New to learning how to write a good CV or simply looking for help with your CV? Since there’s no such thing as a ‘no CV’ job, follow our top 15 CV writing tips along with a CV example and FAQs designed to help you get a job in 2024.
If you’re looking to create an effective CV in 2024, there are key strategies that can help your job application stand out and get noticed by employers in the UK.
Here are 15 important tips to consider when making your CV:
1. Target the job you want
Tailor the personal statement to each job you apply for by highlighting skills suitable for that position.
Tell the employer who you are and how much professional experience you have in the first sentence. Then in the second sentence, showcase your skills and prove your suitability for the position. Finally, state your relevant career goals in the third sentence.
If you’re writing a CV for a promotion, your employer is already familiar with your achievements. So focus on something they don’t know about you, perhaps from a previous job.
Here’s an example of a personal statement targeting a customer service position:
Example of a well-written CV personal statement
Enthusiastic and driven professional with 7+ years of experience providing exceptional customer service and exceeding sales goals. Skilled communicator and problem solver with a proven ability to interact with multicultural populations, demonstrating patience and professionalism to resolve difficult situations.
2. Use a CV maker
Writing a unique, persuasive CV takes time. But sometimes time just isn’t on your side. When you need to put together a professional CV quickly, the most reliable approach is to use an online CV maker.
CV makers help you build a CV with minimal effort. These tools work by asking you a few questions about your professional history, skills, and qualifications, and then suggesting content for your CV. They also format your CV perfectly.
Good CV makers also produce ATS-compatible applications, which are more suitable for the software large companies use to screen applicants. So using a CV maker increases the odds your CV makes it to employers.
3. Make sure your contact details are up to date
Employers use the contact details you provide on your CV to get back to you. If you’ve switched phone numbers or started using a new email address, ensure those details are up to date on your CV.
Employers are only likely to try a couple of times to get in touch, and won’t bother trying to track you down if they can’t reach you.
4. Write based on your experience level
Writing a new CV as a school leaver and lack work accomplishments so far? That’s okay. Employers expect to read about your career objectives and skills in your personal statement.
Here’s an example of a strong entry-level CV personal statement:
A recent mathematics graduate with 1 year of internship experience in data science and engineering. Recognised for consistently solving critical problems, reaching project goals, and meeting deadlines. Seeking to apply problem-solving skills in a position at TAR Solutions.
If you’re an experienced applicant, feature your top accomplishments in your statement. Use hard numbers to give your capabilities context. For example:
Digital marketing specialist with 8 years’ ecommerce experience. Increased sales by 47% through implementing customer trend reports and competitive analysis. Hoping to bring an exceptional standard of digital marketing to House Media.
How your CV is organised should also reflect your level of industry experience, so take a look at different CV layouts to identify the best way to highlight your expertise for the employer.
5. List your highest level of education first
Outline your education in reverse-chronological order to give the recruiter a sense of your specialities. Stick to this order:
- university degrees
- vocational qualifications
- A-Levels (Highers/Advanced Highers in Scotland)
- GCSEs (N5s in Scotland)
6. Choose your CV format carefully
The right CV design highlights the most relevant and impressive parts of your experience while drawing the employer’s attention away from your weaknesses. There are two main formats to choose from based on your situation: the chronological CV and the skills-based CV.
If you have no major gaps in your employment or are still studying, use a traditional chronological CV. This CV format places your work experience section towards the top of the page, starting with your most recent work experience.
The skills-based CV format shifts the focus of your CV from your employment history to the skills you have to offer.
Regardless of the format you choose, opt for an appropriate CV length — normally 1–2 pages, depending on your experience.
7. Include relevant modules
Some companies prefer to hire candidates who’ve completed particular modules or qualifications. Tailor your education section to match the job description’s requirements and include any relevant modules you’ve taken and qualifications you have.
Here’s an example of a strong CV education section with a list of job-relevant modules:
8. Show both technical and transferable skills
Here’s a list of technical abilities to highlight on your CV, depending on what industry you work in:
- Computer or IT-related abilities
- Coding languages
- Exercise or sports techniques
- Language skills
- Industry-specific software
- Legal knowledge
- Equipment operation
By contrast, these soft skills are abilities that employers value:
- Time management
- Critical thinking abilities
- Decision making
- Interpersonal traits
9. Give examples of your skills in a professional environment
When writing your CV’s skills section, include examples of how you’ve applied your skills. For instance, here’s how a sales manager can show their organisational and leadership skills on a skills-based CV:
- Organisational skills: Helped implement a new inventory tracking system, improving organisational efficiency by 25%
- Leadership: Successful mentoring of new hires led to being promoted to manager of a 5-salesperson team
10. Only include relevant skills on your CV
Maximise your chances of getting an interview by only highlighting skills relevant to your target position on your CV. To determine which skills to showcase, read the job description and include skills listed by the recruiter (if you have them).
Additionally, you can research other similar job descriptions to find valuable skills for the job you want.
Or use a CV builder that suggests relevant skills based on your previous job titles and education history.
11. Add extra sections to your CV
If you’ve got space at the bottom of your CV, add a hobbies and interests section to highlight your relevant personality traits.
Also, you can create sections to emphasise your awards, professional certifications, and publications.
12. Insert keywords from the job advert
The job advert you’re responding to includes skills-based keywords. Add these buzzwords to your CV, if they’re skills you have.
Many companies set their applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan CVs for these keywords. To reach most employers, modern CVs must include the keywords the ATS is looking for.
13. Pick powerful adjectives and verbs
Choosing powerful verbs and adjectives to describe your skills and achievements on your CV helps your application stand out. Here are overused CV words and phrases that won’t impress employers, followed by better alternatives:
- Suggested → Inspired
- Hardworking → Diligent
- Worked on → Developed
- Driven → Determined
- Supervised → Inspired
- Experienced → Accomplished
14. Use proofreading aids
Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors in your CV make your application appear sloppy. Avoid submitting a CV with embarrassing mistakes by:
- using online tools like Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway App to catch errors and improve your grammar as you write
- reading your CV out loud to find mistakes your eyes missed
- asking someone else to proofread for you
- editing again to ensure your proofreader’s changes are error-free
15. Back up your CV with a solid cover letter
While it’s not technically a CV writing tip, creating a strong cover letter will make your CV much more effective. The purpose of a cover letter is to align your CV with the job and explain why your skills and experience make you the best candidate out there.
When you include a cover letter with your application, you give yourself the space to explain in your own words why your expertise is special. Doing this backs up the skills you highlight on your CV. Read up on how to write a cover letter to ensure you’re maximising the effectiveness of this crucial job application document.
Frequently asked questions about CV writing tips
Wondering how to lay out your CV and what some do’s and don’ts are? We’ve got some answers to frequently asked questions about writing CVs to help you out:
- What are some tips for laying out my CV?
- How often should I update my CV?
- What are some do’s and don’ts of writing a CV?
1. What are some tips for laying out my CV?
Use standard spacing and margins to fill every page
Your goal should be to spread your information evenly across each page, so maximise the space on your CV by setting your line spacing and margins within the standard UK sizes:
- Line spacing: 1–1.5
- Margins: 1.27–2.5 cm
Increase your margins and reduce your line spacing if you’re trying to fit excess text onto your CV.
Remember that too little white space makes your CV appear packed and chaotic, whereas too much white space gives employers the impression that you don’t have much to offer.
Choose an easy-to-read font
The most ideal font for your CV is one that’s clear, professional, and easy to read. Your font should also be industry appropriate.
For example, traditional serif fonts like Times New Roman, Garamond, Didot, Cambria, and Georgia are perfect for CVs in formal industries like finance, law, and politics.
If you’re writing a creative CV, use a sans serif font that expresses your creativity without sacrificing readability. Sans serif fonts like Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Trebuchet MS are simple and stylish.
The standard font size for CV headings and body text in the UK is between 10.5 and 12 points. However, you can use a larger font size for your headers to make them stand out.
Fit everything on 2 pages
How many pages your CV should be depends on your work history and the role you’re applying for.
Ideally, your CV should have only 2 pages. Any longer and a CV becomes tedious to read. You also run the risk of the employer losing a page if they print or forward your CV to a colleague.
However, if you have a decade or more of relevant work experience, you can use 3 or more pages.
Also, academic CVs have no page limit. If you’re applying for a teaching or academic research position, employers expect your CV to include all of your relevant academic achievements, special projects, and publications.
2. How often should I update my CV?
The best way to write a CV is to update it regularly throughout your career until you have a document that highlights all your best qualifications and achievements.
You can set a reminder on your phone to update your CV once a year, for example. The more often you update it, the less time it’ll take!
3. What are some do’s and don’ts for a CV?
We’ve provided some do’s and dont’s when it comes to making a good CV:
✅ Do add a splash of colour
A good CV header uses colour to draw the recruiter’s attention. But don’t choose distracting bright colours because they’re too overwhelming for the reader and seem unprofessional.
Many pre-designed CV templates offer colourful yet professional header options.
Instead, darker colours like dark blues, greens, and maroons are good choices for formal CVs. Neon and bright colours are only acceptable if you’re applying for a creative role (for example, a graphic design CV) because they help highlight your creativity.
Here’s a CV with a tasteful amount of colour:
✅ Do remove your postal address
Plus, if your address is far from your target company’s location, the employer may not consider you, even if you’re planning to relocate for the job.
✅ Do use a professional email address
A professional email address should be a variation of your name (for example, email@example.com). Avoid using a silly email address like firstname.lastname@example.org that makes you look unprofessional.
✅ Do include relevant online profiles
Place your relevant online profiles in your CV header. Examples of profiles that showcase your skills and accomplishments are your LinkedIn, blog, or portfolio.
If you’re sending your CV by email, hyperlink your profiles so recruiters can view them easily.
Try uploading your CV on LinkedIn using LinkedIn’s ‘Featured Media’ or ‘Easy Apply’ functions to maximise your CV’s visibility and get more interviews.
✅ Do look at CV examples from your industry
When you’re trying to demonstrate your suitability for a role, your CV must meet industry standards. Looking at examples of CVs from your industry can give you ideas on how to frame your experience and what kind of template to use.
For example, a template with eye-catching design elements is acceptable if you’re applying for jobs in graphic design. However, clean and modern styles are best for industries like law or business, where employers expect a high degree of professionalism.
✅ Do use a file format that the employer can open easily
Submitting your CV as a PDF will mean the employer can open the file, regardless of what computer they use.
You can convert your finished CV into a PDF by using ‘Save As…’ (if you’re using Microsoft Word) or ‘Export to’ (if you’re using Pages). Or you can select ‘File’ > ‘Download’ > ‘PDF’ if you’re using a Google Docs CV Template.
❌ Don’t use ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as your title
Using ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as a title wastes space. Instead, put ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV’ in the file name, and use your name as the main title on your CV to make finding your application later easier for employers.
A good CV filename should include your name and the word ‘CV’. For example, ‘Jay-Sunak-CV.pdf’. You should also include the job title in the filename because many firms are hiring for multiple positions at once.
❌ Don’t confuse a CV with a resume
These similar terms sometimes confuse people. Simply put, the difference between a CV and a resume is that ‘CV’ is the word used in the UK, Ireland, and the rest of Europe to describe a document you use to apply for jobs. The word ‘resume‘ is the term used in the US and Canada for roughly the same document.
If you’re thinking of moving to the US, you should learn how to write a resume instead of a CV. While these documents are mostly the same, you’re encouraged to stick to one page in a resume (whereas CVs should be at least two pages, unless you only have enough information to fill a one-page CV).
❌ Don’t lie on your CV
Lying on your CV is a risky idea. Even if you’re only exaggerating, you could be refused interviews, harm your reputation, and even lose your job if you’re caught out. Some former employees have even had to pay back their salaries after they were caught lying on their CVs.
❌ Don’t mention references on your CV
On a CV, don’t waste valuable space by adding a list of references. There’s also no need to note ‘references available upon request’. The employer will ask for your references when they decide to proceed with your application.
Instead, use the saved space to add more details on your skills, experience, or qualifications.