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How to write a great CV

Applying for a job? Follow our complete guide to creating a killer CV and hugely increase your chances of getting hired.

Putting together the perfect CV might seem like a daunting task, but with our shiny template and some pointers on what to include, you’ll be done in no time at all.Get yourself comfortable and go through this guide (we’d recommend grabbing a cup of tea and some biscuits first) and by the end you’ll be looking at a prime example of a cracking CV, with your name at the top!

How to create a CV

When writing your CV, things will be a whole lot easier if you prepare beforehand. We’d suggest you start by listing your past jobs and notable achievements.This will get you thinking about what’s definitely worth mentioning, and what’s not quite impressive enough to include.You only have a maximum of two pages to impress, and you don’t want to end up with a poorly structured, rambling or generic CV that will just end up in recycling bins up and down the country.Having said that, you need to be careful about over-embellishing certain things and going overboard in an attempt to stand out from other candidates. There’s a balance, and it’s just a matter of finding it!

Download our CV template

If you want to practice writing your CV as we go along, you’re welcome to download our free, clean and professional CV template designed for students and graduates.There are lots of free example CVs out there, including on this page, but this template gets some of the best results.

Get a free CV review

To maximise your chances of success, register for free with the Graduate Recruitment Bureau.They are a specialist graduate career match-maker who will help with your CV while also finding you a job!

What do employers look for in a CV?

Before jumping into writing about you want to write about, turn the tables and think about what the employer will be looking for.

Tailor your CV to the job

Most people think that once you’ve got a CV sorted, the job’s done and you can send it off for every job application. While this is true to an extent, you should also try and adapt your CV and experience to demonstrate that you’re right for that specific job.This doesn’t mean you have to craft a brand new CV from scratch for every single job application, but have a think about what specific experience or skills would impress that employer, and make sure these are prominent.Also be sure to do your homework on every company you apply for. Each business is unique, so take the time to research their website, the job ad, their social media accounts, or even contact current employees if you can trace them down.

Aim to be the perfect candidate

Employers will be looking for certain traits in a new employee, so the ‘perfect’ candidate will vary from one vacancy to the next.However, while it can be down to specific skills or relevant work experience, there are a number of key personal qualities and skills that employers are always hunting for.Nail a few of these and your chances of getting the job are looking much better:

  • Self-management (including time-keeping)
  • Teamwork and leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Communication skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Customer care
  • Academic and extra-curricular achievements
  • IT skills
  • Commitment and enthusiasm

Have a look at the skills most wanted by employers for some more help on deciding what to list on your CV.

What makes you the ideal candidate for the job?

Now you’ve considered what the employer’s looking for, it’s time to model yourself towards this.Forget making stuff up or pretending to be someone you’re not, but instead emphasise and tailor aspects of your education, work experience and interests towards the job on offer.

What is the best CV format?

The first step when writing your CV is deciding how to arrange your experiences so the employer can easily understand and follow what you have to say. The the two most popular formats are reverse chronological and skills-based.Both have their advantages, and the choice is yours. Skills-based CVs are usually best when applying for roles you don’t have a lot of previous work experience with – they allow you to emphasise how the skills you’ve gained are transferable to this role.A chronological CV is best if you’ve got a lot of work experience and/or education in the field that you want to show off.Whichever you choose, make sure it all fits on to two A4 pages.

Reverse chronological CV

  • This is the most common type of CV
  • Simply list your previous work experience/qualifications in chronological order, with the most recent at the top
  • Don’t forget to talk about what your learned and achieved in those roles. Be as specific as possible and focus on results
  • The format is quick and easy to put together (but can look generic and emphasise any gaps that you have taken out of work)
  • Skills can be highlighted as you go along or summarised at the end (though if you find yourself repeating the same skills, you might be better off with a skills-based layout).

Skills-based CV

  • This CV emphasises your skills first
  • Your work experience and qualifications are listed below, with years and a brief summary of key duties or achievements
  • To make it easier, pick the top five skills for the job you’ll be applying for, then choose two or three examples for each skill from a range of situations including education, work and other activities
  • This type of CV can help you target the job description directly, but try and keep your examples as specific as possible so it doesn’t become vague


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