to make the best CV you can for the industry you’re applying to.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Lies. Your CV should accurately reflect your skills, experience and personal qualities. This means you must tell the truth at all times – no little white lies in the hopes you’ll impress.
  • Irrelevant content. Don’t include old work experience if it doesn’t relate to the role you’re applying for, or to bulk up your CV. An employer will only be interested in the stuff that matters and spending ages looking through unrelated tid-bits of information may put them off.
  • Explanations for gaps. As a graduate, an employer may expect there to be some gaps in your work experience as you have not yet entered the world of work, you don’t need a reason for this. Instead, list your relevant work experience where possible and expand on any units you completed at university that may be pertinent to the role you’re applying to.
  • Lack of detail. An employer will want to be certain that you really want the job you’re offering. You must explain to them why you’ve decided to take the route you have and justify the skills you’ve gained as a result. So, a great CV will also explain ‘why’ the person is great for a job, not just list relevant information.
  • Lack of evidence. You can’t just tell an employer that you’re an effective communicator, you must prove this through the concise and to the point way you’ve written your CV as an important part of most graduate jobs. This is the same for any of the other skills or achievements you may list.
  • References. An employer will assume that you will be able to provide references when requested. By including these on the CV you’ll be taking up valuable space where evidence of your aptitude could be demonstrated.
  • Inconsistent formatting. CV’s that are hard to read will be instantly dismissed by employers in favour of the others they will have received. Keep a consistent font, size and header choice. Have normal margins for white space and use bullet points where possible for information to be digested easily.

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