Create a CV and cover letter

A CV is short for the Latin term ‘curriculum vitae’ which loosely translates to ‘the story of your life’. It is a marketing tool designed to sell your skills, knowledge and experience to a potential employer and persuade them that you are the right candidate for the job.

There is no ‘correct’ way to construct a CV. Use the basic framework to structure the information in an order that will optimise your skills and experiences.

Title/Contact Details

Place your name in a larger font across the top of the page, usually in bold. Keep the rest of this section brief, including your address, contact telephone number, and e-mail address.

Be aware that a survey found that 76% of CVs/applications with unprofessional email addresses are ignored.

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A survey found that 76% of CVs/applications with unprofessional email addresses are ignored.

Personal Profile

This is your chance to tell an employer why they should hire you. Don’t tell them your life story, tell them how you can add value to their company. Think about what skills and characteristics the employer is looking for, if you’re not sure look at their job description or website and make a list of all the keywords and skills they mention. Target your CV to the job you want and ensure that everything you include in your personal profile is relevant.

Research the employers websites, in particular look at the ‘About Us’ section. This will help you to get a ‘feel’ for the company

Spend time researching the type of job you want, look at different employer job adverts for the same type of job and identify keywords and skills asked for.

Make a list of this information for reference and it will help you to create targeted and relevant content in your CV

Structure the layout

If you’ve just left education or the employer has stated that specific qualifications or training are required then place this information first.

If you’ve just left school:


Use this section title to show all qualifications achieved. Start with your most recent education and work back.

Or, If the job requires specific qualifications or skills:

Related skills and training

Use this section title to list industry specific training, qualifications or skills. Keep the information factual, informative and direct to ensure the employer can easily match your skills to their needs.

Keep your work experience relevant

There are various ways of presenting employment details. The most common way is to use reverse chronological order starting with your most recent experience. Only include employment from the past ten years unless the employer specifically asks for this or if the job was relevant to the advertised role.

Dates of when employment was undertaken, along with company name and job title, should be included for all periods of employment as well as the main duties of responsibility at each role. Where possible try to link the content of your previous employment roles to the job you’re applying for now.

The typical employer will spend about 20 seconds skimreading a CV. Break your CV up into bite size portions using the basic framework. Only add other sections if they are relevant such as ‘Volunteering experience’.

Things to remember

Employers are interested to know your hobbies to gain further insight into your personality and interests.

When completing this section do not include anything which employers may feel detrimental, for example ‘alchohol related activities, or ‘watching TV.’ Try to think what hobbies may offer similar work related skills, for example if you are applying to a role that is team based it would be good to mention that in your spare time you enjoy a team based sports game and that you greatly enjoy being part of this team.

It’s difficult to sell yourself. Our trained advisers can help you to identify your key skills and the best ways to demonstrate these to employers.

Every CV needs a good cover letter

The best cover letters are customised for every job application. This may appear time-consuming but it is one of the most successful techniques towards getting your application selected for interview. Don’t repeat everything on your CV, use the opportunity to tell the employer what attracts you specifically to their company and why this job is right for you (avoid mentioning money). Try your best to show that you have a genuine interest in the work they do.

Tip Remember your cover letter accompanies your CV so don’t just duplicate the content.

Limit yourself to one page, and try to stick to four paragraphs. The first should include your introduction, the position you’d like to apply for, and a sentence briefly summarising why you’d like the job and why you’re a perfect fit.

The next two paragraphs should then mention applicable skills and specific achievements that further showcase how qualified you are for the job. You can even use some of the space to explain your suitability if it needs more details, such as the fact that you’re flexible with hours or why you’re changing careers.

The last paragraph should be a final, brief emphasis on why you’re excited for the position and a place for you to thank the employer for their time and consideration. You can also make a polite mention of letting them know you’ll be in touch.

Tip: Double check both your CV and Cover letter for spelling and grammar mistakes. Never hand write these documents, always type them in a legible font at a readable size (Arial at size 11 are standard options)

For advice and support on creating CVs and cover letters find your closest support venue or call us free on 0300 123 2898