Some simple tips to make the best CV you can

Create a CV that gets the right attention and highlights all your relevant skills and work experience. There is not a set structure or any solid rules for writing a graduate CV, but in order to optimise your self marketing to an employer here are a few starting guidelines.


Step 1: Message

What your CV should say depends on the job, industry and what you want the recruiter to pay attention to. In order to do this you should read the job description carefully and identify what key experiences and skills the employer seeks- highlighting the key phrases or words. These will help you to work out the correct information and how to express it so that your CV showcases the qualifications, experiences and skills that match your chosen companies requirements.

Include as much evidence where you can to back up what you have done, and remember to focus your message to what the recruiters and company are looking for.


Step 2: Format

Most recruiters are likely to spend between just 30 seconds and a minute scanning any CV, which is just long enough to notice any spelling mistakes and read it. So the last thing you want to do is hide the information that they may be looking for or give them a 15 page document. The standard maximum length for a CV is 2 A4 pages, but be careful some industries and companies will ask for 1 A4 page so make sure you read carefully and provide EXACTLY what they have asked for.

The trick is to pick a clean and easy to read format, including font and colour, and stick to it. Of course you can use colour, but make sure it still looks smart when printed in black and white, and make sure your font is appropriate, don’t pick something gimmicky or too calligraphic.

Your CV should be logically structured and highlights what everything is, use headings to clearly identify sections and break your CV up into readable segments. Ideally you would like to highlight the achievements and experiences that show how you are suited to the job and how you match the criteria for the role, so organise accordingly.

The most traditional format is with information given in reverse chronological order, a.k.a most recent first. The order in which you put them is up to you, and also what you choose to include is also up to you.

  • Personal details - Essential and normally always go first, what follows is up to you entirely.

    • Remember a professional email looks a million times better than ‘’

  • Education and qualifications - Essential to include your Degree.

  • Employment history/work experience - Essential to have work experience

    • If you have lots of similar types of work experience then you could break them into their own sections with suitable headings, eg. ‘Voluntary Work’ or ‘Retail Work’, etc.

  • Other interests, skills and achievements.

    • Again, you can break this down into a sections with headings, eg. ‘IT Skills’ or ‘Sporting Achievements’ etc.

It is also important to make sure that your CV is on a programme that can be run by the recruiter, whether that is PDF or Microsoft Word can depend on the specifics of the recruiter and what you prefer. But make sure that it can be opened and viewed easily, otherwise you can kiss that role goodbye before you even hit send.


Step 3: Space

There is limited space, so be careful to only put relevant information that will catch recruiter’s attention. Regardless which format you choose for your CV it is essential that you give the most space to information that is directly relevant to the job. Make it simple for recruiters to see that you meet their minimum requirements, and exceed them.

To do this, you need to carefully match your skills to the selection criteria (found on the job description) as closely as possible. Make the most of the space that you have, if you have 2 pages then use them, use short punchy paragraphs or snappy bullet points (no longer than a line and a half) for your skills or achievements to easily highlight where you match and excel.

The Don’ts

You only get 2 pages, sometimes 1, you do not need to include any unnecessary information. Save your space for selling yourself!

  • No photo- might be different for different countries or industries but normally no.

  • No personal statement/ profile necessary.

  • No age, gender, date of birth or words like ‘Curriculum Vitae’.

  • No achievements from school days, unless particularly exceptional or highly relevant.


Step 4: Gaps

If you have gaps, don’t stress, think carefully how you should present them and always put the most important information in the foreground. Significant gaps are obvious and recruiters will spot them no matter how you try to cover them up. So try to seek the positives in your experience and learn to convey the appropriate amount of information comfortably and calmly. And whatever you do, do NOT make stuff up to fill in the gaps or feel like you have to give reasons for unusual data (unless asked for).


Step 5: Stand out

Obviously you are competing for roles against other graduates so you have to stand out from the crowd, or risk being outshone. It is important to be prominent for all the right reasons, it’s not so much about what you’ve done but more about how successfully you’ve done it.

Including your skills in your CV can help, but don’t just list tasks and activities you’ve done, rather include a brief description to demonstrate how you performed well and used your skill. To help give you an edge over similarly qualified graduates include; skills gained through extracurricular activities, any targets you may have achieved or any praise received from managers/ customers.


Step 6: Check!

When you are finished, do NOT forget to check it! The easiest way to do this is to print off a copy, read through and make sure that it;

  • Makes sense - check your grammar and format.

  • Is targeted to the job and employer - do your research on the company and job.

  • Shows you meet the minimum requirements - check the job description.

  • Has no spelling errors - you have spell check, use it.

Get feedback from friends, family and university careers centres. You may have stared at it for too long and it might make perfect sense to you but this might not be the case for others. Be prepared for some criticisms, opinions and some added details others may think you need on it. Regardless, this helps you to create the best CV you can and will be easy for recruiters to read.

Remember: It won’t matter to a recruiter what you have written or achieved. If it is missing your degree results, or if it is a mission to find any relevant information, or if it’s riddled with typos and looks like the dogs breakfast - it’s not going to get very far!