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Preparing the perfect CV fact sheet

Preparing a CV (a personal career history) is important for sending to employers

  • Keep it simple – an uncluttered document gets read before a fussy one. Plain layout of your document will help the reader to see how much you have to offer.
  • Make it clear – direct language and straightforward sentences are easy to read and understand.
  • Keep it short – less is often more when it comes to a CV. Limit it to two sides of A4 paper.
What to put in your CV

Standard CVs are usually split into a maximum of seven sections:

  1. Personal details
    Includes name, address details, telephone and email addresses, nationality. These are the facts about you and how to contact you.
  2. Education
    Provides dates, names and locations of schools and colleges attended and details of any qualifications that you may have obtained. This section also outlines the subjects that you have studied.
  3. Employment
    Specifies dates, employers’ names and locations, job title and main activities/achievements of each position held. It is normal to begin with your current or most recent job.
  4. Other skills
    Covers your other practical abilities or skills, including training courses and other subjects studied e.g. languages.
  5. Interests
    Includes hobbies, sport and leisure activities.
  6. Additional information
    Details other skills or type of work wanted. This section contains your statement about the contribution you can make and what kind of person you are.
  7. References
    Names, addresses and full contact details of two people who will provide character references for you.

Dos and Don'ts

Dos

  • Do think about the kind of impression you want to convey to employers. Spend time thinking about the skills and qualities that are seen as valuable for the kind of position you are looking for.
  • Do look at as many other people’s CVs as you can for inspiration and use good examples that you see.
  • Do get organised – it will help you prepare a better document in the future.
  • Do keep working on different drafts of your document until you are happy with it.
  • Do talk to people who have known you in different roles; they may come up with tasks, activities and achievements that you had forgotten.
  • Do check spelling and grammar if you are in any doubt about anything.

Don’ts

  • Don’t leave writing your CV until you are in a hurry for it. The best time to write it is when you don’t need it and can take the time to get it right.
  • Don’t underestimate the time you will need, especially if this is your first attempt.
  • Don’t hesitate! Get going on your first draft right now.
  • Don’t start writing straight away – do some thinking and planning first about how you want it to look.
  • Don’t be too honest! We are aiming to minimise weaker areas and promote your good points.
  • Don’t include any information that does not add to the impact of the finished CV.

Points to remember

  1. Keep positive. You need to feel upbeat in order to sell yourself in your CV. You will downplay your skills and experience if you write weak descriptions. Show off all the talents you have – every other applicant will too.
  2. Enhance your creative thinking by getting your environment as congenial as possible when you are working on the document.
  3. Stay motivated about the work involved in completing your CV. Think of all the people who have CVs; they will all have had to go through this process at some stage.
  4. How your CV looks is as important as what it contains. Make sure you spend as long on the design and layout of your document as on its content.
  5. Consider having more than one version of your CV – you may need different versions for different career possibilities.

Preparing Your Own CV
Adapted from "Preparing your own CV" by Rebecca Corfield, 5th Edition, published in 2009 ISBN No. 978-0-7494-5654-2

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