CV tips

Your CV (curriculum vitae) creates the first impression a prospective employer will obtain of you.

Writing a CV can be a controversial subject; if you ask any two people their idea of a perfect CV you will invariably get two totally different responses, which is why we have provided you with a lengthy selection of suggestions, examples and tips to help you prepare and present the CV possible that suits you and your career to date.

Aim of your CV

Firstly, always remember that your CV is a sales and marketing tool. It is your advert that documents your experience and skills with the all-important objective of getting an interview. It has to:

  • Highlight the skills and experience that make you a suitable candidate for the job
  • Interest the reader enough to want to know more and therefore invite you for interview
  • But you must not overload your CV with too much information.

There are a few basic rules to follow that almost every personnel professional agrees on.

Your CV should be:

  • Well presented
  • Interesting
  • Quick and easy to read
  • Truthful (It is our advice that you should never be tempted to lie on a CV)

Your CV will continue to work as a sales and marketing tool even if you get an interview. It can direct the interviewer(s) towards your achievements and skills prior to, and during the interview. It is also very likely that the interviewer will make notes on your CV during the interview and reread your CV and their notes before deciding who to appoint. If your CV suitably highlights the skills and experience they are looking for it could help you move on to the second stage or even get the job.
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Getting started

Before writing you CV you need to decide which format will best represent you in the job market.

The 4 main types of CV's

  • Performance CV
  • Functional CV
  • Targeted CV
  • Student/Graduate CV

Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The Performance CV is the best option for most people, however if you are seeking to change career or find that a Performance CV is not suitable for any other reason then you may wish to consider the Functional CV or Targeted CV.

Remember you can change the order of sections and include or exclude any sections as you feel will best work for you. These CV's are just design suggestions to help you.

For advice on how to write each of the sections in the CV please see CV Sections.

Performance CV

In this format emphasis is placed on employment history, including job titles, companies, responsibilities and achievements in a professional capacity.

This CV is most useful for those who:

  • Are seeking employment within the same field as previous experience
  • Want to highlight their professional achievements such as promotions
  • Want the names of their employers and their duties to be clearly evidenced

It is not suitable if:

  • You want a change in career
  • You have frequently changed employer or not stayed in a job for a great period of time
  • You have been out of work for periods of time for any reason
  • Your achievements are not in line with the career you wish to pursue now

What to include

  • Profile
    3 to 6 functional headings.
    Select headings that are appropriate to the new position you are applying for You should have 2 to 5 bullet points under each heading evidencing your experience and skills
  • Achievements
  • Employment history
  • Professional Qualifications and Training
  • Education and Qualifications
  • Personal Details
  • Hobbies and Interests

Functional CV

This format picks out your responsibilities and achievements across your whole career. Individual employers are less important as the emphasis lies on the skills gained in general.

This CV is most suitable for those who:

  • are planning to change career or direction
  • want to emphasise skills that were not utilised in their most recent jobs
  • have had a large number of jobs, perhaps in different fields, and wish to describe skills and experience across their career as a whole
  • want to include voluntary/unpaid employment
  • have been out of work for periods of time for any reason

It is not suitable if:

  • you want to highlight achievements and career growth in a particular job
  • you have been doing similar work and therefore have few varied skills to pick out

What to include:

  • Profile
    3 to 6 functional headings.
    Select headings that are appropriate to the new position you are applying for You should have 2 to 5 bullet points under each heading evidencing your experience and skills
  • Professional Qualifications and Training
  • Education and Qualifications
  • Personal Details
  • Hobbies and Interests

Targeted CV

This CV highlights skills and experience most suitable to a specific job target. It is appropriate for those trying to make a decisive career change.

This CV is most suitable for those who:

  • Are planning to change career or direction
  • Want to emphasise skills that were not utilised in their most recent jobs
  • Have had a large number of jobs, perhaps in different fields, and wish to describe skills and experience across their career as a whole
  • Want to include voluntary/unpaid employment
  • Have been out of work for periods of time for any reason
  • Have several different job targets and need to create a distinctive CV for each one

Have several different job targets and need to create a distinctive CV for each one

  • You want to highlight achievements and career growth in a particular job

What to include:

  • Profile
  • Key Skills - select skills that are appropriate to the new position you are applying
  • Achievements
  • Employment History
  • Employment History

A targeted CV is best kept on one sheet of A4

Alternative CV

This CV is only suitable for creative careers, e.g. writing, advertising, fashion design.

This format is a huge gamble. The basic idea is to create a totally original idea that reflects the nature of the career you are applying for, e.g. for Advertising creating an advert with the applicant as the product.

The purpose of this type of CV is to demonstrate talent and creativity using the design of the CV itself. It can be an excellent way to stand out from the crowd, but if the employer doesn't share your creative vision then it could backfire immensely.

Student / Graduate CV

The main purpose of this CV is to highlight your academic achievements and any activities or vacation work you have been involved in that is appropriate to the job you are applying for.

It is suitable for those who:

  • Have recently left education
  • Are applying for their first full-time job
  • Wish to include vacation and part-time work

It is not suitable if:

  • You want to focus on previous employment
  • You have not completed a course and therefore not attained the qualification

What to include

  • Profile
  • Achievements - at this stage in your career you may not have any achievements that would suitably be included in this section so you may wish to leave it out.
  • Education and Qualifications - you may wish to list modules that you studied as part of your degree that are particularly relevant to the job you are applying for
  • Work Experience
  • Employment History
  • Personal Details
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • References


Presentation is one of the most important things to consider when writing a CV, Your CV needs to attract the reader's attention and make information quick and easy to find.

  • Always type your CV
  • Always use a word processor. Never use a typewriter as you will look old-fashioned and out of date
  • Use a clear font such as Arial, stick to 10-12pt
  • Stick to bright white paper
  • Use a good quality printer such as a laser printer
  • Use plenty of 'white space'
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Make you sentences short and punchy
  • Use appropriate headings and section breaks
  • Use bold for headings - lots of underlining and italics can look distracting
  • Use bullet points to break up the text under headings

Length of your CV

Your CV should be a maximum of 2 pages of A4. A CV will only get about 2 minutes reading on a first trawl, you need your skills and experience to stand out and not get lost in a lot of waffle. The employer needs just enough information to decide whether to interview you or not.

Below is a list of sections that you can include in your CV. Check against you selected format and the example CVs below to decide which are the most appropriate for you.

Remember you don't have to stick rigidly to your selected format. There is no right or wrong way just the way that best works for you. Here are suggestions of some or all of the headings that we advise should be included:

  • Personal Details
  • Education and Qualifications
  • Employment History
  • Professional Qualifications and Training
  • Work Experience/Unpaid Employment
  • Other Relevant Experience/Skills
  • IT Skills
  • Languages
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • References
  • Profile
  • Key Skills

You do not have to include pictures unless specifically asked to do so.

Personal Details

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact telephone numbers (home, work, mobile)
  • Email
  • Date of Birth
  • Driving License and whether it is clean
  • Nationality (if you are applying abroad)

It is unnecessary to put marital status and gender.

Education and Qualifications

List you education and qualifications in reverse chronological order (the most recent first), including grades and dates. For example:

  • BSc (Hons) Physics, 2.2, University of Birmingham, 1997-2000
  • GCE A Levels: Physics (A), Chemistry (A), Maths (A), Hertfordshire School, 1995-1997
  • GCSEs: Physics (A), Chemistry (A), Maths (A), Biology (B), English (B), Geography (B), French (B), History (C), Hertfordshire School, 1993-1995

It is unnecessary to put:

Individual subjects studied at GCSE if you have gone on to obtain a degree, just listing the number and grades achieved will be sufficient

  • University and school addresses
  • A Level and GCSE exam boards
  • Minor qualifications, you can list these elsewhere

You may wish to list modules that you studied as part of your university degree if they are particularly relevant to the position you are applying for.

Employment History

Concentrate on your two most recent jobs as these are the ones the employer will be most interested in.
Start with you most recent position. You should include:

  • Your job title (e.g. Manager, Supervisor etc.)
  • The job title of the person you reported to
  • The dates of you employment
  • The name of the company
  • A brief description of the service provided by the company
  • Your main responsibilities, achievements, duties and skills

Remember to give examples to back up skills and experience. Choose examples that are most appropriate to the new position you are applying for.

Professional Qualifications and Training

If you have any other relevant qualifications or qualifications you gained while in employment that are relevant to the new position then list these in a separate section.

  • List all professional qualifications
  • Membership to any professional bodies and professional ID numbers
  • Work related training courses
  • Company courses

Work Experience / Unpaid Employment

This will be particularly important if you are at the beginning of your career and don't have an extensive employment history yet.

If you have done work experience in a company that has a similar service or product to that which you are applying for:

  • Explain your responsibilities
  • Detail skills and knowledge that you acquired

Other relevant Experience / Skills

Again this will be most important to those who have not been working for very long.


  • Part-time jobs
  • Vacation work
  • Charity work, but only if it is relevant to the position you are applying for, otherwise include this in the Hobbies and Interests section
  • Any other appropriate skills you have acquired through means other than academic work or employment
  • Membership of student committees, organising social events, involvement in the wider community, etc. You could put these under a separate "Responsibilities" heading if appropriate

IT Skills

IT skills are becoming increasingly important in almost every job and workplace so it is a good idea to list any skills that you have in a separate section:

  • Make and type of equipment you are familiar with
  • Software and operating system used (e.g. Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows XP etc.)
  • Typing speed (in words per minute, you would normally be tested for this when registering with a recruitment agency)


If it is appropriate to the job for which you are applying then list your skills in any foreign languages. State whether they are written, spoken business or technical and indicate your level of fluency, for example: fluent, good working knowledge, etc.
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Hobbies and Interests

Not everyone agrees on whether hobbies and interests should be included on a CV. Some argue that it just uses up valuable space and the fact that you starred in the Marlow Amateur Dramatics Society production of 'Evita' has very little bearing on your ability to perform well in the given position. On the other hand others say that your interests say a lot about your personality and how you might fit into the company.

If you do decide to include your hobbies and interests:

  • Be specific, don't just say "drama" or "football" include more information e.g. I am a keen footballer and play regularly for my local Sunday league team
  • List any positions of responsibility you hold or held in a club or organisation
  • Explain your achievements and any relevant skills gained

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There is no need to name references on your CV merely state that "references are available on request".

But you should decide before you send your CV who will act as your references and obtain their permission

If you are writing a Student/Graduate CV you should aim for one academic and one other referee. These should be included on your CV


This often appears at the beginning of a CV. It summarises experience, skills and ambitions. A profile is most appropriate for people in mid-career, however anyone can use one and it is a good way to attract the attention of the reader and explain straightaway what it is that you are capable of and what you are looking for in a career.

Your Profile should be contained within four to six lines and only list those skills that are appropriate to your next employer

For example:
Highly motivated Office Manager with five years experience in administration. Able to work on own initiative and as part of a team. Proven leadership and communication skills, involving organising, managing and developing office administration team to achieve their objectives. Exceptional computer, writing and numeracy skills.

Key Skills

Again it is not necessary to include a Key Skills section unless you feel that it is particularly appropriate. You can use your covering letter to draw together your capabilities that are evidenced across your employment history, experience etc.

However, a Key Skills section can reinforce to the employer your suitability and capability for the position and may increase your chances of being invited to interview.

If you do include a Key Skills section:

  • Choose 4 or 5 key skills
  • Make sure that they are appropriate to the position for which you are applying
  • Explain each one briefly providing practical examples
  • Be careful not to oversell yourself

Gaps in Chronology

Remember when writing your CV that missing months (or even years) may be viewed with suspicion by a potential employer. If you have taken a career break for any reason, for travelling or to bring up a family for example, then remember to include it.

Keeping your CV Up-to-Date

Through the course of a year, be it in study, recreation or employment, you will experience a variety of new things and acquire many new skills. It is much easier to take a little time to update your CV every month rather than trying to remember what training you did on one day eight months ago. Preparing you CV will always be easier if you are updating and tailoring an existing CV rather than starting from scratch!

Email applications

Applying for a job by email is one of the fastest and most effective ways to send a CV. But there are a few things to bear in mind before you press 'Send'.

Make sure that you have a professional sounding email address, may sound impressive to your friends but it is unlikely to receive the same positive response from a potential employer

  • It is well worth creating a more serious address, even if it only for the purpose of applications
  • In the subject line of your email clearly state that it is an application and which position you are applying for. This means that your email can be more quickly and effectively dealt with.
  • Be careful not to adopt too personal a tone in your email. Remember that you are making a professional application and your tone should reflect that.
  • Make sure attachments are easily accessible. Stick to .txt or .doc (Notepad or MS Word) formats to ensure that your CV can be received and readable.

Your can use your email as your covering letter or attach a separate covering letter. If you choose to treat it as a covering letter remember that it should be written in the format laid out in How to Write a Covering Letter

We have also prepared a large section on click here for help with the process of applying to Jobs online
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Example CV's

Performance CV

Performance CV

Michael Jacob Smith

34 Hedge Road, Crossley
Norfolk, NR6 7GH
Tel: xxxxx 675463


A focused and enthusiastic Business Development Manager with extensive experience in Marketing. Excellent budgeting, financial planning and resource management skills. Proven track record in identifying areas for profitable, accessible and serviceable growth. Able to work within a team or on own initiative.


  • Saved the company £10,000 a year by identifying a new legal area for development in marketing of Grayson products
  • Increased sales by 45% through approaching and courting major clients through to transaction closure
  • Solved resource problems through forging links with overseas suppliers

Employment history:

1996 - Present

Grayson UK Ltd.

Senior Business Development Manager

  • Grayson UK Ltd. design and manufacture an extensive range of high performance structured cabling connectivity and cable distribution products to clients in the UK and internationally
  • Managing all aspects of business development for Grayson UK Ltd. reporting directly to the Management Board
  • Responsible for identifying new growth opportunities in support of the company's overall objectives
  • Managing company budgets and resources
  • Managing a team of 15 people, assigning tasks and motivating them to meet deadlines and targets


1994 - 1996

Business Development Manager
  • Performed Market audits within the company
  • Identified potential clients and prepared briefs to present to the Senior Business Development Manager
  • Acted as Lead on all UK sales opportunities

Professional qualifications:

Various courses including Grayson BCC12 Company Auditing and Budgeting, Time management and Report Writing.

Education and qualifications:

  • BSc. (Hons) 2.1 in Mathematics, The University of Leeds, 1988 - 1990
  • A levels: Mathematics (A), Economics (B), Physics (B), St. Brown's School, 1985 - 1987
  • GCSEs: 7 Grade A, 2 Grade B, St. Brown's School, 1983 - 1885

Personal details

Date of Birth: 12th January 1969
Driving License: Full, clean

Hobbies and interests:

  • Play football for a local team, Captain 2000 - 2002
  • Attend the theatre

References are available upon request.

Funtional CV

Example - Funtional CV


34 Hedge Road, Crossley
Norfolk, NR6 7GH
Tel: xxxxx 675463


A hard working and committed administrator with experience in all aspects of Human Resources. Able to use own initiative and work as part of a team. An effective communicator with an excellent telephone manner. Proactive in identifying opportunities for improving processes. Ability to work accurately and competently under pressure. Computer literate.


  • Handling all communications to the company, including telephone, email and fax. Following up enquiries made by members of the public
  • Compiling and preparing reports for various departments across the company
  • Computer skills, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and MS Outlook
  • Undertaking diary management for department
  • Responsible for creating and maintaining hard copy and electronic filing systems


  • Administering the company's pay policy
  • Liasing with heads of department to devise and implement incentive schemes for employees to increase productivity
  • Generating contracts of employment and associated documentation for new or promoted staff
  • Monitoring and processing new starter documentation
  • Completion of all leavers' procedures and completion of employment reference requests for ex-employees


  • Creating effective training programmes for employees in conjunction with heads of department, including IT skills and Health and Safety
  • Finding and appointing external tutors for specialist training courses
  • Conducting induction programmes for new employees


  • BA (Hons) 2.1 in English Literature and Language from the University of Salford, 1993 - 1997
  • A levels: English (B), Politics (B), History (C), Moss Town School, 1991 - 1993
  • GCSEs: 3 grade A, 5 grade B, St. Mary's School, 1989 - 1991


Date of Birth: 22nd June 1975


Available on request.

Targeted CV

Example - Targeted CV

John Madison

131 Dawley Road, Five Oaks
Birmingham, B19 2JH
Telephone : xxxx 453720
Email :


A self-motivated Sales Executive with a wide range of experience in electronics and manufacturing. Able to work on own initiative or as part of a team. Proven leadership skills, including managing and motivating teams to achieve company objectives and targets. Extensive knowledge of financial implications of developing technologies and techniques.


  • Managing strategic leadership of start up company
  • Formulating and driving the business plan across all market areas
  • Business Development including face to face presentations, pitching for business and closing the sale
  • Managing all aspects of the commercial performance of the business
  • Developing growth strategies validating the initial patented technology in a wide range of market areas as well as developing further technologies that provide significant customer benefits


  • Created a budget including forecasts and pricing that saved £150,000 in overall running costs of well-known manufacturing company
  • Increased productivity of company that improved overall commercial performance
  • Achieved professional accreditation for Sales Department through designing and implementing a quality assured business strategy


1997 - pres.

Crespo Manufacturing Ltd
Sales Executive


1993 - 1997

Titan Technology
Junior Sales Executive


  • BCom 2.2 in Business Studies, The University of Birmingham, 1988 - 1991
  • A levels: Economics (A), Maths (B), Chemistry (B), Five Oaks Grammar, 1985 - 1987
  • GCSEs: 7 grade A, 2 grade B, Five Oaks Grammar, 1983 - 1985


Date of Birth: 1st December 1969
Driving license: Full, clean

Student / Graduate CV

Example - Student / Graduate CV


76 Farthing Avenue, Oxhey
Middx, HA7 5TR
Tel: xxxxx 874632


A Business and German graduate who is keen to find a position in an accountancy firm. Hardworking and reliable with excellent interpersonal skills. Ability to quickly assimilate information and practically apply in a variety of situations. Fluent in English and German and numerate with excellent IT skills. Able to work individually or as part of a team.


2000 - 2003

BA 1st in Business and German (Joint Honours), University of Manchester
Subjects studied:
  • Business German
  • Computer Studies
  • Business Finance
  • Personal Finance


1998 - 2000

A levels: Business Studies (A), German (A), Maths (B), Oxhey School for Girls


1996 - 1998

GCSEs: 1 grade A*, 7 grade A, 2 grade B


German: Fluent written, spoken and business

Summer 2002 Hurst and Smith Inc.
Shadowing a senior partner in a large firm of accountants

  • Assisted the Senior Partner with audits on companies under contract
  • Sat in on meetings with clients from large companies
  • Assisted with German speaking clients to agree terms and conditions of accounts



2000 - 2002

TaraGirl - Sales Assistant (Part-time)
  • Handled sales and customer enquiries
  • Carried out stock take and pricing
  • Counted tills and kept accurate records of sales for the day


Date of birth: 13th May 1982
Driving License: Full, clean

Abseiling and rock climbing - Treasurer of ROCK, the University of Manchester Climbing Society
Netball - Vice Captain of the university Second Team


Dr Marvin Smythe,
Department of Commerce,
University of Manchester,
Manchester, M45 7TL
Telephone : xxxxx 239364

Mr Julian Hurst,
Hurst and Smith Limited,
Oxhey House,
76 High Street,
Oxhey, HA7 2DG
Telephone : xxxxx 384687