Curriculum Vitae (CV)
A curriculum vitae (C.V) or resume is a standardised means of setting out an applicant's educational and employment history. The layout of a CV has evolved over the years, and current standards vary from nation to nation. In the UK, there has been a strong trend towards the more objective American style CV resume over the last two decades.
This article focuses on creating a British CV in line with the currently accepted style, suitable for students and graduates to use when applying for professional positions.
The CV contains, in the following order:
- Full Name
- Address, Telephone and Email
- Career objective (optional)
- Educational history (most recent first)
- Professional/Work experience & Employment History (most recent first) - put this above Educational History if not applying for a graduate position.
- Professional accreditations/qualifications if you have any (e.g. ACA)
- Specialist skills (e.g. typing, bookkeeping etc)
In the UK a CV should be exactly two pages long. Keep things concise, and leave out anything that is not relevant to the position you are applying for.
Setting out your CV
The title of your CV should be your name, placed clearly at the top of the first page where it will be easily found by the reader.
The next two or three lines should contain your contact details. Check these carefully as this is the only way recruiters will be able to get in touch with you. Include a mobile telephone number and email address if you have one. Include your nationality here too, if you want to.
If you have a driving license, you may wish to state this here, or in the "skills" section later on.
You should not include a date of birth or your age on your CV. Age discrimination laws mean that this kind of information should not be discussed at any point during the recruitment process, or even during employment itself.
Career Objective/CV Summary
Including a short personal description or career objective at the start of your CV allows you to clearly describe your career goals, hopes and aspirations to your potential employer.
Detailing what you aim to achieve, or alternatively indicating your main skills and qualities in a short personal statement at the start of your CV, can be an effective means of attracting a recruiter's attention to your application. It is quite acceptable to omit this section from your CV altogether, but it is highly advisable to include it, as it will help your CV to get noticed.
An example career objective might be the following:
“Motivated science graduate, with internship experience at Hammond Partners. Interested in training as a chartered accountant, developing technical knowledge skills in audit and pursuing a career in finance."
Another example, using bullet points, would be:
- Highly motivated first class science graduate with internship experience.
- Skilled mathematician keen to train as a chartered accountant and develop technical skills in audit.
- Passionate sportsman with experience of leading successful teams in football and rugby.
If you graduated from university less than 12 months ago, or have only worked in low-skilled jobs since graduating that are not relevant to the industry you are now applying to, this section should go before "Employment History / Work Experience" on your CV.
However, if you have worked in positions that are relevant to the industry you are applying to, put your employment history before this section. In other words, make sure the section that best supports your application goes first.
Write your educational history in reverse chronological order, with the most recent qualifications first. Your level of education will dictate how much detail you should include on your CV. For example, if you have a university degree, you do not need to include a list of your GCSE or high school subjects – just the grades will suffice.
You should include:
- The date the qualification was attained
- The grade obtained
- The name of the subject
- The name of the establishment, university or college from which you qualified.
- The city/county of the establishment. If it was abroad, include the country.
- Any additional details that you may wish to add that may support your application.
Employment History / Work Experience
In this section, list your employers in reverse chronological order, the most recent first.
Make sure you include:
- Dates of employment
- Company/organisation name
- City (or country where relevant)
- Job title
- Details of position - what you did and experienced gained (including any training courses attended or skills acquired)
- Further details - quantify anything impressive you have achieved in employment, e.g. "Initiated a number of operational directives that resulted in increased sales of circa £3k per month".
Make sure you include any relevant internships or work experience here, clearly marking these positions as such.
It is not necessary to include every, or even any, particularly irrelevant positions you were involved in during university (e.g. working in a catering job when applying to be a lawyer), unless you feel they would support your application. However, it is advisable to make a note of every post-university employer on your CV. Some recruiters associate time unaccounted for on your CV with time spent in prison. If you do have extended gaps between jobs then clearly state why this is - e.g. travelling. If you have been involved in several stop-gap or short-term jobs after graduation state this on your CV, rather than listing every employer - recruiters are not interested in small details, but they do want to see that all periods of your life are accounted for.
Use bullet points to describe roles, key skills and any further details more concisely.
Never write anything negative about a past or present employer on your CV.
Targeting your CV
Candidates should refine their CV for each job they apply for. It is crucial to do this, because different recruiters and different jobs require different key skills. You should consider what each employer is looking for from job applicants before you send them your CV, and make sure you mention that you have these key skills specifically.
Include any particularly relevant skills you have on your CV so long as they relevant and support your application. Examples include bookkeeping, foreign languages or specialist IT software skills. Familiarity with Microsoft Office, email or the internet is considered as given and it is not necessary to mention this unless you are particularly able. Do mention anything that would set you apart from other candidates.
Due to data protection laws candidates should never provide referees' names, addresses or any other contact details on CVs, unless they have the express permission of nominated referees to do so, IN ADVANCE. Referees should be approached ahead of time, and asked whether it would be acceptable to provide their details as referees. Once permission has been granted, contact information may be revealed. It is however, much safer if candidates simply write "References available on request" at the very end of their CV (positioning this in the centre of the page usually looks best).
If you are called for interview and need to supply references, recent graduates with little or no formal experience should generally provide one academic reference and one professional reference, if available. Experienced candidates should provide two professional references.
So remember: Always ask permission to provide someone with your referee's details. When you do, include telephone number, email address and postal address. Many employers will write by post to your referees and expect a reply, so it is in your interests to prepare them should this happen.
You do not need to provide more than two references unless you are asked to do so.
The most common reasons for CVs being rejected by recruiters are bad grammar, poor spelling and inconsistent and erratic punctuation. Spellcheck, proof-read and double check your CV every time you send it to an employer.
Including a photo with a CV is strongly discouraged except where a photo is required or expected (e.g. modelling, acting). Employers may still request a photograph regardless. If you do need to include one, make sure it is a professional head-shot, just like your passport photo.
If applying for a specific position (rather than a graduate scheme), you should always include a covering letter (sometimes known as a cover letter) to explain your suitability. You should do this even if applying by email. Be aware that covering letters are not always read, and therefore you should include any particularly relevant information on both your CV as well as on your covering letter.
False information on a CV
Lying on a CV in order to get a job or anything else of value is fraud, a serious criminal and civil offence. An employer has the right to dismiss an employee or claim money from him or her in a civil court or even have the employee arrested for making false statements. As such CVs should be purely factual without implying skills which do not exist.