How to write a CV

In short, the term Curriculum Vitae (CV) stands for life story, and just like when you meet a new person, you don't tell them everything that's ever happened to you – so why would you do the same with a prospective employer? Your CV should be a concise and relevant account of your skills and experiences.

A rough rule of thumb is to focus on the last five years of your work experience, unless you feel something else particularly relevant from before that time needs to be mentioned. So if you're talking about the part-time shop assistant job you had twenty years ago, use that space to write about your more recent endeavours.

Information to include when writing a CV

  • Personal Details – name, email, contact phone number and address.
  • Personal Statement – optional, but a good opportunity to tell an employer about your suitability for the job.
  • Work Experience – clearly list your job title, time in the post, responsibilities and the name of your organisation. Voluntary experience is also relevant to include.
  • Education – all your formal qualifications and any training and development undertaken.
  • Hobbies and Interests – keep it brief, and relevant to the job you're applying for.

CVs: The devil in the detail

Relying on your job title and organisation and a line or two from your job spec isn't enough to make you stand out, especially given the level of competition out there for good jobs. Here's perhaps a common example of a line on someone's CV:

"Administered email marketing campaigns"

That's great if doing this was perhaps only a small part of the job, and isn't that relevant to the job you're applying for. However, if you want to sound more impressive, add in a bit more detail using stats where you can, so the recruiter can get a better understanding of what you did, and what you're able to do.

For example:

"Administered three weekly targeted email campaigns to a database of 46,000 subscribers"

See the improvement? We can go one step better – share how you went above and beyond. The more you can demonstrate this, the more impressed a hiring manager is likely to be.  So now we have something like:

"Administered three weekly targeted email campaigns to a database of 46,000 subscribers, improving open rates by 25% over a three-month period by undertaking analytics of subject lines."

You might not have this amount of detail for every element of your work, but ensure you do use what you can, as it shows a good level of professionalism and will set you apart from other candidates. Keep it relevant though! 

A few notes on CV presentation

  • Keep your CV to a maximum of two sides of A4, unless you have relevant information that would take you over this, and laid out in a logical order with your most recent and relevant experience first.
  • Choose a simple and professional font, and ensure there are no spelling errors or typos.
  • Ensure it includes your basic contact details so a prospective employer can get hold of you.