Writing your CV

The word Curriculum Vitae literally translated means the story of your life and, career-wise is probably one of the most important documents that you will ever own. With it rest your hopes and dreams for the future – that next step up the career ladder, a better position, more money, new challenges, etc. Your CV, therefore, has to represent the best you have to offer.

Of course, your CV can continue to work in your favour even after it has obtained an interview for you.

It can help you at an interview by carefully focusing the interviewer’s mind on your good points and on your achievements. Once you have left the interview it will continue to work in your favour as the interviewer will probably reread it before making a decision, either on who should be invited to the second interview stage or who the job should be offered to.

As a starting point, you should gather together all of the information required below. You will probably not use all of this information in your CV but it will provide you with useful reference material when it comes to preparing for interviews. Remember though, this is a summary of your experience so please format the document to keep it within 2-3 pages maximum and ensure that the details are accurate and succinct.

Personal Details: 

Your full name, address, home telephone number, marital status and nationality (you may want to include this if you are applying for jobs abroad or if you are a British/EU national and your name does not sound British). Whether you have a driving license and if so what type it is and if it is a clean license


List your major skills, strengths, personal qualities and achievements. Be specific, e.g. good team player, excellent written skills, versatile, able to motivate others, etc. Look at your staff appraisals or at your references for indications of your specific strengths. Major skills or strengths may include reference to your chosen role and written correctly can add a punchy start to you CV, e.g. ″a tenacious PPC consultant with drive to succeed″, or ″a creative and imaginative web designer with…″

Education / Qualifications: 

List your qualifications and education history, for example: 
BSc (Hons) 2.2 in Biochemistry at the University of Warwick, 1980 – 1983. 
GCE A Levels: Maths [C], Biology [B], Chemistry [C] at Farnham School, 1978 – 1980. 
GCE O Levels (or GCSEs if you did them): 
Maths [B], English Language [C], History [C], Geography [C], French [C], Chemistry [C], Biology [C] at Farnham School, 1973 – 1978.
If you have a degree you probably will not need to list all your O Levels/GCSEs; just listing the number is usually sufficient.

Major Achievements: 

When you are listing your achievements in this section, only list three to six of your most important work achievements; your other achievements can be described under the work experience section. You should only list achievements which are relevant to your next job and indicate how you achieved them. 

This section is very important as an employer will only invite you for an interview if they can see a benefit in doing so. Your achievements may sell you to an employer and make them choose you for an interview rather than someone else. For this reason, it is vital that you think carefully about your achievements.

Work Experience: 

If you have been working for a number of years you probably do not need to include any part-time jobs, vacation jobs, voluntary work or unpaid work experience. Charity work could be included in your interests. However, you might want to include these jobs if they covered a period of unemployment or a time when you were not working for any other reason, or you feel that some of the experience you gained will be useful in your next job. You should normally concentrate on your two most recent jobs (unless you were only there for a short time), because employers are usually most interested in these, start with your most recent or last job and work backwards. For each position (treat internal promotion as a new job and record the dates separately) list your job title (e.g. Search Consultant, Copywriter, etc.), the job title of the person you reported to (e.g. IT Director, Development Manager, etc) and when you started and finished in each job. Give the name of the company and include a brief description of the service they provide (using the terms they would use to describe themselves).

Set out your main responsibilities, achievements, duties, and skills that could be transferred to another employer. Be specific and positive about your skills, e.g. ‘good written skills’ may be a better description of your abilities rather than ‘good communication skills’.
Include your level of responsibility if any, e.g. ‘responsibility for departmental budget of £100K and managed 10 staff’. In particular list any achievements you had in each position, including increases in sales/productivity and cost savings made.

Quantify your achievements if possible. ‘Increased sales by £100K’ is more interesting and positive than just saying ‘increased sales’. You should try to include some achievements such as meeting deadlines, budgets, etc, and any information that may be relevant to your next job.

Other Experience: 

If you have foreign language skills which may be relevant for any jobs which you are applying for, please list them and indicate whether your skills are spoken, written, business or technical. Please also indicate your level of fluency: fluent, good working knowledge, etc. You should only list these skills if they are relevant to the jobs you are applying for, that is don’t talk about a basic French-language course you did at school a long time ago.

Professional Qualifications: 

List your professional qualifications.

Training Courses: 

List any work-related training courses which you have attended, including company courses and any courses that you attended voluntarily for self-development. If you obtained a qualification on any course please list it. You only need to list the important courses you attended; no one really wants to know if you went on a time management course because the majority of employees are sent on this type of course.

Interests / Hobbies: 

List your interests, hobbies and any sports you play. List any positions of responsibility you hold or have held in any club or organisation, and say what your responsibilities and achievements were.


You do not normally need to list referees on a CV (just state that they are available upon request) but it is a good idea to think about who you could ask to provide a reference now.


Remember to use a sensible font, make sure there is some white space on your CV to make the document, clear and inviting to read. For design and related vacancies don’t forget to provide URLs for review (or a portfolio site)

Share this post