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2 minute guide to writing a great CV (with structure)

2 minute guide to writing a great CV (with structure)

CV mind map

Your CV is a two-page document that, if presented correctly, will get you a ‘foot in the door’. It won’t get you the job of course – there’s more work to do at the interview – but it’ll give you an opportunity to meet the recruiter and show them you’re a great fit for the role.

Your CV should follow this structure:

At the top – personal information

Name
Full address including postal code
Telephone number
Mobile telephone number
Email address

If the job involves driving, you may wish to note that you have a driving licence here. If it requires any special certification such as Driver CPC, you should also include this at the top.

You should avoid including unnecessary personal information. For example, your date of birth, nationality, marital status, number of children, ethnicity, religion and so on, will almost never be relevant to the job. If you include this, the recruiter may discriminate against you, even though they should not.

Next – a profile

This is optional, but most people include it. The idea is to answer the requirements of the job.

  • Make it punchy and personal to you (avoid over wacky statements)
  • No more than four sentences
  • Include your strengths, key skills and what you are looking for
  • Try to avoid using clichés like: “team player”, “good organisational skills” or “thriving under pressure”

Here is an example:

I am an Administrator with 5 years’ experience at the OPG. I have developed excellent customer service skills (phone, email and in-person) alongside strong computer skills with confidence in all Microsoft products, especially Word, Excel, Outlook and Teams. I am a confident team player and my current work has allowed me to develop a keen eye for detail.

The career history

Give your work history, most recent first.

For each position, give “Date from” and “to”, the POSITION, the Company Name, and the Location.

Duties included:

  • Bullet point this section so that it is easy to read
  • Day-to-day duties
  • Managerial responsibilities
  • Budget management

Remember to state the obvious; not all companies work in the same way. For each position, try to think of some key achievements, together with examples of skills that you’ve demonstrated in the role.

Offer more detail for positions that relate to the role you are applying for.

Offer less detail for positions that don’t relate, where there are no relevant skills. You should still note the dates worked, position, company name and location for these.

Keep it very sharp and to the point.

Under that: education and qualifications

If you have got a degree, post graduate degree, professional qualifications, etc it’s usual to include senior school and further education only. However if you didn’t do further education, do include anything from GCSEs / BTECs upwards.

  • Include any awards, special achievements or very impressive grades
  • Don’t include poor results

Skills section

You don’t have to include a skills section but it’s a useful way to clarify that you have skills the recruiter wants. Since they only spend a few seconds looking at every CV, it can help to have all the skills listed in one place.

Example: Media Link, PowerPoint, Quark, HTML, database building

Almost done – extra curricular activities next

  • Not too many and make them relevant to the sector you are applying for (eg team sports, current affairs etc.)
  • Include any positions of responsibility/achievements at university (president of society/organisation of leavers’ ball etc.)

Last of all – references

You don’t have to include references or even this section. Some people just write ‘references on request’.

But sometimes they include references if they have a good contact which might impress a prospective employer.

Always ask the person if they are happy to give a positive reference first!

REMEMBER:

  • BE HONEST
  • DON’T BE REPETITIVE
  • DON’T BE TOO “WACKY”!!

Resources

There are lots of free places you can get help with writing a CV on the web. Here are some that we have used:

  • National Careers Service: guide to how to write a CV, and they have job profiles. This gives you ideas for what skills you can put on your CV that the recruiter might be looking for.
  • Age UK: CVs for older people: if you find yourself job hunting in later years, Age UK has some great advice.
  • Resume Assistant: If you have Microsoft 365, this shows you examples of how real people — in the fields you’re interested in — describe their work experience and skills.
  • Notts Uni: The best creative CV guide we have come across. Downloadable PDF.
  • CV Template Master: The best collection of free Word Cv templates that we have come across. A good starting point for a nice fresh CV and as a bonus many are designed for ATS, the software that recruiters sometimes use to filter their applications.
  • Last but not least, the Princes Trust: they have lots of advice. Here is a helpful video:

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