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CV do’s and don’ts

The best CV format

There are many ways to lay out your CV, for example, chronological, functional or targeted. That being said, it’s generally agreed that the best format is the performance CV.

It combines the best of all the other formats and opens with a summary page to immediately highlight your strengths. The next sections should be your employment history and your educational background (always starting with the most recent). Under each job title or course, mention your responsibilities or course description. Alternatively, you could list your achievements by function or area of responsibility.

The ‘further interests’ section

This section reveals more about you than you think which is why employers and recruiters always look at it. You should show that you’re motivated by things outside of work and have a well-rounded social life. There are many things you can include in this section, like organizing volunteers or fundraising events. You can even mention leading a sports team, cultural or exciting travel, even reading if you’re serious about it. Anything that shows leadership skills, character, setting goals and self-management is attractive.

Don’t include meaningless interests such as watching TV, and only list things you can genuinely discuss with enthusiasm.

Avoid mentioning things you did a long time ago, it will seem like your best achievements are behind you.

The do’s and don'ts

Do’s

  • Keep it simple, concise and easy to read.
  • Tailor it to each application.
  • Keep it up to date.
  • Write honestly and consistently.
  • Have references ready to go.
  • Use good quality paper and black ink.
  • Type in a clear font and keep to two A4 sides.
  • Triple check your spelling and grammar. 


Don’ts

  • Include a photo unless you’re asked to.
  • Include your salary; it should be in your covering letter if necessary.
  • Don’t mention any failures or overly personal information.
  • Make negative comments about previous employers.
  • Use colours, images or styles that detract from the text.
  • Talk about your career goals.
  • Write ‘I’, ‘me’ or use the third person.
  • Use jargon or abbreviations.
  • Send photocopies.
  • Make changes in pen, retype and reprint instead.

Emailing your CV

If you’re sending your CV by email, it’s always best to send it in PDF format. If you can’t, be sure to use a standard font like Arial.

Help from the IET

Career Manager is a professional development tool from the IET. Use it to build a personal profile that you can download and use as a CV.