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Whether you’re applying for your first job or an experienced professional starting a fresh job hunt, you need to know how to write a CV that convinces employers to hire you.

Here’s how to write a CV in 9 steps that’ll help you clearly highlight your skills and make a strong first impression on employers — even if you have no experience.

1. Set up your CV’s formatting

Before you write your CV, you need to know how a professional CV should be formatted and what employers are looking for when they review yours.

A two-page CV with colourful annotations highlighting each section.

A CV, short for Curriculum Vitae, is a detailed document outlining your work history, skills, and education.

When you start your CV, make sure to keep these rules in mind:

  • Length: The best length for your CV is between one to two A4-sized pages.
  • Font: Choose a font for your CV that’s easy to read, such as Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Headings: Organise your CV into sections with clear headings at the top for each one.
  • Margins & spacing: 1.25 cm margins are normal for the UK, with 1–1.15 line spacing

2. List your contact information in the header

The top of a CV with the header highlighted in green.

Your header goes at the very top of your CV and includes the following information:

Depending on the role you’re applying for, you may need to put additional personal information on your CV (e.g., your driving licence). However, avoid sharing unnecessary details such as your nationality, marriage status, or political affiliation.

3. Write a compelling CV personal statement

The first page of a CV with the personal statement highlighted in green

A personal statement is a 3-4 sentence summary of your key skills and qualifications listed at the top of your CV.

Think of your personal statement as a quick introduction – the goal of which is to convince employers that your CV is worth their time.

How to write a personal statement for a CV

  1. Specify your professional title or area of expertise (e.g., ‘Registered Nurse’ or ‘Computer Science Graduate’)
  2. State how much experience you have in years or months (if you don’t have work experience yet, skip this step)
  3. Outline your key achievements, skills, or qualifications
  4. Highlight a relevant career goal or benefit you’ll bring to the company

Remember that your personal statement should always be focused on the employer’s needs. To get a clear idea of what the employer is looking for, check the job description, adverts for similar roles, and the company’s website and social media.

4. Describe your relevant work experience

The first page of a CV with a work experience entry highlighted in green.

The work experience section of your CV is ultimately what employers look to when deciding whether or not to invite you in for an interview. Think of it as the core of your CV.

List jobs on your CV in chronological order, starting with your current or most recently held position.

Then, summarise your relevant employment history and highlight any achievements, skills, or responsibilities that make you a good fit for the role.

How to format work experience on your CV

Your Job Title, Start Date–End Date (or ‘Present’)
Company, Town/City

  • Outline the main functions of your job and who you worked with
  • Use your remaining bullet points to highlight key achievements or responsibilities that the employer will be interested in
  • Include bullet points with action verbs that show enthusiasm and how you did things
  • Use hard numbers so your achievements are more likely to get the employer’s attention

What to list if you have no work experience

If you’re writing a CV with no work experience, change the title of your experience section to Relevant Experience. This will give you space to list any and all experience you have that might interest employers.

For example, you could list any of the following in your relevant experience section:

  • Voluntary roles
  • Internships
  • Work placements
  • Part-time jobs
  • Personal or academic projects

Format any relevant experience entries the same as you would a regular job, listing the dates and employer or organisation. Additionally, make sure to include bullet points that outline any achievements.

Employers understand that everyone starts somewhere, and for entry-level applications, demonstrating a relevant skill set is more important than providing a lengthy work history.

5. Outline your education

The first page of a CV with the education section highlighted in green.

Start your CV’s education section with the highest qualification you’ve attained at the top, following this order:

  • Doctorates (e.g., PhD)
  • Master’s degrees
  • Bachelor’s degrees
  • 16–18-year-old qualifications (e.g., A Levels, Scottish Highers, US High School Diploma)
  • GCSEs, Scottish N5s, or equivalents

If you’ve recently graduated or are still in school, you should add extra information to your CV’s education section. For example, include details like your relevant modules, your honours, the classifications you’ve received, and your A Levels.

How to format your education section

BSc (Hons) Accounting and Finance, 2:1
Swansea University, 20XX–20XX

Dissertation: Comparative Analysis of SRI Funds and Conventional Portfolios

Relevant Modules: Investment Banking, Corporate Finance, Financial Services

If you already have a few years of work experience, keep your education section slimmed down, just listing your school, degree, and graduation date.

If you have a university degree or A Levels, you don’t need to list all of your GCSEs. However, most employers require applicants to have GCSE-level qualifications in some core subjects (like English, Maths, and Combined Science).

6. Highlight your key skills

The first page of a CV with the education section highlighted in green.

List skills on your CV in a dedicated section to draw the employer’s attention to your most impressive qualifications.

In general, you should only include hard skills (such as specific software or skills you learned through training) in your skills section. Employers are typically looking for hard skills when hiring for a specific role,

While many people list soft skills (like time management or communication) on their CVs, we recommend against doing this because these skills are hard to quantify.

An infographic showing the differences between hard and soft skills, followed by a list of examples from each skill type.

Where to list skills on your CV

Where you should put the skills section of your CV depends on how relevant your skills are to the job.

If you’re applying for a software developer job, employers will be more interested in your hard skills than your schooling, so your skills section should go near the top of the first page.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a customer-facing role where experience is more important, then you should move your skills section lower down.

7. Add any additional sections you need

The second page of a CV with the hobbies and interests section highlighted in green.

After you’ve written the core sections of your CV, you need to decide what optional sections to add.

Adding hobbies and interests to your CV can help you stand out from other candidates and can make employers interested in getting to know more about you in a job interview.

Depending on the specific opportunity, there are several other sections that can boost your chances of winning the employer over.

Additional CV sections

Additional sectionWhen to include itFormatting style
LanguagesYou're applying for jobs for which knowledge of multiple languages is useful (e.g., customer service representative)Skills section
CertificationsYou want to emphasise your continued professional development separately from your education historyEducation section
Volunteering experienceYou want to demonstrate community engagement, are changing careers, or want to fill career gapsWork experience section
Professional membershipsYou want to emphasise industry expertise for a senior positionEducation section
Awards and honoursYou want to emphasise industry expertise, explain a career change, or make up for a lack of work experienceEducation section

8. Edit and save your CV

Thoroughly check your CV for spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and vague language. Tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway Editor can help you ensure your writing is clean and professional.

Once you’re finished, save your CV as a PDF.

PDFs files keep their original formatting, no matter what application is used to open them. This means that when the employer opens your CV, it will look exactly the same as when you saved it. This may not be the case if you send a Pages or Docx file.

Give your PDF a professional file name that’s clear and easy to find. Job-Title-FirstName-LastName-CV is a good example.

9. Write a matching cover letter

A cover letter with a green border.

A cover letter is a professional self-introduction that accompanies your CV, outlines your interest in the specific position, and explains why the employer should hire you over someone else.

Including a cover letter with your job application allows the employer to get to know you as an individual and see that you’re passionate about the specific job opportunity.

There are seven steps to writing a persuasive cover letter:

  1. Identify the employer’s needs
  2. Format your name and contact details correctly
  3. Address the employer by name
  4. Write a personalised opening paragraph
  5. Relate your most relevant achievements to the job
  6. Conclude with a request to interview
  7. Sign off with a formal closing

If you’re short on time or not a confident writer, consider filling using a cover letter template to help guide you along the process.

3 additional CV templates to help you design your CV

How you present yourself to employers matters, but it’s important not to waste too much time on your CV’s appearance.

Professionally designed free CV templates will help you stand out without you having to waste any time on formatting.

1. Standard template

This template uses a format every employer will be familiar with, emphasising work experience in a simple vertical layout that lets your qualifications speak for themselves.

A template for making a standard CV, formatted across two columns.

Download This CV Template

2. Graduate template

This graduate CV template is designed to emphasise your skills and education because these sections will have more of an impact early on in your career.

A template for making a creative CV, featuring a large key skills section and detailed education history.

Download This CV Template

3. Creative template

Visual aids such as bar charts and CV icons can help highlight key information, while also adding a personal touch to your application.

This template is a great choice for any creative professional who wants to emphasise a diverse skillset.

A template for making a creative CV, featuring design elements that can highlight an applicant's skills and education.

Download This CV Template

2 examples to help you write your CV

Sometimes the best way to learn how to write a CV is by looking at good examples.

Below are two CV examples to get you started — one CV with no experience and a second example written by a more senior job applicant.

No-experience CV example

Even if you’re writing a applying for your first job, you can still write a compelling CV, as shown by this example written by a university student:

An example that shows how to write a CV with no work experience. The CV template has coloured headers to make the applicant stand out.
Download this example to edit it in your word processor.

Why this example works

This applicant puts together a compelling cafe CV by using a skills-based format that highlights their customer service skills, time management skills, and industry knowledge in plenty of detail.

Even though they’ve never formally worked in a cafe before, they present voluntary experience and extracurricular activities as evidence that they have many of the hard skills needed to thrive in a busy coffee shop.

Experienced CV example

If you’re writing a CV with plenty of work experience, your CV should reflect that by centring your previous responsibilities and achievements, like in this example:

An example showing how to write a CV completely, with three CV sections (the header, personal statement, and work experience section) separated by blue headers.
Download this example to edit it in your word processor.

Why this example works

This applicant starts with a detailed personal profile that summarises their diverse retail background and most noteworthy achievements.

Crucially, they use a simple straightforward CV format with a small font size to reduce distraction and emphasise their many professional achievements.

Frequently asked questions about writing a CV

Here are four additional questions you might have about writing your CV:

1. Should I put my face on my CV?

Whether you should put a photo on your CV depends on where you’re looking for a job.

Employers in North America and many mainland European countries prefer to see a CV with a photo on it. If you think you need one, you can take a professional headshot with your phone. Make sure you have even lighting and a neutral background.

If you’re applying for a job in the UK, do not attach a photo to your CV unless you’re applying for a job where the employer needs to know what you look like, like modeling or acting.

2. Do I need to include references on my CV?

It’s best not to include references on your CV or to write ‘References available on request’ on your CV.

Employers rarely need to see references on your initial application (academic CVs and medical CVs are two exceptions). Including a references section will just make your CV unnecessarily long or take away space from more valuable sections — like your work experience and skills.

3. How do you write a CV on an iPhone?

There are two ways to write a CV using an iPhone:

  1. Use an online CV maker optimised for iOS.
  2. Download a free word processor app and create your CV manually. If you’re using Google Docs, you can save time by using a free Google Docs CV template.

4. Is it worth paying someone to write my CV?

Although it’ll depend on your budget, it’s generally not worth paying someone to write your CV for you.

Though there are many high-quality CV-writing services out there, most charge £100+ for a CV. Generally, it’s only worth making this kind of investment if you’re applying for a highly competitive senior role.

If you’re applying for an entry-level or mid-level role or are pursuing multiple opportunities, a CV builder will be much more time-efficient and affordable. Most premium builders charge less than a cup of coffee and can produce a well-formatted professional application in minutes.

A comparison between a dull CV and an eye-catching CV, with a button that leads to the CV Genius CV maker.

More CV Writing FAQs

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Written by

Seb Morgan

Seb Morgan is a Career Counsellor for CV Genius, where he helps job seekers and professionals get more out of their careers. With over 7 years of experience in business and lifestyle journalism, he's written for a stack of careers-focused publications, including Oxbridge Home Learning, Study International, theHRDirector, and Employee Benefit News, and his expertise includes skill development, interview preparation, and CV and cover letter writing. West Midlands born and raised, Seb has since lived, worked, and studied in 4 countries across 2 continents. He speaks 4 languages and has survived job interviews in 3 of them. He currently also freelances as a travel and culture writer. Reach him at [sebastian] @ [cvgenius.com] or via LinkedIn.