The Ultimate Guide To Writing Your CV [2021]

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a summary of your achievements and skills and is sent to recruiters when applying for jobs, training places and, occasionally, courses of study. Or if you hail from outside the UK you will know this document to be a Resume.

There are no set rules about CV writing and the structure and format can vary significantly depending on the purpose. On this page, you’ll find guidance on the structure and types of CVs to help you promote yourself to employers.

Believe me, speaking from my own experiences, I know that writing a great CV from scratch can seem like a daunting and time-consuming task. And even if you’ve had previous experience of writing a CV, you might still end up making some easily avoidable mistakes.

A CV, often combined with a cover letter, represents the entry point into getting that all important job interview, and one step closer to landing the job. Writing a CV is a game. You need to play the game. I will explain how best to play it in this guide.

This comprehensive guide will cover all the CV guidelines and tips I’ve learnt over the years working in HR. I will also provide you with a free to use CV template and an all in one handy step by step guide. It’ll give you all you need to write a professional CV for 2021, including several example snippets.

By following our Ultimate Guide To Writing Your CV, you will learn how to write an interview winning CV split into the following sections…

  1. Name, title and contact details
  2. Personal profile
  3. Skills
  4. Education
  5. Work experience
  6. Career achievements
  7. References
  8. Flow and layout
  9. Consistency
  10. Punctuation and grammar
  11. Buzzwords to use
  12. CV Checklist
  13. Common questions answered

We’ll cover each of these steps in more detail below so keep reading to learn more, but, also keep in mind that you don’t have to build your CV from scratch. You can make use of one of our many templates to give you a kickstart.

So, without further ado, lets get started…

1. Name, title and contact details

It’s not uncommon for people to forget this part of their CV altogether, simply writing the title of their CV as Curriculum Vitae only. Likewise, some of the most common mistakes in CV writing are related to what people include in their contact information, so pay close attention to this section.

Name

Include your full name. If you have any middle names includes those too if you want to, it’s totally up to you but a first name and last name is definitely required.

Phone number

Nowadays the majority of people include their mobile phone number and miss off their landline number. There is not set rule here, just provide the number that you are most accessible on. Don’t worry if you cannot answer your phone all of the time, the recruiter or hiring manager will be sure to leave you a voicemail if they want to speak to you. They understand that most people are at work during the day and therefore tend to call candidates towards the end of the day.

Email address

Keep this professional, make sure there are no untoward words or phrases in your email address. You would be amazed at how many people slip up on this step. I think the best email address I’ve seen in my time on a CV so far is [email protected]

If you are taking your job search seriously and plan to apply for multiple positions its probably best to establish a completely new email address solely used for applications and communicating with recruiters.

Job title

The job title displayed is important and it has to be relevant to the role you are applying to. Be honest here. If your experience leans toward the role you are applying for, you should put the job title of the role you are applying for. If you are trying to make a progressive move or a career change you should put your current job title or status. For example Administration Assistant or Management Student.

Location

There is no need to disclose your full address from the off, therefore you shouldn’t list it on your CV. Your town or location will do in the first instance. The idea is to give the reader an idea of where you live so they can roughly calculate and work out your potential commute if necessary to make sure it wouldn’t be too strenuous for you. You also want to closely protect personal data such as your address as best as possible.

If a recruiter or hiring manager asks for your address further down the line, such as on an application form, you should comply with this.

Marital status

Whether you are married, in a relationship or single, its not important when it comes to your CV and a potential employer. It’s going to have no bearing whatsoever as to whether you get the job or not. Therefore leave it off. 

Social media

Consider adding social media profiles that are applicable to the position, such as a well curated ‘all-star’ LinkedIn profile. Other profiles such as Facebook, Medium and Twitter, may be valuable but this will vary role dependent. For example if you are a graphic designer a link to your website or portfolio would be helpful.

Headshot photograph

Recruitment is very inclusive therefore ‘what you look like’ should have no bearing on your application success or not. In general there is not need to include a photograph of yourself on your CV. In the UK, the only examples of when you would do this is if you are going for a modelling job or whether you work in high end client/customer facing roles where image and appearance is important.

Additionally if you are looking for a role in the US, Canada or other international countries, the expectation can be to have a headshot photo on your CV/Resume.

Our article on when to add a photo to your CV will enable you to establish whether this could be relevant to you or not.

Nationality and religion

This comes from the same perspective as appearance and marital status. Where you come from and what you believe in should have absolutely no bearing whatsoever as to whether you are successful in getting the job or not. You should leave nationality and religion out.

Examples

I have provided 4 examples below so you can see where these elements could fit in when crafting your own CV.

2. Personal profile

Recruiters spend on average 5-7 seconds looking at a CV. It’s stats like these that are scary for jobseekers but you must not forget that the recruiter has a very trained eye and know exactly what they are looking for.

So, similar to the way someone can quickly pass you by when using apps like tinder, use your Personal Statement (sometimes called Profile or Summary) section of your CV to really sell yourself and give the recruiter a reason to read on.

In one or two sentences, summarise who you are, your work experience and relevant skills, aiming to prove why you’re suitable for the position. Keep this strong and simple.

However, writing the short personal profile at the top of a CV can prove to be quite difficult. The CV personal statement, or profile, is the first thing that will be read by potential employers and recruiters alike, so it’s important to take the time to create a concise yet well-written introduction to your qualifications, skills and experience.

The statement must be a brief snapshot of you as a professional. While it should only be a few lines long to summarise your CV and what you can offer the employer, it must also be unique to your skill set and tailored specifically to the role you are applying for.

Having spent over a decade of working with individuals to create stand out CVs and reading through countless personal statements, I have developed top tips to help you write the perfect personal profile. Below I explain how to write you personal profile, sentence by sentence.

Sentence 1

The first sentence of your personal statement needs to tell the future employer or recruiter where you stand in your professional field and your career. Think about your current position of employment; what you like the most about your career, job or professional field; and your qualities that are valuable in relation to this vacancy, such as skillset and experience.

Your first sentence may read like so:

As a successful Financial Accountant specialising in SME accounts in relation to tax and compliance, I have recently worked with several established businesses in various sectors to improve their finance strategy and boost their financial health.

Sentence 2

The next part of your profile and the next sentence should draw on your achievements that line up with the requirements in the job description, aiming to prove that what you can bring to the table is relevant and impressive. This is where you can add facts, statistics and hard proof to really stand out from the competition

It’s always best to address the essential job specifications in your personal statement as you’ll make it clear from the beginning that you’re the right type of person for the job. For example, if the role requires a candidate with management experience or a degree in a certain subject and you have these, say so clearly in this sentance.

Your second point may look like this:

I have experience in optimising quality digital products via my most recent role and am therefore in tune with the latest developments across the online landscape. As a result, I have increased website conversion rate by 58% in my current role, resulting in £1.4m additional revenue.

 Sentence 3

The last part of your personal profile and the last sentence should be short and snappy as it’s reaffirming why you are applying for this vacancy and what you want to achieve. You should explain the role you are looking for (hopefully this wil be the one you are applying to) and align this to your previous experience.

It might read something like so:

I am currently looking for a financial management role within the technology sector where I can maintain my strong track record and deliver the best results.

For more information you can find out our recommended tips on how to write your personal statement for your CV in this article.

Examples

I have provided 2 examples below so you can see where these elements could fit in when crafting your own CV and how the above structure can work.

Mistakes to avoid

There are some common personal statement errors that you should avoid. Steer clear of these popular pitfalls or your statement may not be as powerful as you hoped. Remember it needs to be sharp, snappy and precise.

Buzzword overload

Are you an extremely self-motivated, ambitious professional with extensive experience and passion for a certain industry? I thought so.

Buzzwords are great, and you’ll find them in abundance in job adverts. But it’s best to sprinkle just a few through your personal statement as they don’t particularly provide evidence of your skill or ability. It’s much stronger to show the employer proof and how you will be of value to them.

A generic personal statement

Once you’ve written your statement, you might think that it will work for every application. For the most part, it will, because, in theory, the jobs you’re applying for will be similar and match your skill set.

However, you must tweak and tailor your statement (and your entire CV) so that it targets the skills each vacancy requires. Otherwise, it will be too generic and not impactful.

Too much waffle

As you begin to plan and write the personal statement for your CV, you’ll most likely find that you have a lot more to say than you originally thought. Be careful not to overwrite as you may be left with a statement that is clogged with too many adjectives and is clunky to read.

As a rule of thumb, highlight your best bits in your personal statement and save the expansion of details for your cover letter.

3. Skills

Skills are a vital part of your CV. We mentioned at he start about playing the ‘game’. Well skills are key to showing an employer or recruiter that you are qualified to do the job, but more importantly they’re also a ticket to passing through the feared applicant tracking system (ATS). Your CV needs to be optimised with relevant skills that match the role you are applying for. An ATS will be automatically scanning your CV for keywords that the recruiter has set for the role. 

Important – we need to get past the ATS in order to get onto the hiring managers desk.

How to know what skills to list

It has to be a fine balance between skills that you actually have and skills that the employer/recruiter is looking to see. In order to stand a good chance of listing the right skills you need to thoroughly read the job advert to pick out any skills listed and keywords described.

Here is an example of a job advert where I have highlighted the skills and keywords that the ATS is likely going to be looking for on your CV when you apply.

 Here you can see the skills listed for us, making them very easy to pick out. Often recruiters will also provide the skills required in larger paragraphs rather than lists so please be sure to spend some time reading the advert thoroughly.

So if I was an Office Manger applying to this role I would be listing interpersonal skills, time management skills, IT Skills and problem solving skills etc. I think you get the idea. 

So now we know how to find what skills to list, we need to know how and where to put them on our CV.

Where to put skills on my CV

Just as important as possessing a strong skill set is featuring those skills on your CV. You can zoom in on your  skills in a designated ‘Skills’ section, as well sprinkling them in when listing your duties and achievements throughout your employment history.

A designated skills section will communicate your abilities to the employer loud and clear. Therefore, it’s important to be strategic when choosing which abilities to highlight. Use the job description to determine the specific skills that are required for the job, and give special attention to any that overlap with your own skill set.

You can also sneak mentions of skills into your employment history. This would happen not necessarily by stating the name of the skill itself, but by providing an example of when the skill was utilised. This is particularly helpful because it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your prowess and back it up with evidence, not just state what you think you can do. 

Here is an example of how skills can be incorporated into a CV.

So we can clearly see the skills section where the skills have been matched and aligned towards the job advert/employer requirements. We can also see the other keywords dotted around the work experience section. Additionally we can see computer related skills in its own section down the left hand side.

This is perfect for an ATS because it is clear and precise allowing for easy reading.

Hard skills and soft skills

Incorporating skills into your CV is not as simple as it sounds, however after reading the above it’s getting easier. Moreover there are different categories of skills to understand. Plus, it’s essential to select the right skills and to include them in your CV in a way that is both organic and recognisable.

Here, we break down what you need to know about CV skills and offer master lists of the skills that could land you your next role.

Soft skills are personal attributes and qualities that affect how you do the job. They are the people skills that help us read our colleagues, manage situations and perform well in a workplace environment. Soft skills are obviously important, and in some industries, such as sales, they are essential to success. These types of proficiencies are hard to teach, but the good news is that we develop the skills every day in both domestic and professional settings.

Some examples of soft skills to add to your CV include:

TeamworkProblem-solvingOrganisation
Time managementMotivationAdaptability
Critical thinkingLeadershipActive listening
IT literacyAttention to detailCommunication

Hard skills, on the other hand, are part of the essential skill set needed to do a job successfully, and as a result, are job-specific. Sometimes called technical skills, they are quantifiable and are often learnt through formal courses and training. Hard skills are important because they prove to an HR manager that you have the abilities required to execute the job. For example, if a role calls for a proficiency with Google Analytics, that specific knowledge base is a hard skill that determines whether or not you can perform the necessary tasks of the job.

Some examples of hard skills include:

STEM skillsSoftware Analytics
Foreign languagesDatabase managementDesign tools
Microsoft OfficeSocial media platformsData visualisation
ReportingMarket researchBookkeeping

 Want to find out the popular skills in demand for your field? Simply browse the job boards and within 5 minutes of reading you will find out.

4. Education

An education section is one of the basic requirements of a great CV, but it’s crucial to make sure that it’s in the right place and that you have the right level of detail. In this article, we’ll discuss the main considerations for your CV’s education section to ensure that it has the right impact. 

The education section enables a recruiter to assess whether or not you have the right qualifications for the job. This will carry greater or lesser weight in the recruitment process depending on how much work experience you have, but it is still considered to be vital information to include.

What qualifications you choose to include on your CV is largely dependent on what stage of your career you’re in, and where your most impressive accomplishments lie. Here is what I advise depending on which stage you are at in your career. Flick down to the section that best suits your current situation and structure your CV accordingly.

School Leaver

If you’re a recent school leaver, place emphasis on your GCSEs, A levels, or any other accomplishments you’ve achieved whilst you were in education.

As most roles you apply for won’t be looking for much direct work experience, this is a great way to help sell yourself for a role. At the very least, a pass in Maths and English is essential for many jobs, so be sure to include these.

List the subjects you studied and your grades, but feel free to condense them down into less detailed descriptions if you’re not sure they’re your strongest selling point. This will also allow more space for other experience e.g. part time/summer jobs that directly relate to the role you’re applying for.

Student

If you’re working towards a qualification like all students, you can still list it on your CV. You just need to make it clear that it’s not finished yet. For example, you can say ‘In progress’ or ‘Due to complete in September 2021’. 

You’ll need to include the level of the qualification, such as BSc (Hons) or MBA, as well as the name of the course, like ‘International Finance’ or ‘Physics’. You should also include the name of the institution awarding the qualification ‒ usually the name of your university.

Modules, projects, dissertations and theses can be listed as well, with a focus on the higher-level work and modules of particular interest or relevance. If you are a member of any clubs or societies relevant to your chosen career path, you might like to include those, as well.

As your education is the main selling point on your CV at this time, you should also include any lower-level qualifications you have. Level, subject and year of completion is enough detail here.

If you’re still studying, your education section may look like this:

Graduate

If you are a recent graduate, you will still need to include all of the details above, as well as the completion date of your degree. If you received a strong grade such as a first or a 2:1 – you can include that as well. Lower-level qualifications can be omitted if they don’t add anything of value, such as certificates or diplomas studied prior to university.

Just remember every graduating university will have a degree, and probably a good one. You need to think about how you can stand out from the competition as a student by effectively listing your experiences and extra curricular activities. Check out our ultimate student CV example here.

Experienced Employee

It’s important to remember what you include is heavily dependent on what kind of role you’re applying for and its requirements. Take the time to read the job specification and skills needed and cater your CV to that.

Bear in mind that your most successful achievements (educational or otherwise) are the ones worth showcasing, so draw attention to your most impressive accomplishments and focus on what paints you in the best light from an employer’s perspective.

CVs come in all kinds of variations, and information on your education is one of those ever-changing variables. Always include the basics, expand on them when necessary, and think about what’s most relevant to the role. Then structure accordingly.

How To Add Education To Your CV

Whatever stage you are at in your career, listing your education on your CV is very important. As a rule of thumb, the less experience you have, the more emphasis you want to put on your education. The more experience you have the less your education become relevant. For example at CEO with 20 years experience might list an MBA but probably shouldn’t list GCSE’s.

You want to make sure the format is consistent, the dates of study are clear and in order, the course is clear and the institution of study is listed. As long as you stick to these rules you can choose whatever format you wish. Here is a common example:

Masters of Business Administration (MBA)

September 2015 – June 2018 | University of Portsmouth

Grade Achieved – 2:1

Key Modules – Finance for Decision Making, Leadership and Change, HR Management and Economics.

5. Work experience

This section shows when and where you have worked. Covering specific accomplishments you’ve made during each of the jobs and positions you have held.

Listing your relevant experiences in reverse chronological order, include your job title, the name of the employer, time in the position, and a few key responsibilities.

Rather than focusing too much on what responsibilities were in your previous roles, show what you achieved there and some of the skills you developed. A job title is enough to show an employer roughly what you did, but it doesn’t necessarily show your achievements.

Gaps in employment

Whether it’s through choice or forgetfulness, some people leave previous jobs off their CV; resulting in a gap in their employment history.

Even if you were a stay-at-home parent for a while, include it. If a potential employer has to guess how you were spending your time during your employment gaps, they’ll likely suspect the worst. Just be honest, here is no harm or disadvantage for having a break in your employment as long as you can clearly show why. 

So how should you write achievements in your employment history section?

Here are some simple methods of how best to include your achievements in your CV’s employment history section:

1) Start with a short sentence briefly explaining what you did, who you reported to and what you achieved.

2) Underneath the introductory sentence you should include achievement related responsibilities in the form of bullet points

3) Keep these bullet points to a typical sentence length and provide some proof or evidence to the claimed achievement or responsibility by explaining how to did it. It is always good to substantiate your claims with facts, figures and statistics if you can.

Please see below some examples:

And remember, don’t worry whether your experiences are “good enough”, employers admire people who have worked hard in a variety of positions.

More good examples
  1. Led a team of sales and marketing executives in a promotional campaign that resulted in increased sales of £650k and the company exceeding its annual sales targets by 32%.
  2. Revamped the business page on Facebook that now reached over 95,000 followers (up 38% in just 2 months); which generated over 1.200 customer leads resulting in over 4% increase in bottom line profitability.
Not so good examples
  1. Led a team of sales and marketing executives in a promotional campaign resulting in exceeding the company’s annual sales targets.
  2. Redesigned the Facebook business page which generated new customer leads resulting in increased profitability.

6. Career achievements

A career achievements section is likely to be used by those who have 5 plus years of work experience. It is the opportunity to cherry pick 3 to 4 highlight achievements over the course of your career. The achievements are likely to be from different work related experiences or academic experiences

This section can be positioned above work experience and act as a snapshot for your lifetime achievements. 

Again similar to work related achievements it is very beneficial to provide evidence in the form of figures, facts and statistics to give the reader some proof of your achievement.

It is important to make the sentences punchy and highly customised towards the role you are applying for. This will catch the readers attention. For example if a job adverts requires you to have a certain experience, if you have it, state it, and back it up with facts and figures. Go one step further and highlight the important parts in bold.

Use this section to boast about your proud achievements like in the below example:

7. Additional information section

In this section you can list various additional things that may be relevant to your application and help you to stand out. For many within this section they include their hobbies and interests. 

It’s important to remember information in this section is often used and an ‘Ice Breaker’ if you get invited to interview or additional ‘fun related’ talking points in general.

You don’t always need to include hobbies and interests in your CV but mentioning relevant ones could back up your skills – not to mention give you something to talk about at an interview.

Other options of what could be included in this section are:

Publications and Portfolios: List any publications (digital or traditional media) you have written, co-written, or contributed to. You should also include any publications you are currently working on. Include any conferences you have presented at; listing the conference name and location, and the date you presented.

Professional Memberships: Include any professional associations that you are a current member of. Likewise, if you’re a board member of any professional body, also list your title.

8. References

Like many candidates, you may be tempted to include references within your CV in an attempt to be transparent, and provide recruiters with some early social proof of your abilities. And that is totally understandable.

However, the benefits of leaving your references out of your CV, far outweigh the benefits of including them.

In this section, I will explain the reasons why you shouldn’t add your references when writing your CV, and what you can do instead to prove your value as an employee.

Generally you don’t need to list your references in full. Keep your referee details away from your CV but have them ready to present when you get to the final stage of the application process. 

Although there is no official regulation of reference request timing, it’s generally understood across the recruitment process that most employed candidates will be unable to provide references until they’ve been offered a job – due to the fact most people cannot let their current employer know they are looking elsewhere until they have a concrete offer on the table.

Very rarely a company might ask for a reference at interview stage, but this doesn’t mean that you have to provide one if you’re not comfortable doing so.

You can simply state ‘Reference Available Upon Request’ at the bottom of the page as the last bit of information as seen in the below example.

9. Flow and layout

Once upon a time there used to be a set format for a CV document, however in todays world this format has been demolished in a bit for people to standout from the competition. 

By strategically thinking about which format you use, you’ll present your background to recruiters in the most effective way possible, helping you land more interviews. It is also important to understand that industry formats vary. For example a Graphic Designer will have a very different format to an Accountant.

There are 5 main types of CV formats you can use:

  • Chronological
  • Functional
  • Combination
  • Graphic
  • Creative

In this section, we’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

Chronological

Best for experienced professionals.

A chronological CV outlines your work experience in reverse-chronological order. This format starts with a summary of your career highlights and key skills followed by a comprehensive outline of your work experience, starting with your most recent role.

I strongly recommend the reverse-chronological CV format for most applicants.

It is not only the most popular format but also provides key information recruiters expect to see in a logical sequence, making it the most effective.

Strengths
  • Viewed as the industry standard
  • Recruiters are familiar with it
  • Compatible with applicant tracking systems
  • Allows you to provide examples in the context of your work experiences
  • Provides a clear structure with little overlap
Weaknesses
  • Difficult to create for applicants with little or no work experience such as students and school leavers.
Functional

Best for career switcher or people with work gaps such as parents or family carers.

A functional CV format provides a summary of your key areas of expertise.

Instead of listing each position you held by company, you highlight core skills that make you a strong for for the job. Underneath each skill, you provide examples of how you have demonstrated that skill in the past.

Strengths
  • Can work well for current students with no work experience
  • Can help downplay perceived weaknesses, such as career gaps
  • Can work for career switchers by highlighting skills that they did not demonstrate in their day-to-day roles
Weaknesses
  • Generally not looked upon favourably by recruiters
  • Does not flow into applicant tracking systems as easily
  • Leaves readers looking for basic information, which can cause them to overlook the CV entirely
  • Can seem disjointed, as examples of how the applicant demonstrated a particular skill are provided out of context
Combination

Best for students and school leavers.

Combination CVs start out with a functional overview of key skills followed by a reverse-chronological outline of work experience.

While this format is a notable improvement over the functional CV format, it still lacks the clarity and concise nature of the chronological approach.

Strengths
  • Allows for emphasis on skills while still providing outline of work history
Weaknesses
  • Buries key information that recruiters want to see first
  • Content can overlap, as examples are not provided within the work experience section

Graphic

Graphic CVs incorporate elements such as photos, logos, symbols, colours and multiple columns.

This approach can make your CV stand out – but potentially in a negative manner.

Instead of trying to draw attention to your document using fancy formatting, we recommend keeping it simple and letting your experience speak for itself.

Creative

Creative CVs take both structure and formatting to an extreme. We advise using them with caution.

Examples of creative CV we have come across include:

  • A “Game of Life” board game layout that walks the reader through the applicant’s life
  • A magazine cover layout with a large portrait of the applicant and various headlines
  • A brochure

Whilst these formats may be acceptable (and even encouraged) in select creative fields, they are simply inappropriate for the vast majority of professionals.

10. Punctuation

Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can send your CV straight to the bin, so if you want that job, you have to get it right. It’s not enough to rely on the spelling and grammar check in Microsoft Word; you need to be 100% confident that your spelling, punctuation, and grammar makes the grade. So, let’s explore some of the key punctuation and grammar rules and how they work in the context of your CV.

Punctuation

Punctuation brings order to our words, helping the reader to decipher our intended meaning. Imagine a CV with no punctuation to show where sentences begin, end, pause, or change track. It would be an incoherent mess. Saying that, over-punctuating a CV can deliver the same result. This guidance should help you to punctuate your words effectively so that your CV is clear and easy to read.

Full stops

Full stops are used to mark the end of a sentence. On your CV, you can use full stops at the end of sentences in your Profile. Some people like to use full stops at the end of their bullets under Experience; however, I prefer to leave them open. Also, I wouldn’t bother using full stops after brief bits of information in your Key Skills, Education, or Additional Information sections, for example.

Some people like to add full stops after each initial of an acronym, e.g. Management Information (M.I.). I prefer to present the acronym without full stops, e.g. Management Information (MI), as it looks cleaner. The only exception would be if the job advert requested a qualification or skill set listed as an acronym with full stops, e.g., M.B.A. In this case, I’d recommend presenting the term in the same way on your CV to make it through any automated sift. In this case, present acronyms in a consistent way throughout your CV.

Commas

The comma is used to separate items in a list or to separate clauses within a sentence. That’s simple enough. However, before writing your CV, you’ll need to decide whether you will adopt the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma. Those who favour the Oxford comma will add a final comma before the word ‘and’ to separate items in a list, to clarify their meaning. I love to eat jelly, ice cream, sweets and bacon could read that the individual enjoys sweets and bacon together. Using the Oxford comma clarifies that these are separate items: I love to eat jelly, ice cream, sweets, and bacon. Whether you decide to adopt the Oxford comma or not, be sure to use commas consistently on your CV. 

Colons

Colons can be used to introduce an explanation or a list e.g. IT Skills: Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; Sage Line 50; Adobe Photoshop.

Colons can also be used to link two related clauses, with the second clause explaining the first. Here, it can be used in place of a semi-colon.

Semi-colons

A semi-colon can be used to join two distinct yet related main clauses, each of which can stand alone as a sentence in its own right. Semi-colons apply when a full stop is overkill, but a simple comma is too light to separate the two parts of your sentence. The semi-colon can be used in place of and. Here’s an example:

Trebled number of graduate hires in 2009; developed and retained talent by implementing structured and progressive training programmes.

Semi-colons can also be used to make sense of complex lists, where commas separate grouped items, such as the eggs in this sentence:

The breakfast choices included sausages; bacon; beans; poached, fried, and scrambled eggs; mushrooms; and toast.

Semi-colons can be a grey area, so if you do use them on your CV, use them confidently and accurately, or not at all.

Hyphens

Hyphens connect two words together to make a new word. They can be used in compound adjectives that modify a noun, as in results-focused manager.

Hyphens are also useful when you are using two adjectives to describe the same base word e.g. short- and long-term projects.

Apostrophes

Apostrophes can be used to indicate ownership (e.g. Jane’s CV) or to replace omitted letters in a word (e.g. it’s instead of it is or I’d instead or I would).

The misused apostrophe is one of the most prevalent CV errors, with job hunters often confusing its (belonging to it) and it’s (replacing it is), or adding an unnecessary apostrophe at the end of a plural word.

An unnecessary or missing apostrophe could indicate slack attention to detail or a poor grasp of punctuation, so it’s worth checking and triple checking before hitting the send button.

Brackets

Brackets can indicate additional information which, if left out, leaves a grammatically complete sentence. In the context of a CV, brackets are most often used with acronyms.

When using acronyms, explain them in full first e.g. Management Information (MI), including the abbreviation in brackets after the name. Following this, you can confidently abbreviate all subsequent mentions. I’d only bother using brackets in this way if the term appears frequently in your CV. If not, just use the term without the acronyms.

Slashes

Slashes, also referred to as forward slashes, can be used in the abbreviated versions of words like without (w/o) or care of (c/o). No space is required before or after the slash.

Slashes can also be used in an either/or scenario, where the reader can choose between the two presented words. For example, I’d like a burger and/or sausage. Again, no space is required before or after the slash.

However, on a CV, a slash is sometimes used between two important terms, such as job titles (e.g. business analyst/project manager). Unfortunately, CV screening technology can’t always read and interpret the terms separated by the slash (e.g. analyst/project) as two words. In this case, it’s best to add a space before and after the forward slash.

Once again, consistency is key, so adopt the same rule for all slashes on your CV. Check out our punctuation and grammar guide for the ultimate run down on CV do’s and do not’s.

11. Buzz words to use

Deciding on what keywords or buzzwords to use within your CV can be a bit of challenge, especially if you’re not someone who has a strong vocabulary.

Generally speaking, the best types of words to use are predominately action verbs.

Action verbs help describe the skills you’ve highlighted to employers in your CV. Having an action verb at the beginning of a line in your bulleted list also helps keep the descriptions of each, short, yet powerful.

Appropriate keywords for your CV could include:

  • Achieved
  • Analysed
  • Built
  • Coordinated
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Increased
  • Launched
  • Marketed
  • Organised
  • Reduced

Use action verbs to convey what you did and what happened, showing yourself as the main protagonist in your career stories, rather than a passive observer. Here are a few examples in action:

  • Accelerated revenue growth by 50% in 12 months by segmenting target markets
  • Advanced relationships with 3 top-tier prospects, positioning Company A for contracts valued at £15m
  • Attracted graduate talent to grow this new team to 20 members in 2 years
  • Boosted team morale through new meetings and training opportunities, with 93% of staff giving positive feedback
  • Carved out a £2k saving on travel by sourcing a local conference venue
  • Doubled the oil and gas client portfolio in 6 months by generating and pursuing 150 leads
  • Exceeded annual sales target by 13%, recognised within the top 5% of sales staff globally
  • Generated a £5m sales pipeline through online and offline networking
  • Influenced board members to trial a new mentoring system, resulting in retention and promotion of 3 graduate recruits
  • Retained a portfolio of 11 key clients over 5 years, growing average account revenue by 30%

Aim to up level your choice of verbs as you progress through your career, relegating words like managed or led to junior roles, and saving more descriptive and powerful verbs for current and recent positions.

12. CV Checklist

Ask yourself the below questions whilst writing your CV.

Have I included my personal details? This one is really about general housekeeping but make sure that you have included your name, address (this can be a general location as opposed to your full address) the best telephone number to contact you on and an email address that you check on a regular basis. Also remember that if you are applying for jobs outside the UK, there are a number of countries where it is essential to include date of birth, nationality, marital status and a recent photograph.

Where have I produced results? Although you may be tempted to copy and paste your role responsibilities from your Job Description under the corresponding Job Summary on your CV, this doesn’t tell the recruiter how successful you have been in your career. Think of five or six examples of where you have excelled. Provide details of cost savings or increased revenue (percentages or monetary figures) that you have been responsible for. Why should the company hire you instead of one of the other candidates? Show them how you have benefitted the organisations that you have worked for.

Are there any unexplained gaps in my employment? In the current economic climate, it will not be unusual to have career gaps, but it is important to explain any large periods of unemployment. For example, were you raising a family? Did you go back to college to obtain further industry-specific qualifications? Did you take time out to fulfil a life-long ambition to travel the world? Even if you were looking for work but were taking on pro bono assignments or volunteering for a local charity, be sure to mention these on your CV.

What companies have I worked for previously? Prospective employers are really keen to know where you have worked before as it can indicate if you have the right experience and skills and knowledge of their particular sector. For large, blue chip organisations it may not be necessary to provide a description of the business but for smaller, more local companies it is a good idea to provide a one line description including main area of business, revenue and number of employees.

Have I received an education and training relevant to the job? If it has been a number of years since you gained your O’levels (or GSCEs) and they are not relevant to the role you are applying, then it is not necessary to list these on your CV. However, remember to provide detail of your degree and other college qualifications, although you do not need to add the year that you studied these. Also, if you have attended in-house training courses that will add weight to your application, then make sure that you include these.

Does my CV match the job specification? And lastly, although it is a great idea to have a general CV, when you are applying for a particular role, take some time to ‘tweak’ the document. Read through the job specification that accompanies the job advert and check it against your CV to ensure that you have included all your relevant experiences and skills. Move things around so that the applicable achievement or job responsibilities appear at the top of the corresponding paragraph.

13. Common questions answered

How long should my CV be?
In order to sell yourself without boring employers and recruiters, your CV should be about 2 pages in length.

What do employers look for?
Employers look for your ability to perform their job, so make sure that you include the skills and knowledge that they ask for in job adverts.

What font should I use in a CV?
Use a clear and simple font to create an easily readable CV with a professional outlook.

Should I add a photo of myself?
Unless you are a model or actor then a photo is not required to prove your value to an employer.

Is it necessary to include ALL of my experience?
You should include all of your experience but don’t go into too much detail with older or irrelevant roles.

Do I need to include my date of birth on my CV?
Employers are only interested in your relevant skills and experience, they don’t need to know your age to make hiring decisions.

Should I hide employment gaps on my CV?
To be transparent, you should mention any long gaps of employment but try to put a positive reason in such as study, travelling and personal projects.

Should I include hobbies and interests in my CV?
Interests are optional but you should include them if you think they could have a positive impact on your application.

Do I need a cover letter?
You should add a cover letter to your application to ensure that you give recruiters a reason to open your CV.

Should I include references in my CV?
Referees will not be contacted until offer stage so you don’t need to include them in your CV.

What if I have no work experience?
If you don’t have any direct work experience that is relevant to the roles you are applying for then try to highlight your non-work gained skills such as education and voluntary work.

In Summary

By using the advice found in this guide, you will know how to create an interview winning CV to apply for any job. But wouldn’t it be great if the jobs came to you?

During your job hunting, you will undoubtedly need to create numerous customisations to your CV based on the positions your looking to apply for.

my advice here is to create a master CV that you can then use to adapt for whatever vacancy becomes available. This master CV will not only serve as the basis for different customisations, but it should also be the document you widely share through other potential job-hunting channels.

A master CV for example can form a great template to use when crafting a recruiter bait worthy LinkedIn profile. You may also wish to upload this master CV to the major UK job board such as CV Library and TotalJobs.

Your CV will already have the necessary recruiter bait content and an appealing format taken from our CV guide and should help catch their attention when they’re looking to fill their vacancies.

The Bottomline: is that there are countless ways of finding a job, but almost all of them depend on having a great CV that impresses the employer reading it.

Consider Complementing Your CV With A Cover Letter

Ok according to statistics, as many as 56% of recruiters would say a cover letter to accompany as CV these days is just about redundant, a cover letter still remains one of the most important opportunities you will get to connect with an employer or hiring manager. It is the one and only opportunity you are likely to have to grab their attention and make them want to meet you instead of many of the other CVs they may have piled up in front of them.

Representing your career interests and highlighting your most relevant skills and experiences, a professionally written cover letter can say a lot about you as a person and as a prospective employee. So, you should have in mind that a prospective employer will be looking for your attention to detail.

So after hours spent crafting a great CV, just how do you write a cover letter?

Fortunately we have created an Ultimate Guide To Writing A Cover Letter also. Check it out here.

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