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CV tips

When you are starting your job search, your CV and covering letter are the best marketing tools you have. These documents are the first impression an employer will get so naturally they need to be very good!

A CV is a living document that you need to customise with each job application, so anyone who tells you they have the perfect CV is not using it correctly! Here are some tips and hints for CV writing, giving you some ideas which you can use in the future.

A CV should be an illustration of who you are, so make sure you do yourself justice with a good style and layout.

Content and Structuring

Personal Information – Name, address, phone number, email address. Make sure this information is correct; a recruiter will put you straight on the ‘No’ pile if there are incorrect contact details. Please make sure your email address is something simple and professional. No one will want to hire over

Education – Be selective; if you have a degree and you are applying for a job in risk, do you need to show that you got the top grade in GCSE Art? If you so, explain why it is relevant!

Work History - For your first role in risk, soft skills like communication and problem-solving are very important. Tailor your work experience to show relevance to a job. This section can include part-time work, volunteering or outreach as part of a school or college programme. All you need to do is make it relevant and describe what you have gained from the experience. 

Skills/Qualifications – This section could include a short personal statement, or a list of further development and training courses you have taken part in, such as a first aid course, an IT course or a language school programme. Duke of Edinburgh or other such programmes could fit in here. This is a good place to really sell yourself so make the most of it! Don't forget that sport can be a great example of leadership if you captained the team. 

References – Ideally this should be your most recent line manager plus another referee. It could be a teacher or mentor who will provide a character reference. Make sure you ask permission before you add someone’s name to your CV as a reference.

Tips, Hints, Advice

Length - Your CV should not exceed two pages. Keep it snappy, use fewer words for more impact

Formatting - Use bullet points to keep information clear and concise. Titles can be bold and underlined, to make your key facts stand out

Key ideas - Most people will look at a CV for around 30 seconds. The ‘hot spot’ is the upper section of the first page, so the most important and impressive information needs to go here

Layout - Make sure the layout is logical and professional. Don’t fall into the trap of making your text tiny so that you can fit everything on two pages. There should be plenty of white space on the page so the text is digestible

Font Style - Font size should be no bigger than 12. Fonts such as Calibri and Arial are favoured by many for their ease of reading both on screen and on paper

Sending your CV - If you are going to post your CV then put your name and email address in the footer or header in case the pages get separated. Never print double sided and post in an A4 envelope so it isn’t creased and folded.

If you are emailing your CV, save it as a PDF so that you know exactly how it is going to look when it's received. Word documents can change format from device to device, so don't leave it to chance. 

Make sure you do your homework! Research the company not just by visiting its website. Search the company name on Google and see what comes up. Why do you want to work for them? Why should they want to offer you the job? This is vital to tailoring your CV to the company.

Use powerful, active language, with examples. This will create impact without using too many words. Remember, it's best to have your CV on two sides of A4. You also need to make sure you are sending out a positive message without regurgitating information from the advert.

Let’s say you are applying for the role of assistant underwriter at a small company. The advert calls for someone who is proactive and able to effectively manage their own schedule and workload. Instead of just saying that you have these qualities, you could talk about how, as captain of your school football team, you managed to organise training sessions and social events without impacting on your studies. Alternatively, you may have had a job before, and you can demonstrate how you had to drive forward a new project, and achieve the desired outcome by a specific deadline as well as continuing with your daily duties. These real examples demonstrate the skills that an employer is looking for, instead of passively describing what you can or could do.

It is best to avoid using jargon unless it is absolutely necessary; and unless you are asked you do not need to include a photo or your date of birth.

The golden rule of CV writing is telling the truth. If you tell lies in order to get the job, you will find yourself doing a job that you either find way beyond your reach, or that you don’t enjoy, and it’s best to remember that employers have ways of verifying facts. They will find out!


So, you have done your research, decided on a structure and format, written your content and are ready to go. But wait; have you proofread your document? Do not leave your future in the hands of the spellchecker!

You need to proofread your CV, and then proofread it again. Once you have done that, hand it to someone else to read. You don’t want to be the person who addresses their letter to “Dear Madman” instead of “Dear Madam”, or describes their previous role as being in a “busty office” and not a “busy office”!

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