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Creating your first CV

Why a CV matters

Employers choose who they want to interview from what is contained on your CV, so it’s really important that it’s easy to understand and shows off your plus points.

Spelling mistakes, poor grammar and missing information on a CV look really bad and if it is incomplete, employers may simply throw it in the bin.

CV basics

There’s no right or wrong way to set out a CV, but there are some standard sections that they should contain. These are:

  • personal and contact information
  • education and qualifications
  • work history
  • skills relevant to the job
  • interests
  • references

References

They should be from people who know you well and can tell an employer about what you have done in the past. They are usually your last two employers, but if you haven’t worked before, you can use a teacher or a tutor from school or college.

Interests

Highlight the things that show off the skills that employers look for; anything you’ve done that shows working in a team, any relevant voluntary work or work experience, any positions of responsibility and any activity that shows initiative and commitment are really good things to put down.

Keep your CV to a maximum of two sides of A4 paper. Employers receive a lot of CVs, so it’s unlikely that they will read each one from start to finish. In fact, most will make a judgment about a CV after a few seconds, so keep it as short as possible.

Finally, be honest. If you lie about your level of experience or the skills that you have and your employer finds out, you could face the sack.

Your skills

It’s also important to include a section dedicated to your skills. The ones that you mention will depend on the nature of the job you’re applying for, but some examples of key skills can make you really stand out:

  • computer skills, including using commonly-used programs, writing a blog or knowledge of web design are useful in many jobs
  • if you’re confident in speaking in front of groups and calm and friendly on the telephone, use these as examples of good communication skills
  • if you’ve ever worked with a large group such as a sports team or a drama group, this can be evidence of teamworking
  • think about any obstacles you have overcome and how you did it to show off your problem solving ability

Keeping your CV updated

It’s really important to review your CV regularly, so that all your skills and experiences are included and it is an accurate and positive reflection of you.

If you’ve recently completed a work placement or started to volunteer, make sure you record it on your CV along with a short description of what your main duties were and what skills you used. You should also add any new qualifications to your CV as soon as you finish them.

Have a look at our CVs and Covering Letters booklet (PDF, 105KB) to get some useful tips and templates.

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