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CVs: an overview: Key steps for creating a CV

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

A seven-point plan to prepare a winning CV

1 Gather information

Gather together the core information that you’ll need to populate your CV: dates of study and your qualifications, dates of employment, voluntary work and your core contact details.

2 Format

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

3 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 and sweet, and 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.

4 Use clear and positive language

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

5 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 easier on the eye.

6 Review and check 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 it for accuracy, grammar and spelling. Ask someone who knows you to look over this or ask an OU Careers Adviser to review it. If you know someone who works in the same sector, their views could be really valuable.

7 Tailor your content for each job application

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.

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