How to write a CV | Advice and templates

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Your CV is a crucial part of any application and will often be the first thing an employer sees of you. On average, you have just 6 seconds to impress the reader, or it’s off to the pile for the bin. This seems harsh, but it’s often the case especially with large corporations and businesses - some are even starting to implement AI screenings into their process, so your CV might not reach human eyes!

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5 sections every CV needs

There's heaps of information on the internet about what you must include on your CV - some of which is completely random! We strongly believe you should tailor your CV for each new job you’re applying for, but that shouldn’t affect the core sections of your CV - rather the content that’s included in each section. This sounds tricky, but fear not - we’ve cut through the nonsense and compiled a list of the 5 sections every CV needs and the types of information you should include:

Contact details

If you impress an employer with your experience or technical skills, but you haven’t included any details for them to get in touch, you’re shooting yourself in the foot!

Preferably at the very top of your CV, you should include:

  • Full name
  • Current Address
  • Phone number - if you have a mobile and home number, write the one you’re more likely to answer if they do call out of the blue.
  • Email address - not all employers pick up the phone to get in touch. By putting your email and mobile number, you’re giving them multiple ways to get in contact with you. Also, make sure you ask yourself, is my email address a professional one? No embarrassing nicknames are needed here!
  • LinkedIn URL -  this is optional, and there’s a reason. Adding your LinkedIn URL implies that your social CV is in order and that your profile is more evidence as to why they should interview you. If you’re someone who forgets to update your LinkedIn or you don’t use it often, it’s best to leave it out. Learn how to perfect your LinkedIn profile.

Personal profile

A personal profile is a short statement (roughly 70 words or less - the more concise the better!) that highlights key attributes, achievements or skills that will help you stand out from the hundreds of other CVs an employer may be sifting through. We recommend including information that directly relates to why you would be a great fit for the role, or information that demonstrates your passion for the industry.

Read: How to write an outstanding personal profile for your graduate CV.

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Work experience/previous employment

There are various ways you can format this section, but the easiest and most common is to make a list in reverse order (most recent job first). It’s important to include roles or experiences that relate to the role, as this will show the employer you have experience in that specific field - 2-3 roles or experiences should be adequate.

It’s also beneficial to include 2-5 concise bullet points underneath each job role or experience that focuses on achievements or specific things you did that the employer will be interested in. In this section, percentages and statistics are your friends - but don’t overuse them. A great example is if you’re applying to a social media role and you want to demonstrate that you previously grew a brand’s Instagram following, calculate that number and convert it into a percentage. This makes it more noticeable and easy to read, as our eyes are drawn to numbers in the text.

Education and qualifications

Similar to job roles, the easiest way to format this section is by date. Lots of students or recent graduates are confused as to whether they should include their GCSEs. We suggest if you’ve graduated from university, include the number of GCSEs you achieved with a simple grade indication (e.g. 8 GCSEs grades A*-C or 9-6), instead of listing each subject. But, if you’re still in full-time education and want to free up some space, only list the most important GCSEs like Mathematics, English and others that relate to the role you’re applying for.

If you have room and want to add extra information about specific modules you took, go for it, but only if you think it will have some impact on the employer's decision to take your CV to the next step.

WATCH: Expert advice on creating the ideal CV layout.

Skills and achievements

This is where you include your technical and personal skills that relate to the role you’re applying for. It’s important to be honest in this section - if you list something as your skill, make sure you’re skilled in it. If you tell a lie about having a certain skill that is required on the job description, and they hire you and find out that you can’t do that important skill they need, chances are you won’t last very long or they may be nice and teach you.

Another tip to remember is that although your CV is a form of personal marketing and it’s important to demonstrate your skills for the role, but it doesn’t mean you have to oversell yourself or your skills. If you have the right skills and you portray them in the interview or assessment centre, it does the leg work for you.

Read: 5 ways to make your CV stand out and the 10 key career skills employers look for.

Photo or no photo?

Unless you’re applying for a modelling or acting role, there’s no reason for you to include a picture on your CV. Instead of using up valuable space for a photo (even if it’s you in your best dress), you can use that space for extra information an employer will care about. This could be some hobbies or interests outside of your career or education - this helps the employer imagine you in their team and decide whether you’d fit in with the company culture. 

Although it might be obvious to you that you have references to back you up, some employers still expect you to tell them that. Usually, a ‘references available on request’ note is sufficient as it’s quick, simple and tells them exactly what they want to know.

Read: 5 things to help build your CV while at university.

Not sure what you want to do? Find out with Career Path Test

If you're still on the fence about what career path you want to pursue, don't worry. Career Path Test matches you with sectors and roles that line up with your interests and values so you can go into a field you'll love.

How to make your CV robot friendly

The recruiting process has remained traditional over the years, but with the rise in technology, companies have found new ways to integrate technology into the recruitment process. Using AI for the CV part of the application process reduces the time recruiters need to spend reading CVs. 

Another way recruiters use robot technology to screen CVs is by using something called ATS (applicant tracking system). Similar to AI screenings, these bots are set up to look for specific parts or keywords used on your CV that relate to the job role or what the employer is looking for. Although the use of bot technology is fairly up-and-coming, there are tips you can follow to make sure your CV gets through:

  1. Don’t make your CV too fancy - keep it plain and simple with no symbols, pictures or anything unnecessary.
  2. Use standard and easy-to-read section headings, e.g. skills, education.
  3. Include keywords - it’s always a good idea to include keywords from the job description in your CV, but never stuff them or add them in for the sake of it.
  4. Spell out abbreviations - for example, if you’ve got your teaching PGCE, although it uses up space, write the whole word out.

Read more on why AI is reading your CV and what you can do about it

How long should my CV be?

The majority of graduate employers will ask for a one page CV, however, this is also considered an unspoken rule of thumb for the rest. Keeping ahead of the curve and providing your future employers with only the necessary information is your first step to boosting your job prospects. 

On the face of it, it seems a bit short-sighted of us to limit the amount you tell us. What if you have to miss off something vital just to keep it to an arbitrary side of A4? But it's not. It's all part of our mission to help you achieve your goals and get the job you want. You are the needle in a haystack as far as employers are concerned. To be found, you need to get as much relevant information before the recruiter’s eyes as possible.

A CV is much less about listing everything you've ever done of merit. Instead, it is a summary of your top achievements relevant to the role you're applying for. If your CV is clogged up with other stuff, recruiters in their haste will miss all the relevant reasons why you should be the one offered the job (or an interview at least). 

Read 10 things to consider when writing your CV.

CV Templates

We've compiled all the best knowledge from our team to bring you these templates for your CV - whichever sector you're applying to. Here are the CV templates to get your stand-out CV started.

General CV Template

We designed this to fit any category - you can tailor it to allow you to show your strengths effectively to any employer. If you're applying for a range of sectors, or one that isn't mentioned below, this is the one for you.  

Consulting CV Template

Tailored specifically for consulting internships and graduate roles. You'll learn the tips to make yours stand out from the crowd. 

Investment Banking CV Template

Investment Banking is the most popular career choice amongst our members and the industry attracts top talent from all over the world. As the calibre of students rises year after year in an academic arms race, it’s ever more important to make sure your CV stands out. 

Law CV Template

Your CV is essential when applying to leading Commercial Law firms as it will often be the first thing an employer sees. Our template will help you create a concise CV, which will give you a competitive edge when applying for leading Insight Programmes, Vacation Schemes and Training Contracts. When applying, law firms expect a CV of up to two pages.

If you are hesitating between several career options, take our career path test to find the career that matches your skills and personality.

Here are a few more articles which might help you write the perfect CV. 

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