Writing an effective CV

CVs are an essential tool in the job searching process and everyone should know how to construct one. But many people don't know the difference between a good CV and a great CV and this could be the deciding factor in securing an interview for your dream job.

After reading this section, you will know:

  • How to create a CV that stands out in the crowd
  • The best format to follow
  • What to include and what to exclude in your CV
  • Importance of tailoring your CV to your audience

The format of a winning CV.

  • Any single version of the CV should aim to cover 2 pages and no more than 3.
  • CV preparation can be organised to provide you with a database of skills, experience and achievements from which you should select material to reflect the requirements of the specific job role.
  • Put the most important matching points first, even if they are less important in terms of your present job, or were skills or achievements that go back some time.
  • Do not feel obliged to add superfluous details about your marital status, children, religion or political affiliations, etc.
  • A CV should begin with a short summary of who you are . Make sure that this is objective and avoid all the subjective cliches such as 'excellent self-starter', 'good team player', 'natural leader and good communicator'. These qualities can be demonstrated through your tangible achievements which follow in the CV.
  • The opening statement can be tailored to pick up on the key features of a given job description.
  • Remember that your CV will form part of the script for the interviewer's questions.
  • Do not allow gaps or unclear explanations to take up the precious time allotted to you so, try to neatly match their requirements.

Illustrate your achievements.

  • It is not sufficient to simply state the posts and responsibilities that you have held. It is vital to illustrate how well you have carried out this work through your list of achievements.
  • How does an achievement differ from responsibility? An achievement is a statement of how you have added value to an organisation.

Make sure to sell yourself.

  • Always express your skills and qualities in the present tense - you may not be using them right now but you still have these facilities.
  • Positive features need to jump off the page.
  • CV should be printed and well designed.
  • So that the material is clear and visually attractive yet so many CVs do not reach this standard. Make sure that yours does, otherwise it is a complete waste of effort.
  • Be objective. Get someone independent to look at your CV when you have completed it - not a friend or family member. Be prepared to refine it a number of times until it is right.
  • Do not forget your skills outside of work. There may be something that you do in your personal time that has a direct bearing on your suitability for a particular post. 
  • A CV should also give some idea of your future potential. If you are presently studying for an additional qualification, say so.

Functional and chronological CVs.

  • The most widely accepted style is the chronological CV.
  • Career history is presented as a series of appointments with the achievements listed against each one.
  • Presented in reverse date order, with the most recent appointment first.
  • More space can be allocated to the more recent positions, since these are where your most important achievements are usually found.
  • In some situations, however, a functional CV is acceptable and may be more appropriate.
  • This is where you group together your skills and experience under `functional' headings.
  • It can be helpful to produce a functional CV even if it is just for your own reference.


  • List your professional, higher education qualifications and O/A Levels with school details.
  • Show recent vocational training.
  • Include genuine foreign language skills.
  • Include your unusual interests.
  • Add a note of any publications and/or external positions you hold.


  • List every training course you have ever attended.
  • Indicate race/nationality/politics, etc.
  • Indicate your computer skills.
  • Say 'O Level French' if you can't hold a full conversation.
  • Put down mundane interests.
  • Include present salary details.
  • Give references.

Now find out how to write an effective cover letter for job applications.


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