How to write a successful CV

jodiecAdvice, CVs, Final Year, First Year, Graduates, Postgraduate, Second Year

Whatever kind of role you’re applying for – whether that’s a part-time job, volunteering role, placement, internship or graduate job – a great CV is essential. We’ve pulled together some tips to help you write a CV that’s sure to stand out to employers for all the right reasons.

Checklist of what to include

Before you get stuck into writing your CV, it’s a good idea to plan out the structure of it so you can make sure you cover all the key information an employer will want to know. Take a look at this handy checklist of what to include in your CV to get you started:

  • Your full name and contact details
  • A short personal profile which outlines a few relevant achievements and skills, and expresses your career aims
  • Work experience and employment history
  • Education history 
  • Key skills and achievements
  • Relevant hobbies and interests (avoid vague things like ‘socialising’ and ‘reading’ as they aren’t going to be of interest to an employer. Instead, if you run your own blog or are part of a society or sports club for example, mention those)
  • References

Presentation is key

If you send an employer a dissertation-length Word document that’s not formatted appropriately, the chances are you’re not going to get invited to an interview. Here are a few things you can do to your CV to make it as easy as possible for employers to see what an outstanding candidate you are:

  • Keep it brief – two sides of A4 is plenty.
  • Avoid fonts like Lucida Handwriting and Wingdings. Choose a font that’s professional and clear such as Arial or Calibri and set the size to between 10 and 12.
  • Break up the text with headings, bullet points and white space, so it’s easier to read.
  • List everything in reverse chronological order so the employer sees your most recent work history and achievements first.
  • Think outside the box – if a standard Word document isn’t cutting it, why not stand out with a creative, yet still professional, CV design? These are particularly impactful if you’re looking for jobs where you’ll need to express your creativity e.g. marketing roles. Websites like Canva have some free templates you can explore.

Tailor it

It’s a good idea to have a master copy of your CV which you add to as and when you gain more experience and skills. However, it’s important that you take the time to create a tailored version of your CV for each new role you apply for. Yes, this will take time, but employers can spot a generic CV a mile off. If you don’t want your CV to end up on the ‘nope’ pile, then make sure you spend some time creating a bespoke CV for the role.

If you’re not sure how to tailor your CV, start off by researching the company and using the job advert to see what skills they are after. Then you can mention relevant information about the company and showcase the skills they are interested in on your CV.

Keep it up-to-date

You should keep your CV up-to-date whether you’re currently looking for a job or not.

Volunteered for a local charity? Completed a coding course? Organised a fundraising event for your society? Whenever you gain experience or develop a new skill, add it to your CV as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might end up forgetting something important that could help you secure that placement/job in several months’ time.

Give examples of your skills

It’s not enough to just say you’re good at something – you need to provide evidence to back it up.

So, instead of stating ‘I’m a team player’, write about the time you worked on a project with your colleagues during your internship. Give details about what your role was, how you ensured you worked together effectively and the outcome of the project. If you’ve got some stats to back it up, even better!

Use active verbs

Words have power, so now is the time to use ones that pack a punch. Using active verbs will really help showcase your skills and impress employers.

Here are just some to get you started:

  • Produced
  • Facilitated
  • Orchestrated
  • Developed
  • Streamlined
  • Chaired
  • Budgeted
  • Implemented

Don’t lie

As tempting as it can be to exaggerate or even lie, this is a big no-no. Just think how awkward it would be if you got caught out at the interview stage with a question about something you made up on your CV.

There could also be serious implications. You could lose the job if the employer discovers you’ve been lying when checking your background and references. Additionally, altering your degree grade is classed as degree fraud and can result in a prison sentence – pretty scary, right? So don’t do it.

Check what you’ve written

Before you hit send on that email, make sure you spend time re-reading what you’ve written. This is your chance to make a good first impression on the employer, so don’t waste it.

Employers won’t be impressed with spelling and grammar errors or inconsistencies in formatting. Use a spell checker and enlist a second pair of eyes to check over the document – you can ask a friend or family member to sense-check it and we highly recommend you let us take a look too.

We’re here to help!

Whether you’ve only got blank Word document that’s filling you with dread or a CV that needs a bit of TLC, we can help!

We’ll be more than happy to go over your CV with you and offer some advice and feedback – just head to Aston Futures to book an appointment or email careers@aston.ac.uk

We’ve also got a range of handy resources on our website, including more CV guidelines and examples.

Written by Jodie Carpenter, Careers+Placements