Preparing the Perfect CV

How to Prepare a CV

There is a big difference between a good and a bad CV so here are a few tips on how to avoid the many pitfalls of CV preparation.

Students often ask Careers Advisers for examples or templates that they can use to prepare their own CV. This is not a good way to start, as it is very unlikely to be tailored to your strengths or the position for which you are applying.

There is strong evidence that the most effective CV’s are those that are tailored or customised to a specific occupation or job. You may need to think of creating a collection of CV’s rather than just a single document.

When you start the process of constructing your CV, there are two things you should consider very carefully:

Your own skills, knowledge, experience and attributes you can offer to an employer and your evidence/proof of these abilities.

The requirements of the occupation, employer and the position you are aiming for.

Within your CV you need to try to show how your skills and knowledge fit the requirements of the potential employer.

The following categories are typical ways of organising the content:

Personal Information

Biographical Information: Name and Address, home telephone number, mobile number. Even a small photograph of yourself can be added (usually to the top right of the first page). Other information may be added but only if it is relevant to your ability to perform the job.

Career Aims or Personal Profile (Optional)

This should be a short concise summary of you as an individual.

Education and Qualifications

This provides details of your educational achievements to date, giving particular prominence to those most recent and/or relevant to the job. It is often best to list your education and qualifications in reverse chronological order, and good practice to provide some details of your degree.

Employment/Work Experience

This includes details of work, voluntary work, weekend or evening jobs.


This section provides an opportunity for you to sell yourself pointing out your key activities, strengths, interpersonal skills and any related activities and achievements.

Interests and Leisure Activities

A brief list of your interests, hobbies and pastimes.


It is normal to list two, ideally one from University and the other from an employer.

Putting it all Together

It is important to give a good presentation of yourself, since the CV is often the first impression you give to the employer.

Your CV is more likely to make a good impression if it is:

  • A printed document rather than photocopied.
  • On paper that is of reasonable quality.
  • A professional-looking document neatly organised and laid out.
  • With correct spelling and grammar.

The layout of your CV needs to enable the reader to find the information they need quickly and without difficulty.

When deciding on layout, try to stick to the following rules:

  • Give priority to your strongest selling points.
  • Use headings and sections to signpost your reader to the information they are seeking.
  • Be consistent in how you organise information.
  • Avoid either dense blocks of text or large blank areas.

Do not let your CV be longer than two sides of A4. Some employers even prefer CV’s to be a single side of A4.

When deciding upon a style for a CV it is important to consider the nature of the career, its environment and the type of document they will be used to working with.

Your CV may be more effective if it is presented in a style that is in keeping with that job environment e.g. a formal CV for a Law firm and a more glitzy designed CV for an advertising Agency.

Read more articles for job seekers and those already in a job