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1:17pm 26 Nov 2018
How to write an effective CV

What is a CV?

Your CV is a document that enables you to show a potential employer that your skills, knowledge and experience are just what they are looking for.

Why do I need a CV?

Your CV is the first impression you give to a potential employer. It details your experience, range of skills and suitability for a specific role. Whether the application is speculative or for a specific vacancy, most employers will want you to show your skills on paper. A winning CV will make a positive first impression and should get you through to the interview stage.

How do I write a CV?

There are many templates of CV but please remember that your CV is supposed to be about you - so there is no point copying somebody else’s CV or simply sticking to a template.

Starting points

Before you start, remember the basics:

  • A standard CV should not exceed two sides of A4
  • Make sure that the layout is clear and that relevant information is easy to access using bullet points and short sentences
  • Think about use of blank space; this can make it easier to pick out important information
  • Use a clear font - usually Arial, 10 or 12 point
  • Do not include the title “Curriculum Vitae” but do make sure your name is highlighted in bold type at the top of the page
  • It is important to check your spelling and grammar. Have a read through to spot any errors and ask a friend, family member of careers professional to check it for you
  • You do not need to personal information such as your date of birth, nationality, gender or marital status.

What should I include in my CV?

Each time you apply for a job you need to check the advertisement, job and person specification to see what skills and attributes the employer is looking for. It is also important to research the company. It is crucial that your CV is targeted to the role and the organisation. In other words, you need a different CV for each role you apply for.

You may wish to consider including some, or all, of the following sections in your CV. Please note that these elements are included for guidance only. It is up to you to choose what you put in your CV - if in doubt, speak to the Careers and Employment Team.

Personal information

This should be a brief section at the top of the page, incorporating your name and current address, telephone number and email address (make sure that this is suitable: for example “myname123@...” is probably better than “littlediva@...”!).

Personal profile

This section is your chance to make a pitch for the role. It should not exceed a couple of sentences or three or four lines of text. Highlight what you are doing now, for example, I am a current second year student studying English’ and the technical and transferable skills and experience you have that relate to the role or industry you are applying for. Finally, explain what you are now seeking, for example ‘Now seeking an editorial placement to support my career ambition to work in publishing.  


If you include a skills profile, ensure you illustrate each skill with a relevant example. You can use skills gained from your employment, education or through extra-curricular experience - remember that skills are transferable!


It is conventional to list your most recent qualifications first. You may not need to include every qualification you have; for example, you do not have to list all of your GCSEs; it will suffice to say “8 GCSEs including Mathematics and English”.  If you are applying for a job relating to your degree, you could list relevant modules studied at University and information about dissertations and projects.


Your experience section can include details of voluntary and unpaid work experience as well as paid jobs; think about what is relevant to the job to which you are applying to.

Rather than “Work Experience”, think about an “Employment” section, which can also include any unpaid or voluntary work that you have done. List your jobs starting with the most recent first. If you have been working for a long time, you may not have to list all of your experience; remember to keep it relevant to the job which you are applying for. When describing your responsibilities, focus on the skills that you developed and any achievements accomplished in that role.

If you have relevant employment experience, it may make sense to split your Employment Section into two and have a ‘Relevant Experience’ and ‘Other Experience’, so that your important relevant experience stands out on your CV. You could also list your relevant experience before your education and qualifications.

Interests and Achievements

This is your chance to show that you are a well-rounded person with interests outside of your work or study. Don’t just list things you have done, but think about what you have contributed: the skills you have used, and what you have achieved. Don’t worry at this stage if you don’t think anything you have done is relevant; again, you may find the Making Yourself Employable leaflet useful.


If you have space, you should list two referees at the end of your CV. It is conventional for recent graduates to use one academic, and one work-related reference. Give their name, title and contact details, including telephone number and email address. Remember to ask their permission first!

If you are running short of space, it is fine to write ‘References — Available upon request’.

Need more help? 

Take a look at some of our templates to help you develop your own unique CV:

Need further help? Contact your Careers+ team:

Arts, Design and Media Faculty (ADM) Team - Ground Floor Atrium, Parkside Building | | 0121 331 7678

Business, Law and Social Sciences Faculty (BLSS) Team - Ground Floor Atrium, Curzon Building | 0121 331 5234

Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment Faculty (CEBE) Team - Level Three, Millennium Point  | | 0121 331 2600

Health, Education and Life Sciences Faculty (HELS) Team - Ground Floor Bevan House, City South Campus | | 0121 202 4265

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