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Writing a CV

Published on: 11 Feb 2009

The Basic Rules

How to write a good CV - the basic rules.

Your CV is your passport to your interview. Its sole objective is to sell you and your skills to a prospective employer enough that they want to meet you in person. It is not an autobiography. Stick to clear and concise information about what you have achieved.

Employers have to make decisions inviting candidates for interview on what they see. You will also be judged on your presentation of your CV as well the content.

Basic Rules:

1. Type or word process your CV. If you print a copy, use good quality paper. Try and stick to one type font throughout the CV and also use the same font in your covering letter.
2. No more than two pages - Employers look for enough information to invite you to interview. If you cannot convey relevant information in two pages, they probably won’t take the time to read any further.
3. No need to write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top – it will be perfectly obvious what it is.
4. At the top of your CV, always include :

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact Tel Numbers (Inc. Mobile)
  • Email Address
  • Nationality /  UK Visa Staus

You cannot be contacted if there is no contact details on your CV! Simple we know, but you would be amazed at how many people miss this!

Education & Employment History:

Depending on your individual employment / work history will determine what areas to focus on.

Graduates to 2 years work experience:

Education History:

Your education status is current and your work experience may be limited. Begin this section of your CV on your academic qualifications.

Detail your education and qualifications in a clear format, emphasising your highest qualification. Always include:

  • Qualification gained
  • Dates of Study (Years only)
  • University / College name
  • Highlight good grades

You may also want to bullet point any particular areas or modules you studied during the course which will help communicate your areas of knowledge and skill to a prospective employer.

Always detail your education in chronological order.

Work Experience:

If you are a graduate with limited employment history, highlight any work experience you have gained. Only include work experience relevant to the industry you are seeking to work in. No need to bulk your CV out for the sake of it!

If there is a gap in between your education and work history due to travelling, always include this as a stage of your history.

Lay out your employment history in chronological order with your most recent employment first. Use bold type to highlight the name of the employer and position to distinguish each position.

Basic Rules: 

Always include:

  • Date’s of employment (months & years)
  • Company’s name
  • Job title

There should always be an accompanying paragraph with a brief description of the role, responsibilities and duties. In particular, highlighting:

  • Projects worked on - try and quantify projects by size or cost, it gives the prospective employer an indication of the projects you worked on if.
  • Skills you developed in your role– always highlight any managerial experience.
  • Key achievements - ie. Projects you worked on completing ahead of schedule, on budget etc.
  • If you have worked on a contract basis, ensure that this is clearly stated next to the Date’s of Employment.

2 - 10 Years Employment History:

Apply the basic rules as above. However, as your experience spans a longer period of time, you need to focus more on your employment history, rather than academic qualifications.

Education History:

Simply list the qualifications you have - keep detail to a minimum. List place of study and dates. If you have obtained any professional qualification during your employment history, ensure that this is at the top of the qualifications.

Employment History:List your employment history in chronological order, beginning with the most recent.
Focus on displaying your career progression through promotion or more challenging work.

If you have any gaps in your employment history, for example travelling or redundancy etc. make sure you state why there is a gap in your employment history.

Focus on key duties, responsibilities and achievements in each position. If you have only held one or two positions in your employment history, this is your chance to give more detail.

10+ Years Employment History:

After a long employment history, education qualifications become less important as you have achieved your employment status through experience and hard work. Therefore, include academic and professional qualifications after your employment history.

Focus on the last 5 years of employment and what you have achieved. If you have management experience, focus on what or who you have managed and any strategies you have implemented.

If you have a long and varied career with many positions, highlight the last key positions and then simply list all other positions – no need any major detail about your early career.

Other information to include:


  • Only list referees and their contact details if they have agreed to provide references for you.
  • If you do not wish prospective employers to contact referees without your permission, state it clearly at the bottom of the CV.

Hobbies / Interests:

  • Whilst outside work interests sometimes gives an employer a better insight into the applicant, an employer will not offer you an interview simply because you both happen to support the same football team!
  • Only list hobbies or interests if you have enough space. If you do include hobbies or interest, keep it a simple list and remember, whilst you may find making rabbit hutches out of paper mache interesting, others may not share your enthusiasm.


With the increase in digital technology, more and more people are using photographs to accompany their CV’s. Whilst it is sometimes nice to see what potential employees may look like, you as a candidate never know who will be reading and making a decision on your CV. You want them to invite you for interview based on your skills and experience, you do not want to be discounted for the position simply because the employer doesn’t like the look of you. Keep the CV simple and ditch the photograph.

Covering letter:

A covering letter (or covering email if you are sending your CV by electronic format) introduces you and most importantly states which position you are applying for, quoting a reference number if applicable. Remember that many employers are recruiting for numerous positions at any one time, you need to make sure that your CV is looked at for the correct position.

No amount of badgering an employer will make them give you an interview.