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CV and personal statement

Discover how to write a CV including what to include and what not to include.
A young woman in a hijab smiles as she shakes hands with a man in a patterned jumper.

What to include on a CV

A CV is a document to help you apply for jobs. It is a short, clear and compelling summary of your education, employment history and your achievements. It also offers an overview of your skills and strengths, and provides a sense of who you are as a person. A great CV presents the best version of yourself to potential employers—it’s your first chance to make an excellent impression!

There are no formal rules for creating a CV, but almost every CV includes the same things. Your CV can look however you want, but remember that this is a professional document. The design and written tone should reflect this.

It should include:

  • Name and contact details Your CV should include your full name and contact information. Don’t forget your address and phone number—some employers will phone rather than email. Ensure your email address gives a good impression of you.
  • Personal statement A few sentences introducing yourself, your skills, and your career goals. Not every CV includes a personal statement, but it is useful if you don’t have much work experience.
  • Education This is essential. Include all academic qualifications. It is fine to use your predicted grades if you don’t have your results yet—just make sure to label this clearly. Include any extra awards and training (e.g. the Arts Award or Duke of Edinburgh).
  • Employment List all employment history. It is a great idea to include work experience if you don’t have many previous jobs. This section should include your job title, the name of the company, the dates of your employment and the tasks you carried out.
  • Other It’s a good idea to include a section for other achievements. This could detail voluntary work, hobbies, clubs/sports teams (e.g. National Citizen Service, babysitting, drama club). Ensure that you are also describing what skills each item demonstrates.
  • Skills Reference your skills and strengths throughout. Use work experience, education, and other sections to share with employers what you are good at. Include specific evidence at all times. You can use coursework, employment responsibilities, and extra-curricular activities as evidence of skills.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Don’t lie Present the best version of yourself, but tell the truth! Employers always do their research.
  • Too long Employers won’t spend a lot of time reading your CV, so stick to a maximum of two pages
  • Spelling mistakes Use a spellchecker, but ask a friend to read your CV too.
  • Too informal Use the right written tone. Remain professional and use good grammar.
  • Poor layout Use clear headings. Ensure formatting is consistent and your CV is easy to read.
  • Missing details Don’t forget to include details like your address, employment dates and academic grades.
  • Wrong file format Save your CV as a PDF. Don’t send a document that another person can edit.
  • No evidence/skills Ensure you are sharing your skills and strengths. Use specific evidence to prove this.

Why should a CV focus on skills?

Employers are increasingly using automated systems to help them select candidates. Often, a computer will scan CVs, searching for specific keywords. For example, if an employer is looking for somebody to carry out research, they might search CVs for phrases like, ‘data’, ‘analysis’ or ‘attention to detail’. For this reason, your CV must include as many different skills as possible.

Where should I include my skills?

An easy way to include skills within a CV is alongside your employment history. Even if not all of your jobs have been relevant to your longterm goals, you'll have gained useful and transferable skills. You should highlight these skills, rather than simply listing tasks, so they can see what makes you valuable employee. Think about a previous employer and the tasks you carried out for them. Now, for every task you carried out, try to decide what skills it helped you develop. Look at the examples below, and complete some more for yourself.

Which skills should I include?

You should be honest about your abilities, but some skills are more universal than others. When employers are looking for new staff, they publish a Job Description which explains the type of person they want to hire. In it, they will list the skills required for the job. If you can, include as many of these in your CV. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has also published a list of key skills which they believe are most important to employers.

Personal statement

A great personal statement should tell employers who you are, your strengths and your career ambitions. It should be between 50 and 200 words, or around five sentences.

Crucially, you should back up everything you say with evidence. This might mean you mention a piece of coursework you completed, or an after-school group you have attended. For every skill that you include, try to reference something from your life which helped you gain that skill.

It might help to think about the statement as having three sections.

Section 1 - who you are

Introduce yourself and your journey so far. For example:

  • “A recent school leaver with a flair for art...”
  • “A hardworking BTEC graduate with a keen interest in...”
  • “A creative team player, looking for entry-level work experience.”
Section 2 - what you can offer

Explain your skills and strengths and back them up with evidence. For example:

  • “While studying for my BTEC, I developed an excellent eye for detail because my studies involved lots of research.”
  • “Lots of my previous experience involved working in a team, so I have been able to improve and use strong communication skills.”
Section 3 - your goals

Show that you have thought about the ideal career for you. For example:

  • “I am looking to work in a team to provide excellent customer service.”
  • “I am seeking to use my creativity to solve problems and help people.”
  • “I would like to build-up my scientific knowledge, ultimately taking on a management role.”

For more tips about how to improve your CV and personal statement, you can download our amazing guide which was created by one of our Arts Emergency network members Joseph Rynhart.