- Before you apply for a job
- The application process
- After the Interview
- After Your First Job
How to Write Your CV
General CV-writing advice for graduates
Pretty much every job application requires a CV. Although it isn't the be-all and end-all of your job search, it is very easy to shoot yourself in the foot with a bad one. Here at TalentPool we find that sometimes talented applicants are falling at the first hurdle of the job application process by submitting a CV that simply doesn't do them justice.
So, to help you create a CV that shows off your great potential to a prospective employer, we've created the ultimate TalentPool CV guide.
First things first, these dos and don'ts apply to all graduate CVs and are the most common errors we see come up time and time again:
- Limit your CV to one A4 page.
- Check for spelling & grammar errors multiple times!
- Provide your contact details.
- Include a photo, date of birth or marital status.
- Lie! You will get caught out.
- List all the work experience you've ever done.
At the top of your CV, your name should be clearly visible and centrally aligned. It's a good idea to have your name a few font sizes larger than the rest of your CV so that it is really clear whose CV this is. Underneath your name you need to put your contact details: home address, email address and mobile phone number.
The main body of your CV should consist of four carefully organised and identified sections - Education, Work Experience, Languages & Skills and Interests. These sections should all be neatly aligned and framed in a similar manner, e.g. Company/ Institution name aligned down the left hand column, Role/Qualification down the centre and Date & Location down the right hand column. Employers rarely spend longer than a minute looking at a CV so they must be able to, at a glance, have a good understanding of who you are. Finish your CV off with "References available upon request" at the bottom of your page - there's no need to provide your referees' contact details at this stage, the employer can request this information if they wish later on.
There should be no overlap in content between your four CV sections - each one has a very clear function. Remember that within each section everything should be listed chronologically (most recent accomplishments first). This is an outline of what you should be including under each section:
- Education: You must include your university and secondary school names, dates attended and grades received here. Refrain from using bullet points to provide information about your degree unless it is directly relevant to the job you're applying for and its requirements. Don't waste space by listing all your GCSE results, summarise them instead e.g. 5A*, 4A, 1B. Do list each of your A-level subjects though (or equivalent) and results.
- Work Experience: We recommend sticking to three pieces of work experience - this should be your most relevant experience. For each bit of experience, have three bullet points (max) to explain what you did there. Begin each bullet point with a verb, e.g. "organised", "led", "managed". Highlight your main areas of responsibility for each position and the skills you picked up or built upon. Think about the required skills listed in the job description - how can you demonstrate that you have them through your CV?
- Languages & Skills: Use this section to list your additional languages, computer skills, extra qualifications etc. Use bullet points and don't provide descriptions for each, just your level of proficiency. If you don't speak any additional languages then just name this section "Skills".
- Interests: Almost anything can go in this sections (hobbies, volunteering, musical and sporting achievements, positions in clubs and societies). Keep in mind though that whatever you decide to list does need to tie in with the purpose of your application - you need to demonstrate why it is relevant and what it shows about you. If you say you like baking - did you bake for a charity? Do you write a blog about it? Make it interesting and useful knowledge to the employer.
Keep the information in your CV as concise as possible. Don't go into huge amounts of detail - remember it's always good to save something to talk about in interview! Stick to short, snappy bullet points and avoid any lengthy paragraphs.
You must tailor your CV to each role you apply to. Everything on your CV should be there to serve a purpose - all elements should be functional, not decorative.
Should I include a personal profile? Don't feel like you need to include one - a badly written one will only work to your disadvantage. Only write a personal profile if you have something specific you feel the employer needs to know, for example, it's a good place to explain any gaps in your work experience. Otherwise it's very hard to be original with a personal profile and to not repeat what you're going just going to say later on in your CV or cover letter.
Unless you're applying for a role in a company that has specifically asked for a creative CV, it's best to keep it plain and simple. Stick to a font size between 11-12 and a standard font that is easy to read and looks professional (Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial). Don't use any colour - employers usually print out CVs in black and white anyway! Also avoid underlining any text because this can be very difficult to read - if you would like to highlight any section headings or important bits of information in your CV such as company or university name, use bold.
Before you send your CV off, be sure to save the file as a PDF (File > Save As > Change file type to PDF) otherwise you risk all your hard work appearing as a confused mess on the employer's screen. Make sure you also choose a sensible name to save your CV as; we suggest "Your Name_CV".
To help you get that CV really sparkling, here are our master CV templates for you to use. Your CV doesn't need to look exactly like them, but make sure you're hitting the key points outlined above!