If you want to start looking for work, you’ll need an up to date CV. But if you haven’t written one in a while, that can be a daunting task. This guide is here to help – we share expert advice from recruiters on how to make sure your CV gets you noticed.
Our guide explores the following:
1. Types of CV
2. Choosing your CV style
3. Layout tips
4. What to include
5. What not to include
6. Tailoring your CV to a job description
7. Explaining a career break
8. Summing up
There are two main styles of CV – a chronological CV and a skills-based or functional CV. The chronological style is more common, where you list your work experience in date order, working backwards from today.
A functional CV focuses more on your skills, abilities, and achievements rather than the chronological order of your work history. It typically prioritises key skills and experience rather than time.
A chronological CV is generally a good choice if you have a strong, consistent work history without significant gaps, and your career path shows a logical progression.
It’s particularly useful if you’re looking to advance within the same field or industry, and if you’re applying for positions where your previous job titles or companies would impress or directly relate to the new role.
Choose a functional CV if you’re changing careers or have significant gaps in your work history. This way the recruiter will focus on what you can do rather than the time spent in previous roles.
A functional CV is useful in showcasing how you meet the job description from diverse experiences, which might include volunteering, freelancing or something in your community.
A hybrid CV can also be effective, using elements of both chronological and functional formats. It’s a way to highlight your work history while also emphasising key skills and accomplishments. Read more about different CV types.
Your CV needs to grab attention fast and be easily digested. Aim to keep it on two pages as a maximum, with no dense text. Bullet points, headings and concise sentences will make it easier for the recruiter.
There are lots of templates available to help inspire you. Hiration.com is a really helpful, free tool that will give your CV a modern, clean layout.
Key things your CV should include…
Your CV should only include information that’s relevant to work. You shouldn’t include:
There’s also no need to add dates to educational qualifications, and you can describe O-Levels as ‘GCSE equivalent’ if you’re concerned about age discrimination.
As mentioned earlier, don’t include every job you’ve ever done – only the most relevant or recent from the past 10 to 15 years.
You also don’t need to include references or say that they’re available on request. They aren’t needed at this stage in the process – but it is a good idea to consider who you will ask for a reference when required. See more guidelines on what not to include.
You’re likely to have more job success if you tailor your CV to each job you apply for. Key steps to consider are:
1. Match your personal statement/profile to the job. Avoid repeating it word for word, but if the description is seeking ‘a self-starter with experience in the retail sector’, you could describe yourself as a ‘proactive team player with xx years’ retail experience’. You could even explain why you want the specific role at the hiring company.
2. Highlight required skills. Ensure specific skill keywords in the job description are obvious in your CV. Make it very clear how your skills, experiences and achievements align with what the employer is seeking.
3. Show you understand their language. If the job description uses technical terms of jargon, including these in your CV will demonstrate that you’re familiar with the industry and its terms.
See more on tailoring your CV to a job.
Career breaks are increasingly common and won’t necessarily be a disadvantage. It’s important to be clear and honest. Give dates and summarise the reason for the break, whether it be poor health, caring for family members or anything else.
If you’re returning after a break, you might consider the skills-led CV structure over the chronological type, so that your skills and experience are more prominent than the break itself.
Bear in mind that voluntary work or community activity you have done can be just as relevant to a new job. Organising an event like a village fete or fundraiser will require lots of transferable skills – consider what you did and present those to a potential employer.
Read more about addressing a career break
Getting your CV ready is important, but it’s not something to agonise over. Think about your key skills and what you want recruiters to know about you, and start there.
There are lots of helpful tools online to help you, and you can keep shaping and improving your CV as you apply for each job. One important factor is to make sure there are no errors, so get a friend to read it through for you.
Bear in mind too that even a perfect CV won’t work every time – so don’t expect to get an interview for every application you make, and stay positive throughout your job search. Good luck!