The first thing to get right with your CV is the structure – since HR departments typically don’t look at CVs for much longer than 30 seconds to 1 minute, you need to make all the important and interesting information easily visible, and make sure there are no obvious errors. This means no spelling or grammar mistakes, no poor formatting, and no forgetting the important stuff! It’s usually best to stick to one page, unless you have a lot of relevant work experience or you are applying for a grad job. Since they don’t look for long, one page is normally enough space, especially if you format it well and follow our tips.
At the top of the page you should put all your contact information. This includes your name, address, email address and contact phone number. By law you no longer have to include your gender, nationality or date of birth on your CV to avoid discrimination, so don’t! It takes up space and is not necessary. Nowhere on your CV should the words Curriculum Vitae feature – your full name makes a perfect header. The top of your CV could look like this:
21 Road Name, Town Name, County, AA1 1AA
Email: [email protected] Phone: 0777777777777
After this, the first thing that should appear on your CV at this age is your educational record. Later in life, employment records become more important than education, but when applying for grad jobs and internships, education is key. Your education record should include your current university, course, graduation date and predicted grade. It should also include all of your A Levels, a range of GCSE results highlighting Maths and English Language (these are pretty much the only 2 important GCSEs for employers) and the years in which these were completed. This is an example:
University of Nottingham - 2013 – 2016
Economics – First Year Average 66%. Predicted Grade – First.
Secondary School Name, Nottingham - 2006 – 2013
A Levels: Mathematics - A*, Economics - A, German - A, Further Mathematics (AS) – A
GCSE: 13 A*- A grade including Mathematics – A*, English Language – A
The first thing to note for the employment section is not to write a block of text. Anyone reading it will be put off by a big paragraph, they would rather read key points in the form of bullet points. Try and start each bullet point with an active word, to show you took the initiative during your work experience, rather than just let it happen to you! This also allows you to draw out key skills, which is what this section is most useful for. Don’t describe your work, explain why that makes you a good candidate for the job you’re applying for, make it relevant.
Good examples include:- Led a group… - Learnt the following skills… - Developed skills…
Bad examples include:- I followed someone around the office… - Had a good time… - Spent a week doing…
Another useful idea is to put the name of the employer, especially if it’s a big name, at the top of the section and on the far left, so it is the first thing the reader sees. The dates are somewhat irrelevant, but if they can scan down the page and see a number of well-known firms quickly, that works in your favour. A section about a work experience week could look like this:
- One of 50 successful applicants out of over 5000 for the RBS Spring Week
- Learnt about finance sector by attending presentations
- Developed communication and team work skills through group projects
RBS Spring Week - March 2014
The extra-curricular section should be fairly brief – it’s nice to include but not usually crucial to your application. Use bullet points again, and again try and draw out key skills from your activities.
A good example is:- Sport: Play regular competitive football and rugby, representing my society at university. Organised a social evening which developed my planning and communication skills.
A bad example would be:- Like watching and playing football and rugby, especially the socials.
To finish the CV, it’s good to write ‘References available upon request’. It shows the reader that it is the end of the CV, and it is not necessary to put a reference on the CV – if they want one, they will ask.