Achieving the Employable: 9 Ways to Improve Your CV


A CV can make or break a job application, so knowing what to include and how to present it can be hugely helpful. I have compiled just a few tips to help you better your CV.

  1. Prepare it in advance.

Preparing your CV well in advance of actually applying for any jobs ensures that you don’t rush the development of such an important document. Although it may seem like a chore, getting down the key things in advance will be a huge advantage to you when it comes to applying for jobs. It also makes it much easier to simply edit, by adding or deleting items later on to personalise it to each job application.

  1. Tailor your CV to each job application.

As I mentioned briefly above, another useful tip is to tailor your CV to suit each application. This doesn’t have to be an extensive process, and much will be the same on each one, such as previous work experience or academic achievements. But if you include a short personal statement where you highlight your relevant skills or mention experience you hope to gain from the job you’re applying for, it can really help to show that you are genuinely interested in the job. Even a sentence at the top of your CV detailing which job you are applying for demonstrates to the employer that you have done at least some research about the job.

  1. Try to take part in activities and work that you can then put on your CV:
  • Work placements and internships – detailing skills and achievements you gained from these can show that you are pro-active and willing to work, particularly if it was unpaid, and it can demonstrate related skills to the job.
  • Gap years – these are a great way of building ‘soft skills’, such as resilience and flexibility, so definitely make the most of this on your CV if you took a gap year.
  • Summer jobs or part-time work – just because this may be nothing more than ‘filler work’ in the summers between university years, don’t be afraid to include them. These jobs show that you have the basic skills that a job will require, such as time keeping, the willingness to work hard, and the ability to either manage or be managed.
  • Voluntary work – this can be a useful stepping stone, and shows that you have motivation to work other than for money. Some sectors may also require voluntary hours; for example, some teaching posts will prefer you to have experience within a school.
  • Extra-curricular activities – these can show that you are well-rounded and have the ability to get on with a variety of people. Take advantage of the myriad of societies that university offers and get involved!
  • Finally, academic achievements – don’t be afraid to include these, as they can show you’re a hard worker and a high achiever. Obviously they don’t need to know the complex details of your GCSE’s, but writing down the basics, and the same with A Levels, is more than enough information, particularly if you have a degree as well.
  1. Get close to your tutor

This is a really handy tip. If you have a module you are particularly enjoying or are especially good at, make friends with your tutor. They can provide you with a handy reference in the future, and also may be able to give you useful advice when you are looking for graduate jobs.

  1. You don’t need to detail all your references

At this stage, highly detailed references are unlikely to be needed. You can put some basic information about references when highlighting your previous work experience, but all that is really needed is a sentence making clear that references are available upon request. Many online applications ask for references at that stage separately anyway, and if anything they take up valuable space on your CV.

  1. Include a short personal statement

This doesn’t need to be extensive at all, but including a short paragraph or even a couple of sentences about yourself in the style of a personal statement, can really help the employer to get to know you better. It can give you an advantage over others as there is a more personal and individual touch, and it allows you to tailor your CV to suit that particular application.

  1. Trim it down

Your CV doesn’t need to be pages and pages – in fact, two pages is more than enough and should be your limit. You don’t need to waffle, or include any fancy language. It just needs to be clear and concise and easy to read.

  1. Tidy it

Make sure it’s evenly spaced, with a simple font. Arial is the most recommended font as it is not too fancy and is clear to read. Another useful tip is to use bullet points for key items rather than long sentences. This will stop you from drifting off topic and will highlight the importance of those items.

  1. You don’t need to include a photograph of yourself

Including a photograph could run the risk of allowing the employer to make assumptions before they actually meet you. Similarly, you don’t need to include your age or relationship status. They will obviously gain a rough idea of your age from your education or previous work experience but there is no need to include your specific date of birth, as again, they could make unfair assumptions.

Good luck, now get writing your CV!

More articles in Achieving the Employable
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  2. Achieving the Employable: The Best Student Jobs
  3. Achieving the Employable: Southampton Language Opportunity
  4. Achieving the Employable: 9 Ways to Improve Your CV
  5. Achieving the Employable: Jumping in At the Deep-End
  6. Achieving the Employable: Frontline
  7. Achieving the Employable: Programming for Dummies
  8. Achieving the Employable: It’s Not About the Money, Money, Money

English and History student.

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