Classic CV Guidelines: The Do’s and Don’ts
Either of the two formats outlined below can be used for any application for many jobs including managerial, professional, administration and any other non-academic job. In general, the skills format tends to be used by new graduates or those with less work experience as it enables you to focus on your transferable skills. You need to choose which of the two layouts suit you best and what you are most comfortable writing.
A Chronological layout gives an historical account of your career path so far. This is the format most people are familiar with – we have called this the ‘Classic CV’.
A Skills layout places emphasis on the skills, experience and strengths you have acquired and can offer the employer. It is not written chronologically but under headings which prioritise and match the skills the employer is looking for.
However, the ‘do’s and don’ts are the same for both CV formats. _________________________________________________________________________
In a standard UK format, you only have two pages to sell yourself, so your CV needs to be a powerful marketing document which sells your skills and abilities to a prospective employer ahead of other applicants. It is important to realise that the purpose of a CV is not to get a job, but to get on the short list for an INTERVIEW. You do not need to write your life history: keep to the more relevant facts, based on what they have stated in their job description.
You need to match the content of your CV to the needs of the organisation you are applying to. It should highlight your education, academic history, skills and any work experience you have which will enhance your application. Use evidence to demonstrate that you can provide the skills the organisation needs.
- Make it attractive and appealing to the eye – an employer will make a first impression VERY quickly
- Use 14 font for your name and 11 font for the rest of your CV. Use Ariel or another clear font style – why not look at Tahoma or Verdana
- Use bold for all headings.
- Be aware if you use capitals for headings that spell check may ignore errors, so carefully proofread
- Write your name on the top of the second sheet as a header, in case your CV is printed and pages become separated.
- Use one font style
- Be crisp and concise
- Write in statements – bullet points are most effective
- Avoid using the word ‘I’ too often, especially at the start of every sentence
- Use action/power words at the beginning of each statement (See end of this section for examples)
- Avoid too much white space (often created by listing qualifications down the page) as you may be able to use this space more wisely to sell yourself. Use the width of the page instead
- Write headings which suit you and your experience/history. The headings in the Classic CV example are for guidelines only
- Make sure it is two pages long – max!
- Use the words Curriculum Vitae – the reader knows what it is!
- Your photograph (unless you are applying for a job for which a photo is essential)
- Lengthy job descriptions – focus on what you achieved instead
- Non-essential personal information, e.g. if including interests and hobbies, state how they are relevant to the role.
- Long sentences
- Lists – such as your GCSE’s
- Exaggerate the truth – while your CV is a place to sell yourself positively, it needs to be an honest and accurate reflection of your skills and abilities.
Top 5 Layout Suggestions For a Classic CV
- Write your name in the middle of the page – or on the extreme right or left margin. Use a large font – this is you – this is what you are marketing! Your date of birth is NOT necessary
- Put a line between your contact information and the main body of your CV. It gives your CV more definition
- Always write an Objective or Profile – you may be sending your CV speculatively to an organisation and they do not want to second-guess what you are looking for. It also helps the person reading your CV to focus exactly on what you – and they – are looking for and provides a targeted ‘headline’ for your CV
- Prioritisation of information – for instance education followed by employment history in the chronological format. Then prioritise the information under each heading. One example could be:
- Played football for the University 1st 11 and was captain
- Captain of 1st 11 University football team
The second example would be the preferred option as it highlights that you were captain and could lead a team not that you played football.
- Be consistent – make it easy for the reader to find out all about you in a logical and readable layout. For instance, write your dates in the same place – perhaps always on the left-hand margin.
Words to use on your CV
Here are some examples of action/power words you could use. Select words which match the opportunity for which you are applying – the clues will be in the job description.
Achieved Administered Advised Analysed
Assessed Arranged Budgeted Calculated
Completed Conducted Controlled Co-ordinated
Created Designed Devised Developed
Discovered Distributed Evaluated Examined
Explained Increased Instructed Liaised
Managed Monitored Negotiated Organised
Planned Promoted Recommended Reformed
Represented Researched Responsible for Resulted
Selected Sold Solved Supervised
Taught Tested Trained Welcomed
Your CV Checklist:
- Is it in a consistent and readable format? First impressions matter – how your CV is laid out tells the person who is reading it, a lot about you – see about being consistent mentioned above
- Does the document emphasise your skills and achievements?
- Does it tell the reader what they need/want to know about you? Look at what you have written from the employer’s perspective – is it logical and fluid?
- Is it accurate? Check your documents for spelling and grammar
- Have you used enough white space? Or too much? Do not put too much information on a page but also avoid your CV looking too empty!
- Have you prioritised your information and used words which make you sound proactive and positive?
- Have you asked your referees if it is OK to give their names before you include them?
- Have you used abbreviations? Don’t!
- Have you asked someone to proofread your CV before sending it?
- Have you told the truth?
- Have you kept a copy?