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What to include

If you're sent both a job description and a person specification, use the latter as the basis for targeting your CV.

Person specifications are often divided into essential and desirable criteria. The desirable criteria will be used to narrow down a strong field if a large number of applicants meet the essential criteria.

It is really important to state clearly if you meet some or all of the desirable criteria, as well as demonstrating with evidence how you meet the essential criteria.

Always tailor your CV to specific jobs. Employers ask for different sets of skills and competencies and your CV needs to demonstrate that you are a perfect fit for the role. Find out more about researching the role in order to target your CV and get examples of job descriptions and person specifications.

So if an employer requires strong written communication skills, customer service and the ability to solve problems using initiative be sure to say that you have these skills – and don’t just make empty statements, provide examples to prove it.

Suggested sections

Your CV will usually include many of the following sections – which can be given more or less emphasis depending on what you have to offer, and on the requirements of the job or employer.

If you are an international or EU student then you should follow these guidelines when applying for jobs or placements in the UK.

Include your name, address, telephone number and email address. Your name should stand out, in larger font and in bold – use your name as the heading and not 'Curriculum Vitae'.

Your personal details should not take up much space. Put them at the top of your CV directly under your name. Give either your term-time or home address, as long as you check your post there regularly. If you need to list two addresses, make it clear when you will be based at each.

Email is the preferred means of contact for most employers – and remember sarah.jones@gmail sounds a lot more professional than hotchickatCardiff@gmail.com.

Some employers and recruiters like to see a personal profile or summary on a CV (eg PR, media, broadcasting organisations), others don’t (eg some law firms).

A common complaint from employers is that graduate personal profiles all sound the same, using similar key words and phrases, which makes them meaningless.

Consider the following example:

'Enthusiastic, motivated social policy graduate with excellent teamwork and communication skills now looking for a challenging graduate level position with a dynamic, forward thinking charitable organisation.'

If your personal profile sounds very general like this, it’s probably time to scrap it or rewrite it. A good profile is short and concise – two or three lines max. It should be specific to the role or organisation you’re applying for and should highlight your key achievements, specific skills and career goals, such as:

'Social media savvy marketing graduate with experience in writing and proofreading copy, social media marketing and organising publicity events, gained on summer internship with a media marketing company. Now looking for a marketing role in a media consultancy firm.'

List your educational achievements in reverse chronological order – ie most recent first. If you're applying for work related to your degree subject, list relevant modules and highlight your placement year or year abroad.

You can provide information on your module results so far if you want to (eg Year 2 average: 2:1) and if you are in final year you can give an indication of your expected degree result (eg ‘Hoping to graduate with high 2:1 hons’).

Employers will be interested in your A Levels (or equivalent) so list subjects and grades. Your GCSE results can be combined eg ‘12 subjects grade A*-C including English, Maths and Science’.

If you have won academic prizes or awards, you could include them under a subheading in your education section.

This section should include details of current and previous employment (including temporary and part time), work placements, work experience and voluntary work. If the list is long, select the most relevant or significant examples.

If you have a mixture of relevant experiences relating to your field of interest (eg engineering) as well as part time jobs (eg bar work, retail), consider subdividing your experience section into relevant experience and other experience.

Don’t discount your part-time jobs, even if they seem unrelated to the graduate roles you're applying for. Employers will be interested in the skills you have developed through these jobs (eg customer service) as well as the fact that you have worked whilst studying – all of which demonstrate your ability to manage your time and juggle priorities.

You can include a section on relevant skills to highlight specific skills relating to, for example, IT or languages.

Beware though, the skills section is often misused on the CV. You should focus on the skills which the employer or role requires, and not on the skills you simply want to tell the employer about. For example, your lifeguarding skills may be relevant if applying for a leisure management role, but less so if you are applying for a graduate role in banking.

Be specific about your level of competency. Rather than simply listing ‘Word, Excel, Internet’ under IT skills, say whether you are proficient, competent or a beginner. The same applies for language skills – are you a beginner, intermediate or fluent?

Employers are interested in what you've done outside your academic studies and work placements. If you have interesting hobbies and achievements that you're proud of, include them here.

Examples might include sports, playing a musical instrument or fundraising. Give priority to active rather than passive activities and avoid a long list which gives no details.

Try to show how your interests have developed your skills or other attributes. Phrases like ‘independent travel’ and ‘cultural awareness’ will be more interesting to employers than ‘holidaying abroad’ and suggest that you are resourceful and adaptable.

It is usual to list two referees, ideally one from university (such as a personal tutor) and one from an employer.

Alternatively you can simply say ‘References available upon request’, especially if you are short of space or if you're applying on a speculative basis.

Optional information

You can include this information on your CV, but it's not compulsory:

  • Date of birth – It is unlawful for UK employers to discriminate against candidates on the basis of age. It is therefore entirely up to you whether or not to state your date of birth. The dates you went to school will be a good enough indication in any case.
  • Nationality – it is not mandatory to state your nationality. If you’re an international student, such information can be useful to the employer and clarify your eligibility to work in the UK. You can find guidance notes at UKCISA. For specific questions relating to your right to work in the UK, make an appointment with the International Student Support Team.

What not to include

There are some things that don’t need to go on your CV. If you took three attempts to get your maths GSCE or to pass your driving test, it doesn’t matter: you got there in the end and have the qualification to prove it.

Guidelines differ from country to country, but there are some things that would not normally be included in a UK CV, such as photographs – you will not be expected to attach a photograph to your CV unless specifically requested to do so.

Unless specifically and legitimately requested for the post (which is unusual), you should not include marital status and gender. However, you may choose to do so if your first name is gender neutral (eg Chris).

Giving false information

You can put a positive spin on your experiences when writing your CV, but you must not give false information.

Most employers ask for exam and degree certification (and often transcripts as well) and you will need to provide these when you start work. Untruths, when discovered, almost always result in dismissal and sometimes in a court case.

Contact us

If you need help deciding what to include in your CV, please get in touch:

Careers and Employability