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How to write a good CV

The CV is a marketing tool with which you sell yourself to potential employers. Keep it simple, accurate, clear and concise. If you are applying for an advertised position then read the job description/personal specification provided, as this will tell you about the kind of person they are looking for.  Think about your current and previous roles, and match your skills and experience to the job description/personal specification.

In addition to your professional knowledge and experience, have you overlooked any additional responsibilities, such as budgets, managing contractors, a customer/client focus, evidence of problem solving and improving performance?

How long should a CV be?

There are no absolute rules, but, in general, no more than two/three sides of A4 paper. Dont leave out important items, or crowd your text too closely together in order to make it fit. Always use a standard font, Arial, Times Roman, etc. Remember, an employer may only allocate 60 seconds to read your CV. Make sure it's concise and to the point.

What makes a good CV?

The following bullet points cover the basics

  • Target your CV to specific job for which you are applying, bringing out relevant professional knowledge, skills and experience. What can you learn from the job description/personal specification?
  • Ensure the CV is logically ordered, headings in bold, evenly spaced, and not cramped
  • Prospective employers don't just want to know what you did in a previous job, they also want to know what difference you made - how did you improve existing performance? Explain & show them, don't tell them.
  • Be concise, dont feel you have to list every responsibility in your job description, consider which are the most relevant to the job you are applying for
  • Be honest never give inaccurate or misleading information
  • Be accurate in content, spelling and grammar
  • If you are sending a CV to an organisation that has not advertised a position then remember to avoid jargon as the person reading or screening CVs may not be a planner.

Remember, the CV is yours and can be structured as you wish, but by following the basic framework below you will design a CV that will increase your chances of securing an interview.

1. Personal details

Start the CV with your name, address, email and telephone contacts.

2. Profile

A brief paragraph (with bullet points if appropriate) to grab the reader's attention. Your profile should briefly summarise your educational achievements, your skills/experience, your qualities as an employee, and your career aims.

3. Education and training

List your main qualifications and make sure you highlight you membership of the RTPI as this will be a key selling point. Include membership of other appropriate associations or institutions.

4. Employment history

In this section start with your current or most recent position and work backwards.

  • List your employer. period of employment, position and brief description of job
  • Set out your key responsibilities/achievements responsibilities, achievements, duties and skills
  • Include your level of responsibility (team leader, section/department manager/associate/ etc).
  • List achievements you had in each position.
  • Relate your skills and experience to the job advertised. Also include any relevant temporary work and volunteering experience
  • Avoid unexplained gaps in your employment history. If you had time out then explain why.

5. Interests

You do not have to include interests, hobbies and any sports you play - the views and opinions of experts differ in this area.What is agreed is that you should list any positions of responsibility you hold or have held in any club or organisation, and say what your responsibilities and achievements were.  Advice can also be found here.

6. References

There are very few employers out there who do not take up references, so it's a good idea to think about whom you could ask now.

7. Application forms

Some employers do not accept CVs and so the above guidance may also be of use when completing job application forms.

Produced with advice from Xact Group-the RTPI employment law helpline service provider.