When applying for jobs, your CV is your ultimate selling tool. If you want to be selected for interview, this is your opportunity to showcase your skills and experience. It can be challenging to get through this first hurdle as employers hiring often receive hundreds of applications for each job advertisement. Have this in your mind when preparing your CV as you’ll need to be both succinct and relevant to grab their attention.
What to include on your CV
Always put your contact details first so recruiters can easily find your email address or phone numbers.
This should be a short statement or ‘summary of experience’ and include relevant information about your skills in relation to the job ad. It should be tailored to the role rather than a general statement, such as: ‘I’m a results-driven professional with excellent communication skills.’
Start with your most recent job, work experience or voluntary placement and work your way back. List your job title and the dates you were employed. All the dates should match up; this is something a recruiter will look for. If there are gaps, make sure you can explain them. Remember to write about more than just the duties or responsibilities you held in each role and include any key achievements along with figures and statistics if you can. This shows how you added value to the company and that you’re results-focused.
Qualifications, training and education
Next, list your education (school, college or university) and relevant training. Some roles will require specific qualifications, so highlight those on your CV.
What can make all the difference
Each role is unique and therefore your CV will need to be adapted for each application. Research the organisation and what they’re looking for. You can use the job description or advert to match your skills against the role. Take out any unnecessary information – this just takes up space and the recruiter reviewing your CV won’t want to know about things that aren’t relevant to their vacancy.
Don’t worry if you haven’t got any work experience yet as there are plenty of other ways to show you have the right skills and abilities:
- Did you have to organise school/college/university events, have to keep records or hold meetings? If so, these are perfect examples of being organised, working in a group, using your initiative and sticking to deadlines.
- Were you a volunteer for a charity? This proves that you’re a committed individual.
- Did you coach sports at college? It shows you may have some relevant skills for an HR career.
Don't forget the basics
Highlight titles and main headings in bold
Use a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman and don’t be tempted to make the font size small to fit more on the page. It must be easy to read. Fancy borders and formatting can take the focus away from the important part – the content.
Length and order
You have about ten seconds to grab the recruiter’s attention, so make sure you put the important work experience first. If you have limited work experience, you can put your academic qualifications first.
No recruiter wants to read an eight-page CV, so make it short and sharp. Aim for two pages or less and include only what’s really necessary to get you the job. Use simple, plain and positive English with clear and concise content.
Spelling and grammar
Always thoroughly check your spelling and grammar and ask someone else to read your CV before you send it. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a CV with lots of errors.
Need to edit down your CV?
Here are a few things you can remove because they’re just not essential for your application:
- Driving licence – unless the role specifies you need to drive
- Date of birth
- References – just state: 'References available on request'.
Your social media presence
Some employers will use social media to check people’s profiles before offering them a job – there are no laws against doing this and so make sure that whatever they find will not put them off. You can help yourself by:
- Making your profile on sites such as Google+, Facebook and Instagram restricted to be visible to just your friends. All of these sites have pages that allow you to set your privacy settings.
- There should be no bad language and opinions expressed should not be offensive to others – if in doubt, don’t post it (or delete it if it is too late).
- Be aware of any photographs you are in that might be visible to the public – think about whether they are photos you would mind a potential employer seeing.
- Remember that things on social media sites stay on there – there have been cases where people have lost their jobs over things they posted when they were much younger.
If you haven’t yet considered setting up a LinkedIn account, you could be missing out on another opportunity to promote your skills and experience. It’s used in a very similar way to your CV – think of it as your electronic version which people can view online. You'll need a professional photo of yourself, and a summary as well as details of your work experience, skills, expertise, education and qualifications. It is also a great way to network with people who work in the type of industry or job you want. You can connect to people you know on LinkedIn. If they are old work colleagues or managers, you could ask for a recommendation to confirm some of your skills.
View our other guides
Learn how to showcase your skills and experience in your application forms and cover letters
Find out what to expect in an interview and how best to prepare
Keep motivated in the hunt for your next role with a ten-step plan
Explore HR and L&D job opportunities
Recruitment Business Partner
£30000 - £35000 per annum + DOE + 15% Bonus and Good Benefits
A career in HR and L&D opens doors to a huge variety of roles in every type of business and industry - the world is your oyster! Find out why a career in HR and L&D could be the perfect choice for you
As a member, explore the CIPD Career hub to build your skills, knowledge and experience