Writing the perfect CV is an important step in gaining your dream job. But what exactly is the perfect CV?
Every job has different requirements and what will be perfect for one job or organisation will certainly not be right for another. Similarly, what works for one person will not work for everyone; the solution is to ensure that your CV is tailored to your exact situation.
But sometimes that is easier said than done. There are a bewildering array of CV templates available and selecting the right one can be challenging. CVs vary in numerous ways, especially in terms of what information they contain and prioritise, and what they look like.
While it is important that CVs are smart, professional and easy to read, it is the content that you should prioritise. Knowing what information your CV needs to showcase and presenting that information in a way that is appealing to recruiters is the first step to creating a successful CV.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how to focus your CV on three different elements of content: your qualifications, your experience, and your skills. Which is the most appropriate for you will depend on where you are in your career and what sort of role you are applying for. First, let's take a quick look at what a CV for a UK employer should contain.
You can focus your CV on your experience, your qualifications or your skills.
What template should a CV in the UK follow?
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 US-style resume over the last two decades. Here we'll focus on creating a British CV in line with the currently accepted style.
Your CV should be exactly two pages long. As a minimum, it should contain:
- Your full name
- Your address, telephone and email
- Your educational history (most recent first)
- Your professional/work experience & employment history (most recent first). Put this above educational history if you are not applying for a graduate position.
- Professional accreditations/qualifications if you have any (e.g. ACA)
- Specialist skills (e.g. typing, bookkeeping etc)
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. Include a short personal description or career objective at the start of your CV, stating your career goals, hopes and aspirations to your potential employer. Never use "I", "am" or "we" in your CV summary. Instead, write in the third person throughout. This helps to keep your CV more focused and direct.
Note that your CV should not include your date of birth or your age, due to age discrimination laws. Neither should it include contacts for references, nor photos of you.
For more, see this detailed article on how to write a CV.
You should also generally include 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.
Read more on how to write a cover letter.
Template example for qualifications-based (educational-based) CV
A qualifications-based CV focuses on your suitability for the role by showing that you have qualifications that relate directly to the job. It is often used by people who are early on in their careers or perhaps looking to move into employment for the first time. Where possible it is useful to back up any qualifications you hold with evidence that you have applied this knowledge, whether that is in the workplace or through a hobby or interest.
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 (include the country only if it was abroad) * Any additional details that you may wish to add that may support your application
Here is a useful template for this type of CV:
Template example for experience-based CV
The experience-based CV focuses on what you have done previously that demonstrates your suitability for the role you are applying for. It tends to be most appropriate for people who are established in their career and applying for a new role with a direct link to their previous experience. This type of CV aims to demonstrate how your employment history has led you to this position and explains what you have done that makes you a good fit for the target role.
Make sure you list your employers in reverse chronological order, the most recent first. 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)
Make sure you include any relevant Internships or work experience here, clearly marking these positions as such. 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.
Here is a useful template for this type of CV:
Template example for skills-based CV
A skills-based CV is particularly useful for people who are looking to move into a new area or sector and want to showcase their transferrable skills. It focuses on demonstrating your suitability for the role by showing what skills you will bring with you, rather than directly relevant work experience. As such it is particularly valuable for career changers.
Always 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.
Here is a useful template for a skills-based CV:
Need some help with CV and cover letter writing? CV Centre can help you polish yours to a professional standard. You can also download a free version of Resumes For Dummies, which contains tips on targeting a known position or industry, and common CV-writing mistakes to avoid.
False information on a CV
One final point: lying on a CV in order to get a job or anything else of value is fraud, and 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 that do not exist.