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CV and covering letters

Give yourself the best chance of success...

Write a CV that demonstrates why you are the perfect candidate

What is a CV?

Writing a CVCV stands for curriculum vitae, which is Latin for 'course of life'. It is a summary of your experience, skills and education.

How long should a CV be?

A standard CV in the UK should ideally be no longer than two sides of A4. Some academic CVs may be longer depending on your experience.

What should I include in my CV?

Your CV needs to be packed with relevant information to help an employer make the decision to hire you. It should include:

  • contact details - include full name, address, mobile phone number and email address;
  • education - list and date all previous education, placing the most recent highest up the page. Include any professional qualifications;
  • referees - two people who can provide positive comments on your previous employment or experiences;
  • skills - for example, the ability to work in a team, manage people, customer service skills, or specific IT skills;
  • work experience - this can be internships, voluntary roles or previous jobs. Add the most recent/relevant positions and examples of tasks.

How do I write a great CV?

There are many ways to create an exceptional CV, but for a solid foundation, concentrate on four main points:

  • Grammar - there should be no mistakes in your CV. Use a spell checker and enlist a second pair of eyes to check over the text. Try and include as many active words as possible to increase the impact of your CV. Use active verbs to replace passive verbs and nouns wherever possible. For example, you could include targeted words like 'created', 'analysed'; and 'devised' to present yourself as a person that shows initiative.
  • Layout - place your most attractive skills and talents towards the top of your CV to boost your chances of impressing an employer. The same rule applies to listing grades - always place your highest grade first.
  • Presentation - keep your CV neat and make sure it is easy on the eye. Bullet points should be used to tidy up any lists. Your choice of font can have more impact than you might think. The University of Kent careers service suggest using 10 point Verdana or Lucida Sans with a larger typeface for headings and sub-headings. You should always avoid Comic Sans.
  • Style - there a various types of CV you can employ. Think carefully about what style will suit your needs. For templates, take a look at the links below.

What are the consequences of lying on my CV?

Never lie on your CV or job application. Not only will you demonstrate your dishonesty to a potential employer, but there can be serious consequences too. For example, altering your degree grade from a 2:2 to a 2:1 is classed as degree fraud and can result in a prison sentence.

Do I need to explain gaps in my CV?

You must always inform a potential employer of a gap in your CV to avoid it being misinterpreted.

Do I need to write a cover letter?

You should always include a cover letter unless the employer states otherwise. It will enable you to personalise your application to the job. You can draw attention to a particular part of your CV, disclose a disability or clarify gaps in your work history.

Get help with your CV

There are lots of places online to get help and support with writing a CV. If you need face to face help or would like to look for somewhere locally to get the support you need find local advice here.

Useful links