The Ladder to Employment: Writing Your CV

By Kirsty Bide

In an economy where employers receive an average of 60 applications for every one unskilled job, and 20 for every skilled job, making sure you have a stand-out CV could be the difference between you getting the job or not. Getting a CV right is vital, and this step-by-step guide is designed to help you stand out as an individual, and to help prevent you from making those easy to avoid errors that can cost you your dream job.

Step One – Remember the basics!

Always make sure your key information is easily accessible – your name, your address, your phone number and your email address should be the obvious on the page. It may seem like an obvious thing, but for most employers, first impressions are all that matter, so if they don’t know who you are, they aren’t going to go looking!

Step Two – Be concise!

With such high application rates, employers are not liable to go searching through a 5 page CV for that big thing that makes you special, so try to say everything in as few words as possible. Potential employers do not need (or want!) to hear your life history – stick to the interesting and different stuff about you, and be job specific, so for example, if you’re applying for a job in journalism, it may not be necessary to mention that work experience you did 5 years ago when you fancied being a vet! If it isn’t helping it’s hindering, so stick to what’s relevant.

Step Three – Sell it!

A CV is not the place to be shy, so don’t sell yourself short! If you’ve got something about you that sets you apart from others, make sure you include it, as that can be the difference between being offered an interview or going even further, and being passed aside for another candidate. Employers aren’t looking for cookie cutters, and a good degree alone won’t cut it nowadays, so you need to stand out from other candidates.

Step Four – Signpost!

One of the biggest issues employers encounter with CVs is a lack of clarity and a lack of signposting. I would always stick with four main sections within a CV:

  1. Summary – For some companies with particularly high application rates, this can be enough for a recruiter to make a decision on you, so this is where you sum up your greatest achievements – be selective, and make sure you stand out here. As I’ve said before, first impressions count, so make the right one!
  2. Work Experience – Having a good background of work experience can make a real difference, be in paid or voluntary work, so it is worth putting in the time during your summers to make sure you’ve got a good work experience profile.
  3. Non-academic activities – Have you been on the hockey team for three years? Are you an active member of the feminist society? Have you recently run a marathon? This is the kind of stuff that can set you apart from other applicants, and having some human interest can be the difference between you and the person sitting next to you in the interview room, so it is vital to include anything different about you.
  4. Education – Going to a top university like Newcastle can go a really long way with employers, so don’t underestimate the importance of that! Equally, sometimes less is more with your educational profile on your CV – you may choose to not mention that E for the experimental AS level Biology, for example!

Step 5 – Accuracy matters!

Recruiters are trained to prune out the best candidates, and so getting your grammar, spelling and punctuation really matters in a CV. It can be a huge turn off for employers to read a CV riddled with errors, so make sure you proof read it, or get friends or family to check it before you send it.

Step 6 – Be honest!

When writing a CV, it can be really tempting to exaggerate your achievements, or even create new ones – if you aren’t fluent in Flemish, don’t say it, you will get caught out if you get to interview stage (see The Apprentice for proof!)!

Hopefully, by following this simple guide, you will create a CV that stands out, just remember that the key thing in a CV is to sell yourself and be the best you possible on that form to create the best impression possible, so be confident in yourself and your CV will shine!


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