27th January 2019
This guide is taken from the Know How Library, a tool on the Unifrog platform. Not sure whether to take the ACT or the SAT? Or how to give the perfect Oxbridge practice interview? The Know How Library is an easily searchable library of 100s of expert guides for both students and teachers, covering every aspect of the progression process. It is included as standard for Unifrog partner schools.
Your CV is often the first thing about you that an employer will see. First impressions really do count; it’s essential you present a clear and professional CV so your application isn’t simply thrown onto the ‘no’ pile. Here are 5 tips to help make your CV successful.
- Be professional
Remember you’re trying to convince an employer that you will be an asset to their organisation. An email address like firstname.lastname@example.org is not going to achieve this - create a new email address for your applications if needed.
In general, your CV should include:
- Contact information
- This is so that employers can get in touch with you. Include an email, telephone number and address.
- Work history and experience
- This is where you explain what responsibilities you've had (and what you've learnt from them)
- Here you can give details of your formal qualifications
- Hobbies and interests
- This is the place to discuss anything else that makes you a well-rounded candidate.
- 'References available on request' shows that you know responsible people who will vouch for you. Leave this line at the end of your CV. Once you've sent your CV to employers, they can ask you to pass them the contact details of your referees.
Your CV should not include:
- Your age
- Your employer is not allowed to ask your age unless it directly affects your job, for example, checking that you are old enough to work in a bar. It’s usually best to leave this out to avoid any chances of age discrimination.
- A photo
- Generally photos are not included on CVs. There might be times when you do include one but this will normally be clearly stated and is commonly for jobs such as acting.
It’s essential that your CV is structured in a clear and logical way. This will help make the employer’s job as easy as possible, as well as demonstrating that you are capable of organising information. Use headings such as ‘Employment History’ and ‘Education’ to make your CV easy to follow.
Think about how you’ve ordered your CV – the upper middle area of the first page is where the reader's eye will naturally fall, so make sure you include your most important and relevant information there. Low priority content (such as your hobbies and interests) should be reserved for the end. Most people tend to order their achievements chronologically, starting with the most recent, but if you have experience really relevant to a role, you might want to start with this first.
Consistency is key - make sure your headings match and that your text is correctly aligned. Stick to a size 10-12 font in a clear script. Check whether the page looks too crowded, and that any page breaks fall appropriately in the text. Use Unifrog’s CV Builder to structure the document in a uniform and professional format.
Check - and check again. This seems basic but you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of spelling and grammar. It will appear that you don’t care about the job if your CV is full of sloppy errors. Ask a friend or family member to check it for you, read it through aloud and review each word to ensure it is all correct.
It’s a good idea to save your CV as a PDF to ensure that your formatting stays the same when opened on different devices. Remember to save your CV with a title that includes your name, so it is easy for the employer to find.
- Keep it brief
A good CV is clear, concise and makes all the necessary points without waffling. You don't need to give pages of detail; if an employer is interested they will ask for further explanation at an interview. Consider using bullet points to streamline information. Keep your CV to two sides of A4 maximum and be brutal in your editing.
- Tailor the CV to the job
Create a unique CV for every job you apply for. You don't have to rewrite the whole thing, just adapt the details so they're relevant. If your CV seems too generic then it gives the impression that you’re lazy or uninterested in the job.
Try to establish what the job entails and the key skills required. This information is normally available in the advertisement or job description. Consider your jobs, experiences, achievements and even hobbies to see how you can use them to demonstrate that you match each core requirement or skill. The Unifrog CV Builder allows you to keep your achievements and work experience on file. You can choose which points to include at the click of a button, which makes tailoring your CV much easier.
“In my role as a receptionist for a local hairdresser, I learnt excellent customer service skills both in person and over the telephone.”
“As well as teaching me how to manage my time effectively, starring in my theatre company’s performance this term has developed my confidence in public speaking.”
It's a good idea to review your CV on a regular basis and add any new skills or experiences after every new career development or notable achievement in your job. In this way, when you come to apply for a job, you will find yourself prepared with all the relevant information, rather than desperately trying to remember a distant work experience placement or exactly what your involvement was in the big sales project last year.
- Be assertive
This is your chance to sell yourself to an employer so don’t be afraid to highlight your achievements. Use assertive and positive language such as "developed", "organised" or "achieved" and remember to claim your achievements as your own, using ‘I’ rather than ‘we’.
Instead of: I helped lead the team and we were lucky enough to be given first place
Try: I was responsible for the team; under my leadership, we achieved first place.
- Be interesting
The ‘hobbies and interests’ section of your CV is not simply something to fill up space - it’s another valuable chance to sell yourself. Avoid including passive interests like watching TV or playing video games. Instead, mention activities which have helped you develop skills or learn something new.
Instead of: I really like reading
Try: I enjoy reading, particularly historical novels that focus on Victorian England.