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Writing a CV

You don’t have to be Shakespeare………………………

Two pages?
What CV layout should I use?
Do I need a covering letter? 

There is no perfect way to write your CV, but it should be easy to read and understand, and presented using the basic framework set out below.

It is important that your CV creates a positive first impression and gets you that “foot in the door” opportunity to spend some time with the recruiting line manager at a formal interview. 

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What information should a CV include?

  • Personal details, including address, email address and telephone number. 
  • Education and qualifications. Take care to include the names of institutions and dates attended in reverse order; university before school results.
  • Work experience; the most widely accepted style of employment record is the chronologically reverse date order, starting with most recent.
  • Describe your current/past employers; who are they, what do they do, what is their marketplace, how many locations, number of employees etc.
  • Achievements and responsibilities are listed against each role. More emphasis/information should be put on more recent jobs.
  • An additional page listing your achievements and experience to date can be useful and can be tailored, especially when responding to a specific advert.
  • Skills - Include computer skills and (genuine) foreign language skills and any other recent training/development that is relevant to the role applied for.
  • Hobbies and interests - keep this section short.
  • Referees - these can simply be ‘available on request'.

General Tips

  • Your CV should be laser-printed in black ink using a plain typeface, on good quality A4 white/cream paper. Decorative borders are not necessary, nor are photographs of yourself.
  • Ensure the content is clear, structured, concise and relevant, using bullet points rather than full sentences can help minimise word usage.
  • The completed CV needs to be checked carefully for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes and to ensure that it makes sense. Ask a third party to review the whole document before it is sent out.
  • Remember when writing and structuring your CV, that it is essentially marketing you and that a potential employer will use the details provided to form interview questions. It should be clear and easy to read. Gaps in career history should be explained and falsehoods and inaccuracies avoided at all costs.
  • There is no reason to include your reasons for leaving each job on your CV but be prepared to answer these questions in your interview.
  • Salary details should not be included.
  • A good covering letter should always accompany your CV.  

How to write your CV covering letter

When responding to an advertised job vacancy, whether via letter, email or fax, you should always include a CV covering letter. Treat it as a vital part of your personal marketing literature, which merits attention and consideration. 

A cover letter introduces you and your CV and is your first chance to make a good impression on your potential employer. Aim to make it entice the reader to take those few extra minutes to consider you against other applicants. Your CV should not be sent without one! 

Below are some basic guidelines to help ensure you receive a positive response from your initial contact

  • Appearance and layout - ensure your letter is neatly and clearly presented with no grammatical or spelling errors. Emails should be written in a common font with standard formatting and should emulate a handwritten letter in terms of style.
  • Content - the content of your cover letter should be brief and structured, avoid lengthy repetition of information covered in your CV. Unlike a CV, it is acceptable to write a covering letter in the first person.

In particular:

  • Your letter should address the relevant contact, whose name often appears in the job advert.  Avoid Sir or Madam if possible.
  • If you are replying to an advert, say so, mention job title, any reference number and where and when you saw it.
  • In some cases, an advert will indicate that a more substantial letter is required. Always follow a specific instruction and include any information if it is particularly requested, for example, current salary.
  • Briefly outline your current situation and why you are seeking change. 
  • Tell the potential employer a little about themselves to demonstrate you have properly read the advert and that you have done some research into the organisation. Also, state why you are interested in them as an employer
  • You need to succinctly emphasise why an employer may want to meet and employ you. Highlight your transferable skills, achievements and versatility; what you can contribute and what makes you different. Mention personality traits relevant to the role applied for, taking care not to appear too subjective.
  • Ensure that your CV covering letter flows freely and does not slavishly match every point on the job description. The reader should be left with an overall impression that you are a potentially valuable addition to the workforce.
  • Negative information of any sort should be avoided in your covering letter as well as in your CV.

Close your letter with a polite expression of interest in further dialogue with the recruiter. Do mention that you would like the opportunity to discuss your suitability further at an interview and that you await a response in due course.