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Key steps for creating a CV How to write a CV (curriculum vitae)

Aim to create a ‘master’ CV which includes a range of skills, qualities and achievements which you can then tailor and adapt to specific vacancies you're applying for.

Gather information

Gather together the core information that you’ll need to populate your CV. For example dates of study, your qualifications, dates of employment, voluntary work (employers are more interested in the skills gained than whether you've got a salary) and your contact details. You can summarise less recent and less relevant jobs if you're struggling to keep to two pages, for example 1985–1992 a variety of temporary clerical jobs in the High Wycombe area. Just make sure you don't leave any chronological gaps.

Always try to equate any unfamiliar qualifications to A levels or GCSEs, just so the employer has a rough idea of their level. For information about the equivalence of less familiar qualifications, see What qualification levels mean on GOV.UK.

Choose the right type of CV

Choose the most appropriate format of CV for the job you're applying for or for your circumstance. See Choose the right type of CV.

Draft a Personal Profile (or Career Summary)

This section is one of the most important aspects of your CV. It’s where you give an overview of who you are and inject a touch of personality. Tailor it to every job you apply for, highlighting specific qualities that match you to the role. Aim to keep your personal statement short, no longer than a few sentences. Write in the third person, for example, ‘A natural sciences graduate, with over 10 years’ experience in the environmental conservation sector’ instead of ‘I am a natural sciences graduate’.

To make the most of this section, you should try to address the following:

  • your key strengths and attributes
  • a summary of your experience and brief details of achievements or results relevant to the role
  • your career goals.

Use clear and positive language

Incorporate key words and phrases that appear in the job specification. Avoid general phrases and clichés such as ‘I work well as part of a team and on my own initiative’.

Be concise

Organise the content so your CV is no more than two sides of A4. Try to include a brief ‘Personal Profile’ at the start, and make sure your relevant experience and qualifications are prominent. Highlight key information with headings and bullet points. Minimum font size would be Arial 10, Calibri 11 or similar. Sans-serif fonts are the easiest to read.

Review and proofread your CV

Have you given enough prominence to the experience or qualifications that the potential employer is looking for? As a rule, the first two thirds of the front page should show how you meet their needs.

Check the CV for accuracy, grammar and spelling. Ask someone who knows you to look over it or ask the OU Careers Team to review it. If you know someone who works in the same sector, their views could be really valuable.

Tailor your CV for the job you are applying for

Draw on your most relevant skills or experience, giving brief and specific examples that demonstrate your qualities and achievements. Identify how your contribution made a difference and what added value it offered.

As a general rule, if the information is not relevant to the needs of the employer as specified in the person specification then do not include it in your application. This is not the entire story of your life, just the parts that are relevant to that employer.

Last updated 4 months ago