How to write a British-style CV

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This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 3 May 2022.

If you’re looking for a part-time job while you study in the UK, or will be searching for full-time employment or an internship here once you graduate, you’ll need to be able to put together a killer CV. And we’re about to show you how. 

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What is a CV? 

A CV (curriculum vitae, which means ‘Life’s Course’ in Latin) or résumé – is a vital part of applying for a job or internship. It details your work and education history so employers can get a brief picture of your experience and skills. 

How to build the perfect CV 

Although there is standard information to include in a CV, it’s a good idea to tailor it to each role you’re applying for. For example, if the job description asks for ‘team-building skills’, include examples of how you’ve successfully to formed and worked in teams in your education or work experience. You should also make sure your CV is in reverse chronological order – this means putting your most recent experience first.  

More generally, your CV should include: 

  1. Contact details, like your name, address, email and telephone number. Don’t include personal information like marital status, date of birth, photograph, details of personal experiences or social media handles (unless relevant for the role). 

  2. A brief personal statement. This should give a quick overview of who you are, what your strengths are and what relevant skills you have. It’s important to tailor this section to every role you apply for. If you like, include two or three sentences on your key experiences and what you want to do next. It should be attention grabbing and give the reader a good sense of who you are.

  3. Details of your education and qualifications. Unless your high school diploma is your highest qualification, it’s usually fine to just list your university qualification.

  4. Work experience. Here is where you list details of past employment, internships or voluntary work. If you have lots, just pick out the most recent few or most relevent to the role you’re applying for. Mention any responsibilities you had in any of these roles that are requirements of your prospective new job. 

  5. Hobbies and interests. There has been a trend in recent years with employers looking for candidates who have well-rounded interests, specifically if they involve social and community activities, like societies and sports clubs. If you love cooking or travelling, practice yoga or play a music instrument, talk about it at the end of your CV. It reflects well on you to appear proactive and ambitious in your personal life. 

  6. References. It’s usually it’s fine to write at the bottom of your CV, ‘references available upon request’, but an employer may sometimes ask you to provide them on your CV. Thoroughly check the job description for the role you’re applying for.  

Tips on how to make your CV stand out

Here are some tips on how to make sure your CV looks its best: 

  • Each section should have clear subheadings and be neatly laid out.
  • Use standard fonts like Arial or Times New Roman and always 10 or 12, to make your CV easy to read.
  • A one-page CV is usually enough for a graduate but never write more than two pages. 
  • Proofread it! There’s nothing worse than having a spelling mistake on your CV and it’s not uncommon for employers to discard your application (even if you have all the qualifications) because of spelling or grammar.
  • Rather than just list the projects or work you’ve done, emphasise the skills and experience you gained in them – for example, if you’re the president of a student society, a good quality to list along with this would be ‘leadership’ or ‘ability to delegate’.

How to write the perfect personal statement 

A personal statement is essentially the blurb at the beginning of the CV that helps you sell yourself. Think of this as your personal advert:  be bold (but not overconfident), get creative and give an insight into your personality, ambitions and passions – not just your academic achievements. 

A top tip is to tailor the personal statement for the job you are going for, making sure to highlight relevant skills and attributes that the employer is asking for in the job description. And remember you can use your hobbies, academic life, internships and part-time jobs to highlight how you meet the requirements. 

Use a template 

There are lots of templates you can use via Microsoft Word to help you build the perfect CV. Be careful though, some of them can make your CV look too complicated and overly designed, which is not the way you want to grab the attention of employers. As the saying goes: less is more! 

It’s also important to remember that the graduate job market is very competitive and a nice-looking CV can help you stand out. As well as making your CV look good, you should check that it reads well and is easy to follow. Recruiters will have lots of applications to run through so your CV needs to make a great first impression.  

Should I mention my visa status on my CV?

You have no obligation to state your visa status on your CV, but you shouldn’t be applying for jobs if you’re unsure whether they offer visa sponsorship. If you’re unsure, it’s good to call the company and ask them to clarify if the position comes with a potential visa sponsorship. There’s a website called Student Circus that lists jobs that are willing to sponsor international graduates. 

A lot of jobs with online application forms will ask if you have the right to live and work in the UK so it’s important to be open and honest about that. It’s recommended you answer ‘yes’ to this question and then find a comment box in the application to explain your visa situation. 

Should I include my social media handles? 

Unless you’re applying for a job in the creative industry (journalism, public relations, marketing, etc) it’s usually not relevant to include your social media handles in your CV. But be aware that employers are increasingly looking at the social media channels of job candidates before offering the job, so it’s worth cleaning up your social channels before you start job hunting. 

What if I lie on my CV? 

In a bid to make yourself sound great, you might be tempted to exaggerate your achievements. For example, there is a big difference between embellishing your involvement in a project, to outright lying. You should never lie in your CV – it’s likely you will get caught out. For example, if you are applying for a graduate position and you say you got a 2:1 but you actually got a 2:2, the likelihood is that the employer will find out because often – as part of application processes – you will have to submit your certificates. 

It is also worth knowing that in extreme circumstances you could face prosecution and even a prison sentence. 

You might also like to read

10 ways to stay in the UK after your studies

How to get work experience while studying in the UK

Everything you need to know about the Skilled Worker visa