The Great British Mag content team originally published the article How to write a British style CV on 28 February 2020
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 about what skills you have for the role they’re offering.
How to build the perfect CV
The best tip to building a perfect CV is to tailor it to each job you’re applying for. For example, if the job description asks for ‘team-building skills’, show how your education or experience reflects this quality – you could even write it in your personal statement. You should also make sure your CV is in reverse chronological order – this means putting your most recent experience first.
More generally, the perfect CV structure should include:
- Contact details: Name, address, email and telephone number. Do NOT include: marital status, date of birth, photograph, details of personal experiences and social media handles (unless relevant for the role).
- Personal statement: Your personal statement should include a brief overview of who you are, your strengths and any work experience or education you have. It’s important to tailor this section to every role you apply for. Optional – two or three sentences (career profile or objective) – give the reader a sense of who you are, the key things you’ve experienced and what you want to do next. It should grab the attention and provide a filter for how employers read the rest of the CV.
- Education: Detail your education history – unless your high school diploma is your highest qualification, it’s usually fine to just list your university qualification. (put this at the top)
- Experience: Include all relevant work experience or employment history.
- Hobbies and interests (if relevant): 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.
- References (if applicable): 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.
Handy tips on how to write a good CV
Here are some tips on how to make sure your CV look the best it can:
- Each section should have clear subheadings and be easy to read.
- Use 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 – 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 a spelling or grammar mistake.
- Rather than just list the projects you’ve done, emphasise the skills and experience you gained on 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 over confident), 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 go 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 standout. As well as making your CV look good it should read well, be easy to follow and logical. Recruiters will have lots of applications to run through so you have to convince them you are the right candidate in a matter of minutes.
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 look at your social media channels if they intend to offer you a 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 lying. You should never lie in your CV, because 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.