To prepare a winning CV, think about the kind of job or career area you’re interested in, and then
use our top tips to improve your early drafts of the CV
Create a ‘master’ CV with all your key information. Check it for accuracy and update it regularly so you can copy and paste relevant information for specific job applications.
Tailor your content for each job application. Draw in your most relevant skills or experience, giving specific examples that demonstrate your qualities and achievements. Identify how your contribution made a difference and what added value it offered.
Use clear and positive language. Avoid tired phrases, clichés and complex grammar. Incorporate key words and phrases that appear in the job specification.
Be concise and maximise the visual impact of your CV. Organise the content so your CV is ideally no more than two sides of A4. Try to include a brief personal profile at the start, and make sure your relevant experience and qualifications are prominent. Highlight key information with headings and bullet points. Minimum font size would be Arial 10, Calibri 11 or similar. Sans-serif fonts are easier on the eye.
Make your CV distinctive. Include any extra activities or achievements (even outside your professional capacity) that demonstrate specific qualities or abilities that may catch the eye of a potential employer.
Review and check your CV. Have you given enough prominence to the experience or qualifications that the potential employer is looking for? Make sure there are no unexplained gaps in your career history. Check the CV through for accuracy, grammar and spelling. Ask someone who knows you well and whom you trust to look over the CV.
Save electronic versions of your CV. Use meaningful names, so you can find them easily again. If you get an interview, take a copy with you to remind you of the details you included.
CVs are usually accompanied by a letter – the content will depend on whether your application is a speculative one or in response to a specific job vacancy.
You can send a speculative letter if you’re very keen to work for a particular employer, even when a job in your field hasn’t been advertised. It should be positive, tailored to the organisation and preferably addressed to a named individual. Find the relevant contact from the organisation beforehand.
Your letter should include
Try to offer a number of options in your letter. If they have no vacancies, could they keep your details on file? Are you also interested in unpaid work experience, or an information interview ? If so, say so.
A covering letter accompanies an application form or CV for an advertised job vacancy. It’s your opportunity to sell yourself to the employer and emphasise why your application is worth reading. Use it to highlight your enthusiasm and suitability for the job and draw attention to your strengths.
Structure it carefully to include
There are several online tools to help you organise and present your information. They’re very useful for a straightforward CV, but may not always cope well with the complexities of a more developed career. In addition, some online tools are not fully accessible to screen readers. In such instances, you may prefer the freedom to design your own CV in a word processor.
For a short period we’ve subscribed to the Abintegro CV builder as a service to students registered with us. If you’re an OU student, you’ll need your OU computer name and password to access the CV Builder on the Abintegro site.
For OU students only
This Abintegro CV Builder survey is for a trial period only – please give us your opinion.
If you have an account with the professional networking site LinkedIn, you can access the LinkedIn Resume Builder. This takes information from your LinkedIn profile and drops it into a template of your choice to create a CV. You can then customise it further and save it as a pdf.
The English National Careers Service CV builder is an accessible online CV builder. Note that in order to save your CV you’ll first need to create a Lifelong Learning account.
For students and graduates with a visual impairment, Blind in Business offers an Interview Preparation Package to help job seekers put together a CV or application and prepare for interviews. This can be completed over a couple of days, and is free to students.
Using a word processor to produce your CVs is the most flexible option and also the simplest for users of accessibility technology. With programs such as MS Word you can experiment with the structure and content, import images, add links and personalise the design. See Save a Word document as a template.
A range of pre-designed templates is available online, for example Microsoft Word CV templates. However check whether they’re compatible with your version of Word.
It's always a great idea to submit a covering letter with a CV, and what I'm looking for in that is that someone again has been very specific about the role that they're applying to, and has drawn probably two or three really good highlights from the, which I then am going to actively look for in their CV.
Charlie Leake, Enterprise
What I'm looking for in that is that someone has been very specific about the role they're applying to, and has drawn probably two or three really good highlights which I then am going to actively look for in their CV.
Ruth Stokes, KPMG