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How to write a CV

Need help? Here's how we can support you with your CV.

Step 1: Use the information on this page to create your CV.
Step 2: Upload your CV to CareerSet for immediate feedback. Edit your CV and reupload - repeat as many times as you like. If you’re applying for a specific job and want help tailoring your CV, you can upload the job description and CareerSet will compare your CV to the job description.
Step 3: If you can’t get your CareerSet score above 70% or you have a specific question that CareerSet can’t help you with, upload your CV to your documents on Handshake and message us requesting a review.

Read the Talk to Us page for more information about our support.

What is a CV?

A CV (curriculum vitae) is a document that gives an overview of your education, work experience and skills. You use it when applying for jobs and other work experience opportunities. A CV should always be tailored to the job you are applying for.

What should be on a CV?

There’s no magic formula for the perfect CV, but there are some sections that you should include:

  • Personal details: your name, phone number and email address. You don’t need your date of birth or a photograph.
  • Education: dates, name of institution, name of qualification and grade. UK students don’t need to list every GCSE separately; a summary will do (e.g. 10 GCSEs, A* to B).
  • Work experience: dates, employer name and job title. You can include all your experience (paid work, internships, volunteering) in one ‘work experience’ section or break it up into different categories.

What other sections could you include?

  • A personal profile: 3 or 4 lines at the top of your CV summarising your main selling points for the role you’re applying for.
  • Skills: to emphasise particular skills you have, such as transferable skills and technical skills that are important for the role you’re applying for. 
  • Achievements: usually from your work experience or studies.
  • Interests: focusing on the skills you have developed or demonstrated through your interests.

Types of CV

There are different styles of CV, but the most common is a chronological or conventional CV. Find examples further down the page.

  • Conventional or chronological CV: the most common CV format. Lists your education and work experience in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top).
  • Skills-based CV: groups your experience under different skills categories. Most often used by career changers or where your experience doesn’t directly relate to the role you’re applying for. 
  • One-page CV for part-time work: a simple, shorter CV focusing on the skills needed for a particular part-time job while studying.
  • Creative CV: people applying for create roles involving design or illustration usually have a creative CV that is in itself a demonstration of their skills. Not suitable for most roles.
  • Academic CV: for research posts in a university or research institute.

Tips

  • Be consistent in your formatting
  • Don’t use tables or boxes (many big companies use a computer to do a first scan of CVs and they often miss content within tables and boxes)
  • Use language from the job description to make it easy for the shortlister to see that you have the skills they’re looking for
  • Use bullet points and avoid paragraphs of text
  • A CV should work for you; adjust headings so they work for the experience you have
  • Don’t include references unless you’ve been asked to. You don’t need to write ‘references available on request’ as the employer will expect this anyway.

Special circumstances on your CV

Low grades

  • If you have extenuating circumstances (e.g. health, bereavement) state these in a straightforward way in your covering letter.
  • Draw attention to areas of higher achievement. For example, if your second year exam marks were low, then include your first year results, or results from coursework or projects.
  • For some employers your degree grade is very important in the selection process. Omitting your grade will only make these employers assume you have a low grade. As you get further into your career, degree grades will matter less.
  • Think about the order of your CV, so that your positive achievements stand out.

Non-UK qualifications

  • List your qualifications as normal but consider including a note such ‘Equivalent to…’ and list the equivalent UK qualification. You should be able to find this information online. NARIC (National Recognition Information Centre) offers a statement of comparability for a fee.

Course changes

  • Don’t leave a time gap on your CV. Present the benefits of this period of study and give a positive, factual reason for the change to another course/university. For example:

2018 -19   Study towards BSc Geography, University of Leeds

Developed analytical and numerical skills though coursework and seminars. Theory was applied to practical situations during field studies.

Achieved average grades of 63% over the two terms, but decided to withdraw from the course to concentrate on my growing interest in psychology.

Lack of work experience

  • The best solution is to get some work experience. You won’t have a good CV with no experience.
  • In the meantime, think broadly about your past experience; are you forgetting about something you could include? For example, think about volunteering, involvement with societies, work simulation exercises, family or care responsibilities.
  • A skills-based CV could hide the fact that you’re lacking work experience, but the best solution is to just get experience. 

Many short-term/unrelated jobs

  • If your jobs were weekend and vacation jobs, consider whether they all need to be presented (although you should certainly include some work experience or volunteering). It is fine to leave out some of your less impressive pocket-money earners, or jobs that only lasted for a week or two.
  • If you have several months or years of temporary work, you could group similar jobs together, for example:

2019 – 2020    Various temporary positions including administrative assistant and data  entry clerk. Demonstrated attention to detail, strong keyboard skills, organisation and the flexibility to adapt to different team environments. More details on request.

Disability, health issues or other sensitive information

  • You may need to decide how and when to disclose personal or sensitive information.  It may be more appropriate to do this in a covering letter rather than in your CV.
  • You may want to talk about this with a careers consultant, or watch our session on disclosing a disability from January 2020.

Example CVs

Look at these examples to get an idea of the different approaches to creating a CV. All the examples scored over 80% on CareerSet.

Chronological CVs

Skills-based CVs

One-page CVs

Academic CVs

Get feedback on your CV

Use CareerSet to get immediate feedback on your CV. CareerSet will score your CV and give you tailored advice on how to make it better. You can reupload your CV as many times as you like.

CareerSet also lets you upload a job description and will tell you how well your CV is tailored for the job.

If you have recently had a job rejection, watch our guide on what to do if you keep getting rejected.

If you are struggling to get your CV above 70% on CareerSet or you have a specific question, we can give you feedback. Upload your CV to your documents on Handshake and send the Careers Information Team a message to request a CV review. We'll look at your CV within 5 working days.

Read the guide on uploading documents on Handshake if you don't know how to do this (note: you do not have to make your documents visible on your profile for us to find them).

Mature students

Read our tips on CVs for mature students and people changing careers

International students

Read more about working in the UK or in your home country