Writing a CV

‘Curriculum Vitae’ means course of (one’s) life usually shortened to ‘ CV’. Many employers ask for a CV instead of an application form. The Americans call it a résumé, and that describes it fairly accurately. Your CV is a short summary of who you are and what you have achieved.

Your CV should be no more than two pages long, including two referees. (Note that other countries have different ideas on CV length and style).

As with any written report or summary, a well-structured CV will be pleasing to the eye and logically presented. Remember that employers are often busy people and could receive hundreds of CVs so they may only have a minute or two (or even less) per CV. One spelling mistake or grammatical error and your CV could be dismissed, before they have even finished reading the first page.

It is important that your CV should stand out, though concentrate on making the content impressive rather than using gimmicks in the presentation. If you do decide to adopt a distinctive style, make sure that it will look professional if copied in black and white – most CVs are photocopied or downloaded, usually in black and white.

  • Use good quality paper, not your usual printer paper. You may want to consider using coloured paper, but remember to check that it photocopies well.
  • Don’t use too many different or fancy fonts or special effects, they can make the CV look cluttered.
  • Avoid using abbreviations or acronyms (‘ NVQ’ for example) without explaining them the first time you use them.