Writing a CV

Expert advice on how to write a successful CV.

Keys C and V on a computer keyboard The purpose of a CV is to briefly inform the reader about you. A CV is not intended to get you a job, but to get you to the next stage in the recruitment process by providing you with your chance to sell yourself to employers.

It is the foundation on which an employer's first impressions will be based, so it is imperative that you take time to ensure it positively and accurately represents you.

An employer will only spend a very short amount of time reviewing your CV, so you must ensure that it is tailored to the vacancy in question, or the field you wish to work in. There is no universal format for a CV and there are no rules about what should be included and what should not. However, your CV should include the following:

Personal information

Provide your name, address telephone number and email address. You can include details of your age, martial status, number of children or dependents, your nationality or religion. If you decide to include these details, you should question their relevance to the application.

Education and qualifications

Provide details of your educational achievements to date - including details of any professional qualifications. You should outline your qualifications in reverse chronological order - starting with the most recent first. You should provide details of the names of your schools, colleges or universities, the dates you attended and the grades you achieved.

Employment

Detail any employment, placements or voluntary work that you have undertaken. Again, this section should be in reverse chronological order. You should provide a brief description of the role, including information about the key tasks you undertook and the skills that you developed.

This section should be concise so use bullet points to highlight your skills, achievements and responsibilities. It will make your CV more aesthetically pleasing and allow recruiters to quickly match up your experience to their requirements. You should avoid using jargon in this section and providing lengthy job descriptions.

Skills

Provide details of any skills you have that you feel may be relevant to the job you are applying for. Include details of any IT packages, applications, operating systems and databases that you have used. You should also provide details of any soft skills that you may have; however you should substantiate these with examples.

Other optional sections

The following optional sections can be included in your CV:

Personal profile

In a personal profile, you can clarify your career plan and highlight your key attributes relating them to the job you are applying for. This will allow employers to see whether or not you are a suitable candidate. A personal profile should be short and to the point.

Hobbies and interests

There is much debate as to whether hobbies and interests should be added to a CV. If you decide to provide details of your hobbies and interests, you should ask yourself whether they are relevant to the job you are applying for and what they say about you.

Sending your CV by email

An employer may prefer you to send your CV and covering letter by email. If this is the case, you should ensure that you have not included images in your CV or used a non-standard font; it may make your CV too large or unreadable.

If you do wish to use a non-standard format, you should save your CV in PDF format, because this will allow the recipient to read it as intended. If you are unable to save your CV in PDF format, use a standard screen font such as Arial.

Most employers accept CVs as attachments, but you should check with the employer first as this may not be the case. If it is not and you have to include your CV in the body of your email, you may lose your formatting. Based on this possibility, you should ensure that your CV looks acceptable without it.

IET CV writing support

The IET provides CV writing support in the form of Career Manager, its online professional development tool. Career Manager allows members to build a personal profile which can be downloaded and used as a CV and can be edited and saved online.