Your CV is your own personal advert. It’s a document which should develop as you develop, and so, in a way it’s never finished!
It usually needs to be accompanied by a covering letter, particularly if it’s a speculative application.
Most major employers recruit via their own online application forms, but thankfully both a CV and application form require similar preparation.
Preparation is key! The purpose of your CV is to give concrete and persuasive evidence that you have the requirements the recipient is looking for. As well as information from the employer, you can do your own research into the requirements of different jobs.
What do you have to offer to meet the requirements?
You can demonstrate each requirement through examples from all areas of your life:
- Part-time jobs
- Voluntary work
- Internships & work experience
- Extra-curricular activities
- Academic study
- Family commitments
These examples will allow you to formulate effective bullet points of evidence, targeted towards the requirements. This is the most important aspect of your CV.
A useful way to structure your thinking is to use the STAR acronym:
STAR - Situation Task Action Result
- Describe a particular Situation/Scenario.
- What was the Task or Target? Explain what you had to do. Include information such as any barriers you overcame.
- What was the Action you took? Use positive action verbs, such as organised, negotiated, developed, presented, persuaded, encouraged, analysed, solved.
- What was the Result? Give a positive outcome.
Write down every "STAR Story" you can think of for each requirement as concisely as you can. Prioritise them according to how relevant and persuasive they are.
It's important to be positive, but don't be tempted to exaggerate or lie. Tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth! Just don't mention what didn't work (unless you were clearly able to turn negative situations into positive ones).
Ran a local Scout group, consisting of 34 young people and a leadership team of six. Organised a weeklong camp in France by effective delegation and leadership of the team.
Researched potential outdoor education centres and arranged accommodation, insurance and travel. Facilitated and encouraged leadership team to present at information sessions for parents.
Camp was successful and received excellent feedback from Scouts and parents.
A good “STAR Story” might show evidence of several requirements.
Always accompany your CV with a covering letter (unless explicitly told not to).
Top tips for your CV
A recruiter might give your CV 15 to 30 seconds before deciding whether to keep reading. Don’t give them a reason to bin it!
Two pages maximum unless it’s an academic CV. Make sure your CV is free from spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Make it easy to read
- Don’t use big blocks of text. If it looks hard to read, then it won’t be read.
- Use bullet points to break up text - using one bullet per “STAR Story” can be helpful.
Include a personal summary
- This can come directly after your contact details. You don’t need to give it a heading.
- Summarise particularly relevant skill(s) and selling points. One or two sentences at most.
- Mention what you’re looking for in your next role – and make sure it’s the same as the employer offers!
Express yourself in a professional and positive way
- Use action verbs to show what you did.
- Show that you generated a positive outcome if possible. This applies to hobbies and interests too.
- Tell the truth and nothing but the truth - but not necessarily the whole truth.
Save it as a PDF
Save your CV as a PDF to make a professional first impression – and to ensure it looks as you intended!
CV types - examples
There’s no such thing as the perfect CV. What is right for one employer might not be perfect for another.
You have a lot of flexibility in how to present your evidence, and the most important thing is that you’re happy with your CV!
Here are some examples to get you started:
The most common type of CV, focussing on academic and work experience in reverse chronological order. This is probably the most simple and suitable style for a recent graduate.
Focuses on a few skills based on key requirements. Can be particularly effective if you:
Useful for part-time, term-time jobs, or a temporary job after graduation.
Required for applying for a post-doc or academic role after a PhD.
Additional help and support
Once you’ve drafted your CV, ask someone you trust to look over it. Bear in mind that although everyone has their own opinion on CVs, yours is the most important! You can also get feedback from the Careers Service.
Please note: we cannot provide a spell checking or proof reading service, but we will help you to make your CV more effective at demonstrating your suitability for a job. For help to ensure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are of a high standard, you may want to access a proof reading service.
Check out our blog to help you turn your student experiences into CV language.