How to Write a CV (The Complete Guide for Everyone)
An in-depth, illustrated guide that details how to write a CV for people in all jobs and industries and at all career levels, from school leavers to C-level executives.
Approaching the job market with a high-quality, optimised CV is a sure-fire way of improving your chances of impressing recruiters and getting job interviews.
With an average of 250 people applying for each advertised job, competition is high.
You need to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
The best way to do this initially is to prepare a powerful CV that articulates your competencies and experiences in the most effective way.
In this guide we’ll show you how to do exactly that.
Take this journey with us to create the perfect CV that does you justice and helps you achieve your career goals. We’ll show you, step-by-step, how to perfect every aspect of your CV.
This comprehensive guide covers all aspects of how to write a CV (or resume) for all jobs and industries. No matter what your profession, career level or industry, this helpful guide to writing a CV will help you optimise your job search and get job interviews.
This guide includes multiple CV examples, infographics and advice from career experts to help you prepare a professional CV that is tailored your career and profile.
One of the first issues you will be faced with when writing your CV is the question of which CV format to use. There are three options, and all have their respective advantages.
What are CV formats?
When we talk about CV formats, we’re referring to the way you structure your CV, the way you present the content in your CV and the areas that you place the most focus on.
What are the options? Which CV format should you use?
There are three primary CV formats: the chronological CV format, the functional CV format and the hybrid CV format (a combination of both).
All three formats have their own advantages, but the chronological CV format is by far the most widely used across all industries.
Here, we’ll cover all facets of these three CV formats to help you decide which one is best to use with your CV.
1. Chronological CV Format
The chronological CV format focuses mainly on candidates' work experience, detailing their work experience as individual roles in reverse-chronological order, below a professional profile/personal statement.
The chronological CV format is the traditional CV format that has been used for many years. It is also the preferred CV format of the large majority of recruiters. For this reason, the chronological CV format is usually recommended for job-seekers.
The chronological CV format is structured in the following way:
- Contact Information
- Personal Details (if necessary)
- Professional Profile/Personal Statement
- Key Skills
- Career Summary
- Education & Training
- Additional Information
Other optional sections include affiliations, memberships, projects and voluntary activities.
Who should and should not use the chronological CV format?
Those who have significant, recent career gaps may be advised to use a different CV format (we will cover the other options in this guide). This is because the chronological format would draw more attention to career gaps, which can have a negative impact on your applications if not handled appropriately.
Those who are seeking a career change might also be advised to avoid using the chronological format. As the chronological format doesn’t provide many opportunities to articulate transferable skills, the functional CV format may be a better option for those pursuing a career change.
If the above does not apply to you, use the chronological format.
Benefits of the chronological CV format?
- Formatted and structured in the way that most recruiters prefer
- Makes for an easy reading experience, enabling recruiters to find the key information quickly
- Enables those with few achievements to focus on their duties and responsibilities
2. Functional CV Format
The functional CV format is much less common than the chronological CV format. Functional CVs shift the focus away from individual jobs and make skills the focus of the document.
Most people would be advised not to use the functional CV format. Unless certain circumstances outweigh the negative aspects of the format, functional CVs don’t convey experiences and achievements as effectively as chronological CVs.
Additionally, recruiters generally prefer chronological CVs as it’s the traditional CV format and the one they are most accustomed to viewing.
The functional CV format is structured in the following way:
- Contact Information
- Personal Details (if necessary)
- Professional Profile/Personal Statement
- Achievements & Awards
- Work Experience
- Additional Information
The skills section of a functional CV should be split up into sub-sections for each skill. Use bullet points to demonstrate your proficiency with the skill, and provide examples of times you have used the skills to achieve positive outcomes.
Who should and should not use the functional CV format?
If you’re seeking a career change, the functional CV is a great way of communicating your transferable skills. As the main section of functional CVs is the skills section, you have a platform to show off the skills that you can utilise to smoothly transition to your new industry.
Those with significant career gaps could also benefit from using the functional CV format. As the work experience section is positioned towards the end of the CV and isn’t heavily focused on, functional CVs ensure your skills and achievements are the main focus of the document.
If you’re not seeking a career change and you haven’t got considerable periods of unemployment, avoid the functional CV format. You will be able to showcase your career experiences more effectively with the chronological CV format.
Benefits of the functional CV format?
- Functional CVs are much more skills-driven than other CV formats, which provides you with a platform to make your skills the centrepiece of your CV
- Functional CVs draw less attention to career gaps or a lack of career experience
- Those pursuing a career change can easily articulate their transferable skills in a way that doesn’t focus on their lack of experience
- Skills and achievements can be listed in any particular order, enabling you to include your strongest selling points first
Hybrid CV Format (A Combination of Both)
The final CV format is a combination of both the chronological and functional formats. Both skills and professional career experiences share the focus when using this CV format.
In certain cases, a combination of these two formats is highly beneficial as it provides you with the opportunity to showcase what makes you unique through the skills section while also drawing attention to your consistent career progress.
The skills section can be positioned before the work experience section, or vice versa, depending on which is your strongest selling point.
If you want to make your skills the main focus of your CV, include the skills section after your professional profile, near the top of your CV. On the other hand, if your work experience is your strongest asset, include this section ahead of the skills section.
This hybrid CV format is structured in the following way:
- Contact Information
- Personal Details (if necessary)
- Professional Profile/Personal Statement
- Key Achievements
- Skills (Or Work Experience)
- Achievements & Awards
- Work Experience (Or Skills)
- Additional Information
This is a basic outline of the structure of hybrid CV formats, but the sections can be moved around, depending on their importance.
Who should and should not use the hybrid CV format?
Those who are seeking a promotion can significantly benefit from using the hybrid CV format. This is because it allows you to demonstrate your career progress while articulating vital skills and traits that are essential for the new role.
Additionally, this CV format is ideal for those who wish to show off major achievements in one of the first sections of their CV.
Other professionals who may benefit from this format include those who are seeking minor career changes – such as jobs in new roles, but in the same industry.
Benefits of using the hybrid CV format
- Both skills and work experiences are heavily focused on, which allows candidates to show recruiters what makes them unique.
- The hybrid CV format is very flexible and allows candidates to present their achievements, skills and work experience in the way that works best for them.
In summary, we advise you to use the functional format if you’re seeking a career change or you have recent and significant career gaps.
If you’re seeking a promotion within the same role/industry, you could benefit from using the hybrid format. If you want to make achievements the main focus of your CV, the hybrid CV is also a good option. Additionally, if you’re seeking a career change and you don’t have significant, recent career gaps, the hybrid format could also be beneficial.
All other candidates should use the chronological CV format.
CV Layout & Design
This section covers the visual aspects of your CV. Optimsing your CV’s layout and design will make it appear professional. This, in turn, reflects positively on you as a candidate.
Well laid-out and designed CVs indicate an organised, professional and meticulous candidate.
We'll now show you exactly how to improve the layout and design of all aspects of your CV to make sure you approach the job market with that 60% advantage.
Let's start with headings and borders.
Headings & Borders
All sections of your CV should be clearly separated by professional borders. This makes for a pleasant reading experience and ensures recruiters can easily differentiate sections and find the information they are looking for.
Don’t draw borders on your CV using Microsoft Word’s ‘Shapes’ feature. This can make the borders uneven and not consistent with other borders in your CV.
Instead, use Microsoft Word’s ‘Borders’ feature to insert ready-made borders.
Example of a professional border on a CV.
How to insert borders in Microsoft Word?
- Click ‘Design’ on the tab at the top of the document, then click ‘Page Borders’ on the far left of the page
- Select the style, size and colour of the border, click OK, then go back to the document and highlight the text you would like to insert a border beneath
- Click the ‘Borders’ tab, which is next to the ‘Shading’ tab. Then select ‘Bottom Border’ to add the border to your CV; if you would like to insert different types of borders, such as box borders, select ‘All Borders’
Your CV’s section headings should also stand out. To do this, make them bold and slightly larger than the body text of your CV. You may also want to experiment with different fonts for the headings.
Margins are an aspect of CV writing that most people ignore. But altering the margins is a good way of making your CV look more professional. Changing the margin sizes can also be a resolution to a lack of page space or too much page space.
The ideal margin size is between 1.7 cm (0.66”) and 2.2 cm (0.86”) on all sides of the document.
If you need more space to include more content on your CV, reduce the margins to as low as 1.5 cm (0.59”). This will stretch out your CV’s content and enable you to include more information on the pages.
If you have too much white space on your CV, widen the margins to as much as 2.5 cm (0.98”).
You can also alter the margins only on specific sides of your document. For example, you can narrow or widen only the bottom margin or the top margin.
Use our recommended margin dimensions to make your CV more professional and widen or narrow your document depending on the amount of content at your disposal.
How to alter the margins on your CV
- In Microsoft Word, select ‘Layout’ in the tab at the top of the document, click ‘Margins’, then click ‘Custom Margins’
- Change the ‘Top’, ‘Bottom’, ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ margins to your desired number
- Select whether you want your dimensions to apply to the whole document or a selected section, then click ‘OK’
Line spacing is an important feature of Microsoft Word that you can utilise to improve the reading experience of your CV and make sure it is professional in appearance.
CVs that don’t utilise the line spacing feature often have large blocks of text crammed together, which looks unprofessional and is difficult to read.
How to alter the line spacing on your CV?
- Highlight the text that you would like to add space below or above
- Click ‘Layout’, then select the number of points of line spacing you would like to add
- We recommend around 6 pt. of line spacing between paragraphs and blocks of text
Too much or too little white space is a common problem on candidates' CVs. Too much white space gives the impression that you’re struggling to fill the page with content or simply haven’t taken the time to fill the page.
CVs with too little white space are usually crammed with text. As such, they are difficult to read and recruiters may struggle to locate the information they are looking for.
Having both too much and too little white space can have negative impacts on your job applications.
For this reason, you need to find a balance. To see how much and how little white space your CV should have, take a look at our CV examples.
Avoid half empty pages. If you can only fill half a page of your CV, try to reduce the amount of content by following the tips below.
How to avoid white space?
- Change the margins to reduce or increase the amount of white space
- Use the line spacing feature on Microsoft Word to add space between sections, blocks of text and paragraphs
- Reduce or increase the font size (but ensure not to make the font too small or too large)
- Avoid single words that trails over onto the next line
When used sparingly and in the right areas, colour can add value to your CV. However, black and white CVs are also just as effective if prepared professionally.
Use of colour can work well when used on section headings, borders and backgrounds. By using it sparingly in this way, you help sections stand out.
If you would prefer your CV to look black and white, that’s completely fine. Avoiding colour on your CV will not have a negative impact on your CV’s performance in the job market, as long as you prepare it to a high standard.
Things to avoid if using colour on your CV
- Avoid bright, garish colours, such as orange or green
- Always keep the body text black. Only use colour on headings, heading borders or backgrounds
- If using colour, select a dark, modest colours, such as navy blue or dark grey
Example of Colour Used Effectively on a CV
Notice how dark, modest colour has been used sparingly in this CV sample to make the content stand out.
Should you include a photo on your CV?
This is an age-old question in the recruitment industry, and there is no straightforward answer. So we’ll break it down on an industry and country basis.
- In general, those in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand should not include a photo on their CV.
- In general, those in continental Europe, except the Netherlands, should include a photo on their CV.
- CVs for certain industries and jobs should always have a photo. These include flight attendant CVs.
For all-inclusive advice on whether to include a photo on your CV, take a look at this guide we produced, which states whether you should have a photo on your CV based on the country and profession you are in.
CV Sections - What to Include on a CV
Now that we’ve covered how to structure, design and lay-out your CV, it’s time to learn about the multiple CV sections that you will need to include. We will cover each section in detail, showing you exactly how to add the sections to your CV.
The order that you include these sections in on your CV will depend on the CV format you are using and the way you decide to structure your CV.
The first section to add to your CV is the contact details section. This section is usually positioned at the top of CVs.
Which contact details should you include on your CV?
Include your phone number, email address and, if you have one, your LinkedIn profile URL.
Ensure to include your location here too. Due to privacy issues, we recommend including only the town/city and country. While it is acceptable to include your full address, and in some ways beneficial, it is not necessary.
This section will not apply to many people. Those in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not need to include personal details on their CV, unless they’re pursuing jobs in the Middle East or in specific professionals – such as cabin crew jobs.
Which personal details are relevant?
Personal details include nationality, date of birth and marital status.
In most western countries, personal details are not expected or wanted because recruiters are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on such information. Including personal details can lead to discrimination of many kinds.
For this reason, do not include person details on your CV, unless you fall into the following criteria:
- You are pursuing jobs in the Middle East, where personal details are expected on CVs
- You are pursuing jobs in specific professions where personal details are expected on CVs, including cabin crew jobs
Professional Profile/Personal Statement
The professional profile, often called a personal statement or a CV profile, is a short introduction to your CV that describes what makes you unique as a candidate.
Professional profiles should be around 50-100 words in length. They should outline your key job skills and experiences, as well as how you can add value to employers. If possible, use real examples and numbers to showcase your successes.
Here is an example of a professional profile:
Meticulous, customer-oriented sales manager, with a track record of delivering consistent growth across multiple markets in the furniture sphere. Passionate about generating growth while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction and exceeding customer expectations. Blends relationships building skills, communication acumen and sales expertise to close multi-million-pound deals, such as a 4 million pound deal for furniture products to a major retailer in Dubai.
Notice that this professional profile example is tailored to the candidate’s experiences. It is not vague and generic, which makes him stand out from the crowd.
All CVs should have a key skills section.
The key skills section allows you to communicate your most important job skills to recruiters and hiring managers, expressing what you bring to the table.
Don’t include a huge list of your skills. It’s not necessary to show your entire skill set. Some skills will come with the territory for your profession and, as such, won’t need to be listed.
Focus only on around 9 or 10 of your strongest skills that recruiters need to see on your CV.
In the key skills section, include hard skills that are fundamental to your role, rather than more generic soft skills. For example, if you’re a construction manager, key skills may include site management, health & safety and project management.
Soft skills – such as organisation and integrity – are more generic. Unless examples are used to demonstrate your proficiency with soft skills, they don’t add much weight to your CV.
For this reason, use your work experience section to articulate your soft skills. While writing about your duties and achievements, you can show how you utilised your soft skills. This way, you’re almost providing proof that you have mastered these soft skills.
How to structure your key skills section
One of the most effective ways of structuring your key skills section is to use bullet points and multiple columns. This not only eliminates white space, but it also makes the section more visually attractive.
Here is an example of such a section:
Use of icons can also be beneficial in accurately demonstrating your competency with each skill.
Here is an example of a CV's key skills section that uses icons:
Notice how the example above uses five coloured icons for each skill to show how competent the candidate is with the skills, based on a scale of 1-5.
Work Experience/Career Summary
The work experience section, often referred to as a career summary or a career history, is where you list your job posts and describe your duties and achievements.
This is an important section of your CV as it is where you can show recruiters how you have succeeded on the job.
How should a CV’s work experience section be structured?
For each job post, start by including the job title, company name, location of employment and dates of employment. Make this text bold to ensure it stands out and recruiters can differentiate your roles.
Then include your responsibilities and achievements, using bullet points for ease of reading. Ensure your writing is concise and to-the-point.
Avoid large chunks of text; this makes your CV too wordy and recruiters may feel less inclined to read the content.
Here is an example of a CV’s work experience section:
Education & Training
Include your qualifications and any training that is relevant to your applications in the education and training section.
For most professionals, this section should be positioned near the end of your CV. This is because your work experience, skills and achievements are more important. However, school leavers and graduates who have little work experience should include this section near the start of their CV.
If you’re writing a hybrid CV – as we covered in the CV formats section of this guide – you should include an achievements section.
In this section, use bullet points to highlight a few of your strongest achievements and successes.
This a fantastic way of making an instant impression on recruiters and hiring managers by showing them how you can add value to their company.
If you’re using the chronological CV format, don’t include this section as your achievements will be included in your work experience section.
The final section is dedicated to any additional information, such as languages, IT/software proficiency, licences, certifications and clearances.
Only include additional information that is relevant to your applications.
How long should a CV be? This is question we get asked time and time again. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Optimal CV length varies depending on level of experience and profession.
However, in most cases, two pages is the perfect CV length.
Those with more experience may opt for a three-page CV. Those with little or no experience may opt for a one-page CV.
While there is no hard rule about CV length, don’t exceed three pages. Long CVs are harder to read and the key information may be difficult to locate. They also tend to be, quite frankly, boring.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of recruiters, who go through many CVs every day. Would you prefer a long, drawn-out CV or a shorter document that touches on the key details in a concise manner, showcasing candidates’ exceptional achievements and areas of expertise?
However, there are exceptions.
CVs for some professions can exceed three pages and some should never exceed one page.
Who should have longer or shorter CVs?
- Doctors, medical professionals and scientists’ CVs are often much longer as they are required to include more content, including publications, research, conferences details etc. In some cases, these CVs exceed eight pages in length.
- Acting CVs and resumes should not exceed one page in length.
While two-page CVs are usually recommended for those with significant experiences and achievements, it’s also worthwhile to consider using a one-page CV.
There are significant advantages to using one-page CVs, even for those with a lot of experience. Professionally prepared one-page CVs are concise and they work well with recruiters’ short attention spans. They also allow recruiters to locate the information they want in a matter of seconds and make for a more pleasant reading experience.
If you have a lot of experience, achievements and training, but would like to create a one-page CV, you may have to cut down on the content.
This may seem daunting at first, but submitting a CV that only articulates the information that will make a positive impact on recruiters can be highly beneficial.
How to reduce CV page length?
- Lower the font size, but ensure the text is still easily readable.
- Reduce the page margins to stretch the text out, but try not to reduce them lower than 1.5 cm (0.59”) on all sides.
- Cut out superfluous, non-essential content.
Achievements are arguably the most important part of CVs. They are what separate you from other candidates and show recruiters how you can achieve success.
Before you start writing your CV, evaluate your career and identify achievements you can include on your CV to make it more effective in the job market.
When writing about your work experiences, it’s important to ensure you come across as an achiever, rather than a doer.
Here is an example from a doer’s CV:
‘Responsible for the sales process across four sites’.
And here is an example of an achiever’s CV:
‘Grew sales by 27% and reduced costs by 9% over the course of two years while leading sales initiatives across four sites’.
Note the major difference between these two examples.
The ‘doer’ simply states that she managed the sales process. The ‘achiever’ offers insight into how she improved business performance while managing the sales process.
Writing your CV in this way is a sure-fire way of impressing recruiters and providing yourself with a much stronger chance of getting to the job interview stage of the application process.
Use numbers, data or statistics to supercharge your CV
Quantifying your achievements with numbers, data and statistics is one of the most effective ways of improving your CV. Numbers bolsters achievements and provide tangible evidence of your successes, making your accomplishments more ‘real’.
Examples of CV achievements that are quantified with numbers:
- ‘Reduced costs by 12% by renegotiating key contracts and eliminating redundant purchases’
- ‘Delivered a 300k project to refurbish the site’s storage units, which involved leading a team of 40 project professionals
- Generated a 38% increase in software sales by acquiring 44 new key accounts
When writing about your achievements, use powerful verbs to make them stand out and engage the reader. Here are some examples of verbs that can be replaced with more powerful ones:
Diminished instead of Lowered
Eliminated instead of Removed
Generated instead of Gained
As previously mentioned in this guide, your most relevant hard skills should be highlighted in the ‘Key Skills’ section. However, we don’t recommend including soft skills in the key skills section.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- Soft skills are more generic and they don’t hold a great deal of weight unless backed up with examples of times you have utilised the skills.
- There is not enough space to include all of your skills in the key skills section. Including a huge list of skills in the key skills section will dilute your most important skills.
How to show your soft skills on your CV?
The most effective way of articulating your soft skills on your CV is to write about times you demonstrated the skills in your work experience section. This way, you can link the skills into achievements and responsibilities to make them more real.
Here is an example:
‘Reduced client waiting times by 18% and increased efficiency by implementing new customer management systems and reorganising existing systems’.
Notice how this conveys the candidate’s organisation skills by showing how she used the skill to improve performance. This is much more advantageous than simply listing ‘organisation’ as a skill, which the majority of candidates do anyway.
Most people do not do this.
Most people simply list their soft skills, which has little impact. By using the approach we've touched on above, you will significantly enhance the effectiveness of your CV.
ATS (Applicant Tracking System) Optimisation
ATS, which stands for Applicant Tracking System, is a type of software used by recruiters and HR departments to scan, filter and rank CVs based on specific keywords. ATS also ranks CVs based on criteria such as years’ experience, skills, previous employers and universities attended.
Nowadays, many HR departments use ATS. As it allows them to automate aspects of the recruitment process, it’s valued in HR for its ability to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Many applicants, unfortunately, receive template rejection emails simply because their CV can’t beat the ATS bots and reach the human recruiter.
The large majority of CVs don’t get passed ATS.
With this in mind, your CV needs to be prepared and optimised in line with ATS. If you follow our advice, your CV will be sure to get passed the ATS robots.
How to optimise your CV for ATS
- Conduct keyword research. Analyse the job description for your targeted role and identify the essential criteria that candidates are expected to meet. Then pepper keywords related to the essential requirements throughout your CV, assuming you do actually meet the criteria.
Additionally, take a look at the website of the company you want to work for. Research the company’s values and objectives, then identify related keywords to include on your CV.
- Ensure your job title/profession is mentioned throughout your CV, both in the professional profile and the work experience section. ATS needs to figure out your job title. If it can’t, you may not rank as highly as other candidates.
- Don’t neglect keywords for your niche. The most important keywords will depend on the niche you work in. For example, if you’re a software sales manager, the relevant keywords will be much different to a regular sales manager.
- Include training and qualifications that are relevant to the role you are pursuing. Even small training courses that you may not consider to be of great importance could help optimise your CV for ATS.
- ATS may not read your CV if your is not formatted correctly. Don’t use image, graphics, multiple colours, tables and varying fonts. Be consistent with the formatting and don’t confuse the robots!
- Applicant Tracking Systems are unable to think logically. Bear this in mind when writing your CV. For example, if you don’t list your CV’s sections in the traditional order, it may get confused. If you’ve included images of data to show how you have added value, it won’t be able to read it.
- Include the names of the companies you’ve worked for, as well as the names of universities and colleges you’ve studied at.
Verbs and Adjectives
Use of powerful, engaging adjectives and verbs is an excellent way of supercharging your CV and making yourself stand out from competition. Powerful verbs and adjectives bring your writing to life and enable recruiters to envision you as a highly-performing candidate.
Here, we will provide you with lists of the best adjectives and verbs for specific skills, as well as examples of how to use them on your CV. We'll also tell you which verbs and adjectives to avoid at all costs.
How to Use Powerful Verbs and Adjectives on Your CV
Here is an example of an average CV achievement, which uses non-powerful adjectives and verbs. This is followed by an example of an excellent CV achievement, which uses powerful adjectives and verbs.
‘Wrote the organisation’s handbook on operating procedures, which reduced on-site incidents, achieved compliance and improved performance’.
‘Conceptualised and authored the organisation’s handbook on operating procedures, which eliminated on-site incidents and mitigated risk while achieving compliance and generating performance improvements’.
Note the stark different that the use and absence of powerful adjectives and verbs make in these two examples.
Some verbs, adjectives and statements have been so overused on CVs that they have become clichés. As they are so generic and widely used, they add little or no value to your CV and should be avoided at all costs.
Why are clichés such a problem?
Your CV should demonstrate your uniqueness as a candidate. It should make you stand out from the hundreds of other individuals applying for the same job.
Using clichés on your CV results in the exact opposite of uniqueness.
Instead of drawing attention to your unique selling point, clichés position you in the category of vague and boring.
For this reason, do not use clichés. Instead, use powerful, unique adjectives and verbs.
- Responsible for
- Works well independently and as part of teams
Some people believe these words are ‘buzzwords’ that recruiters and hiring managers like to see on CVs. The reality is, they are not. They’re overused, awful clichés that add no benefit to your CV whatsoever.
Other common clichés include irrelevant hobbies.
While including hobbies that are pertinent to your application can add value to your CV, generic hobbies should not be included.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a Community Engagement Officer and your hobbies include volunteering within the community, this would be a key piece of information to include on your CV. But more generic hobbies, such as reading, walking, running etc., would provide no value at all.
CV Narrative – First Person or Third Person?
Debate has been active for quite some time regarding the use of first person or third person on CVs. Both are commonly used and have their own respective advantages.
But which should you use on your CV?
First, let’s make sure you understand what first person and third person is.
What is first person narrative?
First person is a type of narrative in which you write about yourself as you, using pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘We’. This is the tense you would use when writing a letter or social media posts.
Here is an example:
‘I am a manager with over 8 years of experience’.
What is third person narrative?
Third person is a type of narrative in which you refer to yourself, as if referring to someone else. Third person uses pronouns including ‘He’ and ‘She’.
When third-person is used on CVs, all references to the candidate are removed, such as ‘He’ and ‘She’.
Here is an example:
‘Manager with over 8 years of experience’.
Both first person and third person are acceptable on CVs. There are no rules or standards when it comes to choosing between the two. As previously mentioned, both have their own respective benefits.
Advantages of first person
- First person is more personal and often seems more direct to the reader.
- Many people find it easier to write in first person, as this is the narrative they are accustomed to.
Disadvantages of first person
- First person can sound boastful and ostentatious.
- As first person is more personal, it may encourage recruiters to focus more on your personality than your competencies as a candidate.
Advantages of third person
- Removing pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘We’ will make your CV less repetitive and your writing more concise.
- Third person is more widely used and may be considered more professional.
- Third person, if written professionally, seems as though someone else is highlighting your successes.
- As third person is less personal, the writing lets recruiters to focus on your skills, achievements and capabilities as a professional, rather than your personality.
Disadvantages of third person
- Third person is less personal and may not engage with recruiters as effectively as first person.
- It can be highly ineffective if not written correctly. For example, if pronouns and names are not removed (i.e. ‘David managed the operations), your CV could appear very pretentious.
Both first person and third person are acceptable on CVs. We usually recommend using third person tense as it ensures the writing is less repetitive and enables recruiters to hone in on your professional proficiencies, rather than your personality.
Fonts and Font Sizes
While your CV should be unique, the fonts you use should be basic. Just as you would not choose to use a bright green background for your CV, you should not use creative fonts in an attempt to make your CV more appealing.
Trying to make your CV stand out by using such fonts will have the opposite effect: it will make your CV appear unprofessional.
Which fonts should you use on your CV?
- The best fonts to use on your CV include Calibri (Sans Serif), Times New Roman (Serif) and Arial (Sans Serif). We almost always recommend Calibri.
- Other good Sans Serif font choices include Arial and Tahoma.
- Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, are often recommended for section headings. Headings should also be bold and larger than the body text.
We really wouldn’t recommend using other fonts. Stick to the basics and make your CV’s content shine, rather than the fonts.
Which font size should you use on your CV?
When choosing the font size for your CV, aim for not too large and not too small. Fonts that are too small are difficult to read and make your CV too wordy. Fonts that are too large make your CV appear unprofessional.
The optimal CV font size varies depending on the font in question. In general, the ideal font sizes are:
- Calibri – 11 pt.
- Arial – 10.5 pt.
- Times New Roman – 11.5/12 pt.
- Tahoma – 11 pt.
The font size of section headings should be larger, around 14-16 pt. This ensures the sections stand out. Sections should also be separated by professional borders.
References on CVs – Yes or No?
As you near the end of your CV preparation, you will be wondering whether or not you should include references.
The answer is no. You should not include references on your CV.
References are requested at a later stage in the job application process. When submitting your CV, there is, in most cases, no guarantee that you will even reach the job interview stage.
As such, references are redundant in the early stages of the application process. If and when they are required, recruiters will ask you to provide them.
Negative Impacts of Including References
- Recruiters do not expect to see references on CVs, so including them may look unprofessional.
- References take up valuable space that could be used to showcase your skills and achievements.
- References include personal information, which can cause privacy issues, especially when applying for jobs online.
- You lose control of when referees are contacted.
‘References are available on request’
While references should not be included on CVs, it is acceptable to include a statement at the end of your CV that indicates you have references.
Many people include the line ‘references are available on request’ at the end of their CV. However, it should be noted that this is not a requirement. Recruiters and hiring managers do not expect to see references on CVs, so there is no requirement to mention them.
In conclusion, don’t include references on CVs. They are not expected or beneficial. If you would feel more comfortable by mentioning that you do have references, include the statement ‘references are available on request’ at the end of your CV.
How to Write a Graduate CV/School Leaver CV
As a graduate or school leaver, you will likely have little to no work experience. You will also have less achievements and content to include on your CV. As such, your approach to CV writing should be significantly different to that of other professionals.
The key differences include:
- The Education and Training section should be the focal point of graduate/school leaver CVs, positioned near the start of the document.
- The Education and Training section can be more detailed than CVs for other professionals, enabling you to touch on dissertation titles, projects, modules etc.
- Graduate/School leaver CVs should articulate skills gained during your academic experiences.
- Hobbies and interests are more relevant than other CVs as they can be vital in demonstrating skills.
Graduate/School Leaver Skills
Many graduates and school leavers struggle to effectively showcase the various skills that they have amassed during their academic experiences.
For example, how do you show the problems solving skills you honed during your studies? How do you show the critical thinking skills that your degree provided you with?
One of the best ways around this problem is to include one or two sentences of text for each skill, describing your competencies and providing examples of times you have used the skills.
Here is an example:
Organisation: Demonstrated strong organisation skills while planning and delivering after school clubs to support under-performing students with their homework.
Note that the example skill above is backed up by an example. By using your academic experiences to describe skills in this way, they will have a much greater impact on recruiters.
Writing about your skills like this is also a good way of filling empty space on your CV if you have little or no work experience.
Hobbies for school leaver/graduate CVs
Another tremendous way of showing off skills on your graduate/school leaver CV is to draw attention to your hobbies.
Did you captain the rugby team at secondary school? If so, write about the leadership skills you demonstrated while doing so. Did you help organise school clubs? If so, write about the organisation skills you demonstrated while doing so.
As you can see, hobbies are an effective way of conveying your skills. Think about your hobbies and work out how you can tie your skills into them.
Awards & achievements for school leaver/graduate CVs
Dedicate a section to awards and achievements. These awards and achievements can be small or large, rather insignificant or outstanding.
Did you win sporting competitions at university? Did you receive scholarships? If so, ensure to detail those achievements and awards in this section.
Structure of graduate/school leaver CVs
The standard format for graduate and school leaver CVs is as follows:
- Contact Information
- Professional Profile
- Education & Training
- Key Skills
- Work Experience
- Awards & Achievements
- Additional Information
Career Gaps - How to Deal With Them on Your CV
Recruiters and hiring managers often take a negative view on consistent career breaks and gaps in employment. Career gaps and periods of unemployment can reduce the effectiveness of your CV significantly if not dealt with appropriately.
What is a career gap?
A career gap is a period of unemployment, either a number of months or a number of years.
Most of us have career gaps. Some small, some larger. Career gaps can become problematic when they are consistent or for a long period of time.
If employers have had bad experiences with previous candidates who had significant career gaps on their CVs, they may be reluctant to proceed with applications of others with such career breaks.
But don’t worry. We’ll tell you exactly what to do to ensure your career gaps are not a problem. By using your awkward career gaps to your advantage, you’ll have recruiters reaching for the phone to call you, instead of chucking your CV to one side.
Don’t worry about less recent career gaps or small career gaps, such as a few months.
There is no problem in taking a few months out of your career to do whatever you want to do. Recruiters and hiring managers should have no issue with this whatsoever. And, in all honesty, would you really want to work for a company that does have a problem with such small career gaps?
Don’t try to hide career gaps, either by altering the dates or simply by not mentioning them. Being up front and honest is always the best approach when writing your CV.
If you’ve been unemployed because of family reasons or other personal issues, simply state this on your CV and cover letter. Recruiters are human beings who also have families, and they should understand that periods of unemployment happen.
By truthfully conveying the reason for your career gap, you’ll show the reader that you value honesty, which will work in your favour.
Show that the situation is resolved
It’s vital that you unequivocally indicate that whatever caused your unemployment has been resolved. Don’t leave recruiters and hiring managers wondering if you plan to take another career break.
To do this, make it clear in your cover letter that the situation has been resolved and you are eager to commence employment again. You can also include a line in your CV that states that you’re now fully committed to your career.
How to approach career gaps on your CV?
In the part of your CV where you would list your job post, include the heading ‘career note’ and write an honest line or two that describes why you were out of employment. As previously mentioned, it’s highly beneficial if you can describe the positives of your career gap.
Use bullet points for ease of reading and ensure to mention that you’re now focused on your career and returning to work.
While it’s important to draw attention to your reasons for employment and the positives of the period, don’t go into too much detail. Keep it brief. You don’t want your career gap overshadowing your job posts.
What to do it you've been sacked or made redundant
If you were sacked or made redundant, you don’t usually need to draw attention to this on your CV. Simply list the role as you would list your other roles.
You don’t need to explain your reason for leaving for any role, unless specifically asked to do so by employers. However, you may be required to explain such issues at job interviews, so have your answers prepared.
If you have health issues that don’t impact your ability to perform your job, don’t write about it on your CV. Touching on such issues may cause recruiters to consider if your are fully capable of carrying out your daily duties.
However, if health issues were the cause of your career gap, briefly mention this on your CV. Don’t go into great detail. Simply state that you have been suffering from health issues and that you are now ready to return to work.
CV Examles & CV Templates
We’ve prepared over 11 CV examples and templates that you can use today, such as the one below. These CV templates have been optimised for different industries and professions. Choose the one that will work best for you to enhance your job search.
To view and use more of our CV examples and CV templates, click here.
We've prepared an infographic, which details some interesting CV and job-seeking statistics.
It is worth taking a look at these stats when writing your CV to understand the importance of getting it right and investing time to prepare a high-quality, professional CV.
Proofread - Make sure you proofread your CV. 61% of CVs are thrown out because of typos. Don't fall into that category. Be thorough and make no mistakes.
Don't rely completely on spell-check. While spell-check can locate wrongly spelled words, it cannot identify wrongly used words.
Submit - Search online for advertised jobs that interest you and submit your CV. Upload your CV to reputable job boards to attract the attention of recruiters. Additionally, considering using good CV distribution services to get your CV into the hands of key decision-makers in your industry.
Only use reputable, effective CV distribution services. Using other services may only result in your CV being blasted across multiple job boards. For further information on selecting a CV distribution service, take a look at our guide on the subject.
LinkedIn - Create an engaging, optimised LinkedIn profile that compliments your CV and sells you to potential employers. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is consistent with your CV in terms of the message it is sending out and the quality of the content.
Build a professional network on LinkedIn by forging relationships with recruiters and decision-makers at companies you would like to work for.
If utilised effectively, LinkedIn can lead you to many great career opportunities.
We hope you have found this guide helpful in preparing a professional CV that does you justice and gets results in the job market.
If you have any questions about the CV writing process or would like us to help you prepare your CV, feel free to get in touch with our professional CV writers.