Directorate of Career

How to write a successful CV

What is a CV?

Curriculum Vitae: an outline of a person's educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications (L, lit.: the course of one's life). Another name for a CV is a résumé.

When should a CV be used?

  • When an employer asks for applications to be received in this format.
  • When an employer simply states "apply to ..." without specifying the format.
  • When making speculative applications (when writing to an employer who has not advertised a vacancy but who you hope may have one).
  • What information should a CV include?

    What are the most important aspects of CV that you look for?

    One survey of employers found that the following aspects were most looked for 
    (From the brilliant 2010 Orange County Resume Survey by Eric Hilden)

    45% Previous related work experience
    35% Qualifications & skills
    25% Easy to read
    16% Accomplishments
    14% Spelling & grammar
    9% Education (these were not just graduate recruiters or this score would be much higher!)
    9% Intangibles: individuality/desire to succeed
    3% Clear objective
    2% Keywords added
    1% Contact information
    1% Personal experiences
    1% Computer skills

    Personal details

    Normally these would be your name, address, date of birth (although with age discrimination laws now in force this isn't essential), telephone number and email.

    Education and qualifications

    Your degree subject and university, plus A levels and GCSEs or equivalents. Mention grades unless poor!

    Work experience

  • Use action words such as developed, planned and organised.
  • Even work in a shop, bar or restaurant will involve working in a team, providing a quality service to customers, and dealing tactfully with complaints. Don't mention the routine, non-people tasks (cleaning the tables) unless you are applying for a casual summer job in a restaurant or similar.
  • Try to relate the skills to the job. A finance job will involve numeracy, analytical and problem solving skills so focus on these whereas for a marketing role you would place a bit more more emphasis on persuading and negotiating skills.
  • All of my work experiences have involved working within a team-based culture. This involved planning, organisation, coordination and commitment e.g., in retail, this ensured daily sales targets were met, a fair distribution of tasks and effective communication amongst all staff members.

    Interests and achievements

  •  short and to the point

    sporting, creative
  • Don't use the old boring cliches 
  • Show a range of interests
  • Hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary 
  •  interests relevant to the job
  • evidence of leadership


  • The usual ones to mention are languages (good conversational French, basic Spanish), computing (e.g. "good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel, plus basic web page design skills" and driving ("full current clean driving licence").
  • If you are a mature candidate or have lots of relevant skills to offer, a skills-based CV may work for you
  • How long should a CV be?

    There are no absolute rules but, in general, a new graduate's CV should cover no more than two sides of A4 paper. In a survey of American employers 35% preferred a one page CV and 19% a two page CV with the others saying it depends upon the position. CVs in the US tend to be shorter than in the UK whereas the 2 page CV still dominates for graduates but I do see a trend now towards one page CVs

    Tips on presentation

    -be carefully and clearly laid out 

    -Never back a CV - each page should be on a separate sheet of paper


    -Be concise: a CV is an appetiser and should not give the reader indigestion

    -Be positive - put yourself over confidently and highlight your strong points

    -Be honest: although a CV does allow you to omit details 

    -The sweet spot of a CV is the area selectors tend to pay most attention

    -If you are posting your CV, don't fold it - put it in a full-size A4 envelope so that it doesn't arrive creased




    Other links can help you to write a good CV: