In the following article, I shall explore how to structure a CV. This will be particularly helpful for those working in professional roles and services within the Higher Education sector. Please see the stand-alone free CV template as well as my guide below.
Please be aware that the suggested CV is only an example. Do use it as a template however make sure that your application is tailored to the job you are applying for. Your CV should be no more than two pages in length.
Top section of your CV:
Please include your full name, as well as your e-mail address and telephone number. You do not necessarily need to provide your home address unless the job description indicates that you need to be based in a specific area of the country to deliver the role.
Introductory personal statement:
Provide a brief summary of your skills and experience aligned with the job description. This section is a snapshot of your overall profile. Try not to include more than five or six lines. Avoid using unnecessary jargon or experience which is not relevant to the vacancy.
List certificates, diplomas and degree courses in reverse chronological order. Do include the final results of your under and postgraduate degrees. If you have not completed your degree yet, please do provide the expected year of graduation. You can include any short courses at the bottom of the CV under a section called ‘Additional courses’.
Include your current and previous work experience in reverse chronological order. Use a maximum of six bullet points to describe your responsibilities. Please make sure that you tailor these to the job description and avoid any vague expressions. You might find it helpful to include the most relevant tasks in the first few bullet points. E.g.: If the recruiter highlighted that team management is a particularly important criteria, you might want to include this as the first bullet point.
Do use any of the below expressions to describe your responsibilities:
managing, leading, coordinating, supervising, coaching, mentoring, training, delivering, overseeing, monitoring, facilitating, developing
Please avoid generalised words (e.g. always, often, very much) and instead aim to use specific data and facts. As an example, you may indicate the number of staff members you have supervised, the size of the budget you have managed, the number of events you have delivered or the type of technologies you have used. The more specific and concise your description, the more clearly you will be able to portray your experience.
Think about the professional experience section as the ‘heart’ of your CV. This is the section that recruiters will look at both before and after the interview. You may be tempted to include too much information in the bullet points. Do remember that you will be able to elaborate more on your experience in your cover letter as well as in the interview.
How far do I have to go back to list my work experience?
You will not necessarily need to include all of your work experience. Those candidates with significant professional experience might find it helpful to include the last ten or fifteen years of their job history. However, if you are an early career professional, you might want to list as many relevant roles as possible.
A well-written CV tells a story about the candidate’s experience. This story can be supported by the courses they have taken, the progression in their careers and their interests. Suze, who has worked as an Events Manager for a leading UK university, has applied for numerous positions. However, she has not been invited for any interviews. I have suggested to Suze that she should reflect on the story she wanted to tell via her CV.
As a result of our conversation, she has realised that she has not included her volunteering roles in her CV because she thought these were not relevant. However, her volunteering demonstrated her real interest in coordinating a wide range of events, training others, and solving logistical challenges. These skills have been key to the vacancies she has been applying to. When Suze reflected on her wider skills and the story she wanted to tell, she was able to submit a more convincing application and started receiving interview opportunities.
What about short term jobs and volunteering roles?
You could include any additional roles at the end of the CV in a section called ‘Additional experience’. These could be summer jobs, volunteering roles and other relevant projects.
How do I explain the gaps?
Many people take time out of work for a few months or years and struggle to explain this in their application. Do not forget to explain any gaps in employment at the end of the CV. As an example, you could use the following language:
- Between May 2016 and Dec 2016, I took some time out of work to travel overseas and to develop intercultural experience.
- Between Jan 2016 and Jan 2017, I was on maternity leave.
- Between Jan 2017 and Aug 2018, I had caring responsibilities for a family member and I had to take time out of work.
- Between Feb 2019 and Nov 2019, I suffered from a serious illness and I was not able to work during this time.
You do not necessarily need to include details of your referees unless the recruiter has indicated this in the job description. You can simply include ‘References are available upon request’ at the end of the CV. However, do make sure that you contact your referees in advance to ask for their permission.
10 Common CV writing mistakes:
- Confusing structure and too much font formatting
- Lack of proofreading and grammatical mistakes
- Submitting a generalised CV not tailored to the vacancy
- Exaggerating the truth and being dishonest
- Making your CV too long and adding irrelevant information
- Failing to list your work experience and education in reverse chronological order
- Not explaining the gaps in your profile
- Providing an unprofessional e-mail address
- Including a photo of yourself (it is not necessary)
- Not including enough detail about current and previous roles
For more advice on CVs and cover letters please see: