Your CV

A CV is a marketing document that promotes your skills, achievements and experience. It should be easy to read at a glance and be at all times relevant to the job you are applying for.

When to use a CV

  • To reply to advertised jobs. Do not send a CV if an employer specifically requests an application form
  • To make speculative applications, e.g. to look for unadvertised opportunities or freelance work
  • To contact recruitment agencies. Find out whether they have a preferred format before sending your CV.

Layout - the basics

There is no single perfect layout for a winning CV. In fact you may receive conflicting advice on this. You should decide how best to present your strengths and experiences without being confined by a restrictive format. The Careers Service can help you decide what works for you.

Do

  • Keep your CV to two pages maximum.
  • Use a clear, commonly available font in size 10-12. Arial is a good choice.
  • Use bold and slightly larger font (size 16-18) for section headings and your contact details to make the layout clear and to direct the reader to key information.
  • Use bullet points and avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Ease of reading is crucial to ensure your CV gets read.
  • Use simple bullets; circles or squares. Don't be tempted to use decorative or 'quirky' options - they will distract from your content.
  • Use full stops at the end of every bullet point or none of them, but be consistent!
  • Ensure all paragraphs and bullets are neatly aligned.
  • Present your education and work experience in reverse chronological order, i.e. most recent experience first.
  • Check very carefully for spelling, grammar and typing errors - do not rely on spell check.
  • Show your CV to a tutor, friend or careers counsellor to check and get feedback.
  • If you need to print your CV use good quality A4 paper.

Don't

  • Don't use the header 'Curriculum Vitae' or 'CV' - the first line of your CV should have your name only.
  • Don't give an unprofessional or inappropriate email address. If in doubt, ask us.
  • Don't include a photograph, your age or your marital status. These are not required in the UK.
  • Don't copy another person’s CV and be careful when using CV templates – it is best to find a format and style that suits your own purposes.
  • Don't send your CV without checking for spelling, grammar and typing errors - such mistakes could mean your application is rejected straight away.
  • Don't rely on spell check to identify errors. Print a copy of your CV and read it carefully line by line. You may be surprised how many errors you find!
  • Never fold a paper CV - submit it in an A4 envelope (unless an employer gives you a smaller return envelope).

Grammar tips and common typos

  • Are you using capitals correctly? E.g. BSc and not Bsc, BA (Honours), not Ba (honours), MA not Ma, PhD, not PHd.
  • Capitals are used for job titles, e.g. Administrative Assistant.
  • Are you using hyphens correctly? Compound nouns can be written as one word, two words or hyphenated, e.g. eyewitness, eye shadow, eye-opener. Spell check can help but if in doubt use a dictionary to confirm.
  • Are you using colons (:) correctly? You can use colon before a list or to introduce a new idea. If in doubt, use a capital letter after a colon.
  • Avoid using dashes (–) for anything other than to indicate a span of time, e.g. June – July.
  • Don't use a dash instead of a comma or colon.
  • Is all spacing between dashes ( – ) correct and consistent? For example, May 2013 – June 2014, not May 2013  -June 2014.
  • Is the spacing between words the same? Spell check should pick this up.
  • Are you using the appropriate verb tense? Don't use past tense if you are presently in a job. Make sure you aren't changing from past to present tense within a sentence or paragraph.
  • Have you kept your writing style formal without abbreviations? For example:
    • I am and I have, not I’m or I’ve
    • Administrative Assistant, not Admin Assistant
    • Student Representative, not student rep
  • Avoid using abbreviations or acronyms used within an institution but which are not in general use. If you need to use them show the full phrase or title in the first instance, followed by the abbreviation in brackets; e.g. 'Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey'. You can then subsequently use the abbreviation on its own, i.e. 'DLHE survey'.
  • If you put headings in capitals, spell check may not detect errors.
  • Criteria and phenomena are the plural forms of criterion and phenomenon; use them correctly.

Want to get your CV checked?

Contact your local careers centre to book an appointment.

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'I went to the careers office to get help with my CV and placement letter. I thought the service was very good, I got a lot of useful feedback.'

Resources

*University of Brighton login required

Career video player

Find out more about writing CVs and covering letters, and preparing for interviews and assessment centres. UoB login required.

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CVs for overseas applications

If you are applying for work overseas visit your local careers centre or the Target Jobs - Working Abroad pages for information on appropriate CV formats.