Another week, another post as part of the #GetAhead blog series we are introducing to inspire you during this new period of distant working and e-learning. This time we are looking at CVs. The post was written by one of our own Career Consultants, Vanissa Amliwala, who supports the School of Social Sciences, School of Finance and Accounting and MBAs. Enjoy!


If you want to know how to write a good CV, why not follow our 10 steps to CV success.  Whether your CV needs updating, or you are starting from scratch, putting together a CV might be easier than you think.

Let’s start with the letters CV, shorthand for the Latin phrase Curriculum Vitae, which means ‘course of life’.  A CV is essentially your life story.

On average, recruiters will spend 30 seconds reading your CV.  So, what makes a successful CV?  Here’s our 10 steps to get you there….

💡 Step 1 | Length

  • A good CV is clear and concise.
  • Keep it short, no more than 2 A4 pages, and don’t waffle.

💡 Step 2 | Layout & Format

  • There are two main CV formats:

Chronological – this is the most common CV format, it starts with your most recent job and then works backwards (reverse chronological order).

Skills based or Functional CV – here your skills are the ‘stars’ because this format presents your main skill areas.

💡 Step 3 | What should I include?

  • Personal details – keep to: name (at the top, make it larger and bold), address (city/county will do), mobile, email, LinkedIn URL, driving licence and work permit status (if relevant).

There is no reason, whatsoever, to include: a photo, date of birth, marital status, nationality, religion.

  • Personal/Profile Statement – optional. A brief statement, no more than four lines, directly under your contact details. It should cover who you are, what you can bring and your career goals/aspirations.
  • Education

List in reverse chronological order, most recent first.  Include: institution (university, college and secondary school), geographical location, qualification, subject, grade – do not embellish grades.

  • Employment History

List your most recent role first, include: name of company, geographical location, job title, dates of employment (month and year).  Next highlight responsibilities, but don’t just list tasks, include key achievements and skills that are relevant to the role you are applying for. Be specific – factual information and figures are good.  Don’t forget to include placements, internships, volunteering, gap year.

  • Additional Skills

Add any additional skills or other information that is relevant and will help you stand out.  This could include language skills, IT/Digital Skills, awards or membership of professional bodies/institutions.

  • Interests

Make the most of your interests and don’t be tempted to leave them out. Remember your CV is your ‘whole’ life story.  Include three things, something:

Cerebral – it could be reading, cryptic crosswords.

Creative/cultural – eg drawing, cooking, crafting, museums, art galleries, music.

Sports or physical activity – team sports and positions of responsibility look good.

Remember nothing too cliched, and avoid ‘binging on box sets’, ‘socialising with friends’- it does not create the best impression.

  • References

It is common practice to put ‘references available upon request’, unless specified by an employer.

  • When requested, try to include two references – an academic referee (lecturer or personal tutor) and a current or past employer. If you’ve never worked before a character reference from someone who knows you well will be fine. Do not use a family member or a relative as a referee.
  • Always seek permission from your referee beforehand – it’s only polite!

💡 Step 4 | Don’t be afraid of selling yourself

  • We tend to be quite humble about our successes. But remember a great CV is one that will make you stand out, so don’t be afraid to celebrate your achievements.
  • A CV is about what you have done – try to quantify your success and impact with facts and figures.

💡 Step 5 | Be relevant – Tailor your CV

  • Research the company and role thoroughly – look beyond the company website if you really want to impress.
  • Don’t be lazy and hope that a general CV will work because it won’t. Make sure the experience you are communicating is relevant to the job you are applying. Look at the job description and person specification carefully.  Do you meet the criteria? An employer will want to see that your CV is tailored to them and not generic.
  • Take the time to change your CV for each job that you apply for. This doesn’t mean that you have to rewrite the whole CV, just adapt the details so that they are relevant.

💡 Step 6 | Keywords

  • Write your CV for CV Robots and human eyes – 90% of large companies use Applicant Tracking Software to scan CVs. Look for keywords in the job advertisement, job description and person specification. If your CV doesn’t contain these all-important keywords you could miss out on being shortlisted.

💡 Step 7 | Language

  • Don’t mix up first person and third person, present and past tense. Pick a tense and stick to it.
  • Try to use active language – positive action words are great.
  • Make the spellchecker your best friend – poor spelling and grammar is the number one reason why an employer will reject your CV. Always double check your CV for spelling, grammar and punctuation.

💡 Step 8 | Presentation & Design

  • A poorly laid out CV with inconsistent formatting, multiple fonts and graphics will stand out for all the wrong reasons. Successful CVs are always carefully and clearly presented.
  • Choose a clear, legible font, the body text should be no smaller than size 11 font.
  • Use bullet points to enhance the look of your CV and don’t forget to keep sentences short.
  • Remember the CV hotspot – the upper middle of the first page is where your eye will naturally fall, so make sure you include your most important information here.

💡 Step 9 | Pay attention to detail

Check every detail.  Don’t give an employer an excuse to reject your CV because of poor spelling, grammar and punctuation.  Ask someone to double check what you have written.

💡 Step 10 | Hurrah!  Success, you have completed your CV.


A big thank you to Vanissa for sharing her top 10 tips of building a successful CV. We hope you find this useful and tune in again next week for another post as part of the #GetAhead blog series! 

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Anna Dolidze

Passionate about Student Engagement, Data Management and content creation

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