Write Your CV
Your CV and cover letter are the employer's first impression of you and need to provide evidence that you have the qualities to do the job well.
- Purpose of a CV
- What Employers Want
- Key Elements of a good CV
- CV Presentation
- CV Headings
- Which CV style suits you? Including sample CVs
- Emailing CVs
- Related Resources
Purpose of a CV
- To introduce and present yourself in order to obtain an interview.
- To confirm your skills, abilities and experience for a prospective employer.
- To project your personality.
- To prepare yourself to speak about your background and experience at interviews.
What Employers Want
- Know what employers want .
- Show evidence of the skills you include on your CV.
- Use the skills evidence form at Destinations® to practice putting your skills into context.
Advice about CV writing:
Niall O'Connor, Store Operations Director, ALDI
Noel Maher, Gift Program, Fidelity
Colm Cunningham, Bank of New York Mellon, Head of Fund Accounting
Key Elements of a good CV
- Clear, concise, and positive, business-like language.
- Attractive layout. Easy to read, leave sufficient 'white space', preferably using size 12 font.
- Ideally two pages for Ireland and UK. Never more.
- No spelling errors or typos.
More information on common CV mistakes at Destinations®.
- Action words eg. 'Responsible for ...' rather than 'Minding...' and 'I developed...' rather than 'We did ...'. See list of positive action words for more ideas.
- Bullet points often work better than large paragraphs of text.
- Use enthusiastic language in your CV to convey your interest to the employer.
- Try to avoid using abbreviations, or overly technical language when writing your CV.
- If submitting a CV on-line, anticipate the 'scanning' procedure by reflecting your action words and skills named in the job advert in your own CV.
- Apportion space in accordance with the importance of the information.
- Typed or word processed.
- Good quality A4 paper.
- There is no need to bind but you should staple sheets together.
- CV checklist and tips from Irish and UK employers at Destinations®.
- Information on optional or unnecessary information in your CV at Destinations®.
- Be truthful in your CV - see 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' at Destinations®.
- If you have gaps in your CV arising from illness or repeating the year, please come and talk with your Careers Adviser.
- Presentation pointers, read about how best to present your CV: Test what you know at Destinations®.
- Video tips from an Irish employer at Destinations®
Your CV should include:
- Personal details
Name, address, contact telephone number (landline and/or mobile), email address and date of birth (optional).
- Career Objective (optional)
It identifies what you are aiming for at this stage and what skills you have to offer in relation to your objective. Useful when confirming your interest in a particular job or employment sector.
- Education and qualifications
- Put your most recent qualification first.
- Give the full title of your degree. Spell 'Bachelor' correctly! e.g. Bachelor of Business Studies not BBS or BESS.
- Give the title of your project / thesis.
- Show the time frame and structure of your degree (recruiters may not realise that most TCD undergraduate degrees are four years long).
- If you studied outside of Ireland indicate the qualification equivalence if possible.
- Show your overall grades and the breakdown of your subjects within your degree (especially those relevant to your application).
- Leave out your Junior Certificate results, but give Leaving Certificate results.
- Employment history
- Begin with the most recent job.
- Employers are interested in any work experience whether immediately relevant or not.
- Don't forget any vacation/voluntary work experience that you have.
- Emphasise both what you have learned and how you have made a difference to your employer.
- Emphasise the skills gained in each job.
- If you are a mature student here is a chance to shine, as previous full-time work experience, at whatever level, can be used to provide evidence of the skills and qualities required.
- Interests and activities
- Mention any positions of responsibility that you have held in societies/clubs in College or in any outside organisations. Emphasise any skills that you have gained, e.g. teamwork, leadership, organisational.
- An achievement is any activity you have completed successfully so sell the range of these
- If you have entered College from a background of health problems this represents a considerable achievement - remaining in the system and succeeding in it, even more so. Show how the progression and continuity in study forecasts durability and 'stickability' in work therefore.
- Additional information
- If you are applying for a post where your degree does not appear immediately relevant, add further information detailing how your personal qualities make you a suitable candidate for the job
- Any other awards or qualifications not mentioned earlier
- For students with a disability the issue of 'disclosure' arises here.
- Think positively - many employers must now take the 'equal opportunities' agenda seriously. You may be asked to complete a medical form, and if so, you must do so truthfully. It is easier to do this if the situation has been conveyed 'upfront' from the start.
- Use 'disclosure' positively - ie, as a means of demonstrating skills and qualities of interest to an employer - perseverance, problem-solving approach, overcoming difficulties, flexibility.
- To find out more about disclosing a disability read 'are disabled graduates getting jobs?' at Destinations®.
- View advice from UK student at Destinations®.
- Skills Profile (optional)
This is an opportunity to show how your overall experience matches the requirements of the job. Use it to draw together different experiences under one core skill. For example, teamwork could include your final year project, youth club and travel experience, particularly if you have not referred to these earlier in terms of skills gained. Also give e.g. IT skills, languages, driving licence, if not already listed.
Get permission before you use someone as a referee and include one academic referee. Include name, job title, address, email and telephone number.
- Plan and record your experiences using the CV Planner at Destinations®.
Which CV style suits you?
You should use a format that best reflects your experience and skills and suits the job you are applying for. The four main types of CVs are:
1. Combination CV, more traditionally known as Chronological CV
2. Skills-based CV
3. Academic CV
5. European CV
As an international student you may be used to different CV formats than are required in Ireland. Please read 'CV advice for international students' to view a sample CV.
1. Chronological/Combination CV
List duties, and/or achievements and skills gained after each work experience or educational 'entry'. Be succinct in your wording (less is more in terms of impact!) and start each phrase with a verb e.g. assisting, completed, dealing with, awarded etc.
Advantages: Emphasise continuity and career growth. Highlights name of employer and position held and is easy to follow. Highlights achievements.
Disadvantages: When your work history is irregular or if you have changed employers frequently.
Best used: When your career direction is clear and the job target is directly in line with your work history/experience. (However, when the career objective and skills profile are utilised effectively, this form of CV can also be used where the job target is not directly in line with your studies/experience).
Click here for an example of a Chronological/Combination CV
2. Skills-based CV
Here you categorise your work experience and education according to your skills and capabilities. It highlights major areas of accomplishment and strengths and organises them in a way that will best support your job.
Best used: In cases of career change or re-entry into the job market. Can be very effective when you wish to stress a particularly strong area of ability.
Advantages of using a skills-based CV
Gives you flexibility in emphasising skills and abilities. Eliminates repetitive work experience details.
Disadvantages of using a skills-based CV
Not suitable for employers who would prefer a more traditional CV, or if you have a limited range of experience.
Click here for an example of a skills-based CV.
3. Academic CV
CVs for researchers vary depending on the target audience.
Fore more on academic CVs and chronological based CVs see Vitae - the Researcher's Portal.
All relevant information is presented on one page. More examples are available in the Careers Information Room.
When to use it
When applying for jobs in the US.
5. European CV
In some instances a job advert may specify that applicants use the European or Europass CV format. This standard format CV has been developed as part of the Europass European initiative, to help people make their skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in Europe, thus facilitating the mobility of both learners and workers. Complete your own Europass CV and view sample CVs.
However the Europass CV is not in common use in all countries, therefore, where not particularly specified students should also check sample CV formats for that particular country available on relevant country files in the Careers Information Room, on the Prospects website and at Going Global.
- Your email address should be 'business-like' not 'fun-student' kind.
- Use standard fonts and asterisks instead of bullets. Keep the text simple and the presentation plain.
- Save your files as plain text so that you can cut and paste them into an email. Attachments can be less popular - check if employer wishes to receive them.
- Resist the temptation to simply save your CV as 'CV.doc' - imagine being the person at the other end who has to rename CVs before saving them!
Be aware of the likelihood of scanning software being used and ensure you have key words indicating specific skills and qualifications.
Before you hit 'send' do be sure to check:
- Who is seeing the details?
- Whether personal information is kept separate and private from career details?
- How long it is retained on the database?
- What the organisation's policy is on releasing your details to third parties, particularly in the case of internet resume banks?
- More information available on Emailing your CV at Destinations®.
- Attend the CV Workshop.
- Gradireland.com - Ireland's graduate website has a detailed section on applications.
- Prospects.co.uk - UK graduate website with lots of useful advice on applications.
- Target Jobs - UK website for graduate career advice and jobs.
- Vitae.ac.uk - Vitae realising the potential of researchers. See Careers - Marketing Yourself for CV advice.
More Resources available.