Your CV is an essential part of any application process as it showcases your qualifications, skills and experience. On this page you will find information about how to present and structure your CV, as well as a range of sample CVs.
Essential Elements of a Strong CV is a new interactive presentation that covers the essential steps for you to create a great CV. In the presentation, you will be guided through the S.T.E.P.S. approach to creating a strong CV – Structure, Targeted, Evidence, Professional and Succinct.
A standard CV in Ireland and the UK should not exceed two A4 pages and should be presented in a concise and easy-to-read manner. Choose accessible language - if you are coming from a science or technical background choose simple language that matches the terms in the job description, as the person in HR reviewing your CV may not come from the same background.
Your CV is your first point of contact with an employer, and it’s important to make a positive first impression. Employers receive a high volume of applications, so their first job is often to find reasons to dismiss applications and have less applications to read through in detail. In a competitive market, your CV could be put into the “no” pile for reasons which may seem minor but are in fact incredibly important. For example, you need to make sure that there are no spelling and grammar mistakes, and to spend time on the overall look of your CV so that it is easy for an employer to navigate. Misspelled words, poorly written content and an untidy layout all indicate a lack of attention to detail and professionalism. Take the time to go through your CV in detail and make sure it creates a positive impression. As it takes about 6 seconds for employers to decide whether they will look into your application further, you need to include your unique selling points on first page of your CV to attract employers’ attention.
What should you include in a CV?
An effective CV is one that showcases your skills, knowledge and experience that are relevant to the role. See ‘What type of CV should I prepare?’ for more detailed content.
The following sections should be included
Full name, current address, accessible contact number (usually your mobile number), a professional email address and your LinkedIn profile URL, or your Github if relevant.
Career Objective / Personal Profile (optional)
In this section you should reference your relevant experience briefly including highlighting key skills, and confirm your interest in a particular job or employment sector. This section should not be more than 4 or 5 lines long.
Skills Profile (optional)
Your skills profile should include a list of concrete skills, such as language or technical skills. Avoid listing generic skills such as team work and communication skills unless you also provide evidence of where these were developed.
Education and qualifications
- Your education should be presented in reverse-chronological order. If you are looking to show your in-depth knowledge about any particular subject, include your projects or thesis which evidence this.
- Show your overall grades and the breakdown of subjects within your degree relevant to your application, but don’t include all your subjects. List the four or five modules that are most relevant to the role.
- Leave out your Junior Certificate.
- Include your Leaving Certificate but do not include information about points achieved or individual subjects taken.
- Your experience should be presented in reverse-chronological order.
- Where relevant, you can split your experience into 2 sections: Relevant Work Experience (highlight first) and Other Work Experience.
- Include employment dates, your job title and the name of the organisation you worked for in each role.
- Emphasise both what you have learned and how you have made a difference to your employer, and talk about achievements at the workplace. Quantify where possible (e.g. “Taught English to groups of up to 25 adult learners”,
- Emphasise the skills gained in each job and make it clear where you demonstrated these skills.
- Your volunteering experience should be presented in reverse-chronological order.
- Include dates you were involved, a role title, and the name of the organisation for each position.
- Your experience whilst volunteering may not be directly related to your future job. If you have demonstrated transferrable skills in your volunteer work make sure to explain this, with supporting evidence.
Interests and activities
Mention any positions of responsibility that you have held in societies or clubs in College or in any outside organisations. Outline any tasks you undertook which provide evidence of skills development.
You do not need to provide your referees on your CV (unless specifically asked to do so), you can include “Available upon request” in this section.
However referees listed on a CV where space allows adds weight to a CV. Get permission before you use someone as a referee and include referees name, job title, employer and location and indicate “referee contact details available upon request.”
We advise international graduates to list an Ireland based referee (e.g. a Trinity academic or boss from work or volunteering experience) as it can be helpful to localise yourself to a prospective employer.
For jobs in the private sector you can include an academic and a work reference. For postgraduate programmes you are likely to require two academic referees.
Applicant Tracking Systems
It’s important to be aware that when you apply for a job, the first screening of your CV might be done by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). These systems play an important role in the initial screening process, so understanding their nuances can significantly boost your chances of progressing through the recruitment stages.
An ATS will scan your CV for specific keywords and phrases aligned with the job description. Tailoring your CV to mirror the job requirements is key – incorporate job and industry-specific terminology and include both hard and soft skills mentioned in the job posting to score well in the initial screening. See our advice on tailoring your applications in our General Tips section for more information on how to do this key piece of developing strong applications.
Consider the formatting of your CV. ATSs can struggle with intricate layouts, graphics or unconventional fonts. Use a simple and clean format with standard fonts to ensure accurate parsing of your information by the ATS. There are a lot of CV templates available online which can look very attractive, but ATS can struggle to parse the information in these templates. Stick to commonly used formats like .doc or .pdf, as some ATS systems may face difficulties with less conventional file types such as Overleaf or Canva CVs. ATS tend to “read” information in your CV from left to right and from top to bottom, so use plain formatting and avoid columns, graphics, or tables in the background. They are also looking to calculate your experience so include the full span of your experience e.g. May 2023-August 2023 instead of Summer 2023, and give the full length of your degree as opposed to just the year when you will complete it.
Websites such as jobscan.co and resumeworded.com enable you to check if your CV can be accurately parsed by ATS for free. When using these websites you might want to remove your name and contact details from the document before submitting to protect your personal information. While optimizing your CV for ATS is essential, don't solely rely on it. Human recruiters will also review your document. Strike a balance between ATS optimization and crafting a compelling narrative about your skills and experiences to make your CV effective for both automated and human aspects of the hiring process.
CV Samples: Chronological, Academic, Technical, Resume, and Skills-based CVs
You should use a format that best reflects your experience and skills and suits the job you are applying for. The 4 main types of CVs are:
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. View the Europass CV example.
CVs when applying overseas
Recruitment practices are different in each country, and if you are applying overseas you should familiarise yourself with the standard application procedures and CV format and content in that country to increase your chance of success.
Common CV mistakes
- Generic CVs – sending the same, untailored CV to every role to which you apply won’t impress your potential employer. It is important to highlight relevant work experience, education and skills for each role. Familiarise yourself with the job description and incorporate some of the employer’s language from the job description when referring to skills in your CV to show relevance.
- Sending your CV – make sure that you check your CV and give an appropriate name to your file when sending your CV as an attachment.
- Spelling and presentation – Think of your CV as being your first assignment sent to a potential employer - you want to do it well. Look at your format, structure and spelling. It is worth asking a friend, family or Careers Consultant to have a look at it to ensure you are creating a strong impression.
Please note that your Careers Consultant can give you feedback on the overall presentation of our CV as well as the content, but that we do not offer a proof-reading service.
Gaps can best be described as times on your CV when you were not in formal education or employment. These can range from several months to several years, be voluntarily or involuntarily, and can be for any number of reasons, such as ill health, family matters or travel for example. The Coronavirus pandemic may also have disrupted your career plans and left you feeling like there are gaps on your CV. Perhaps your internship was cancelled, you were let go from your part-time job or didn’t get that position you wanted?
Regardless of your circumstances, try and show how you have used your time to be productive. Volunteering, charity fundraising, online courses, adding to your hobbies and finding new interests are all valuable talking points when you meet with employers. They can also provide evidence of developing your soft skills and showing your potential for future leadership.
If you are currently experiencing a gap in education or employment, we advise the following:
- Stay positive and focused - a gap only becomes a problem when it affects your mindset and confidence. Focus on what you have done, your skills and competencies. Use your gap time to prepare to return to your career journey.
- Take the initiative - consider expanding your knowledge through online courses, visit Springboard courses, Fetch courses and HEA and check out short accredited learning experiences such as Trinity's microcredentials.
- Start networking – try to build contacts in areas of interest, get active on Linkedin, attend relevant webinars and events and consider seeking a mentor.
- Be open and honest about your gap time. Include a note in your CV about the reason for your gap and consider expanding on this in your cover letter. Consider preparing a skills-based CV. This can include sections such as “Career Summary” “Skills” and “Accomplishments” to focus more on what you have achieved and make your positive attributes stand out.
- During interviews be ready to explain your circumstances and display how you have shown key skills such as resilience, self-management and initiative taking during this time.
Some common reason for CV gaps and how to explain them
There are many reasons why someone could have a gap on their CV and it’s important to be prepared for questions in this area. Here are some common reasons for CV gaps and suggestions as to how they can be explained. If you are a student or recent graduate and looking for advice on explaining any gaps, you can book an appointment through MyCareer.
Explain how you used your time given your limitations due to illness. Perhaps you did some voluntary work or were involved with a hobby? Did you keep up to date with industry trends and news? Confirm that you are ready to return to work. Show how you are a good fit for the role in question.
Example: I was unable to work/study due to an illness. I’m better now and ready to restart my career. I feel I am a good fit for this role because….
Family caring responsibilities
Explain that you were needed to deal with a family situation but that has now resolved itself or you have put other supports in place. State that you are now ready to give your full commitment to work and reiterate your skills and experiences as they relate to the role.
Example: I had to take some time to care for a family member. I’ve now put some extra supports in place so that I can fully refocus on my career. I believe this position would be a good fit for me because…
Focus on why you decided to travel and the value of this experience. Emphasise your increased cultural awareness and new perspectives gained. Be clear that you are ready now to resume your career.
Example: I decided to take some time out to travel so I could expose myself to new cultures and places. During my time away I learnt many valuable lifelong lessons. I’m now ready to focus on my career and believe this position would be a good fit because…
Coronavirus pandemic affected an Internship, Placement or Job Opportunity
Acknowledge the placement/internship/job you were given and the unfortunate circumstances that meant you couldn’t avail of the opportunity. Show that you used this time to do other things and keep abreast of developments in your area of interest. Remain positive in your explanation of this gap.
Example: I was lucky enough to be selected for an internship in X company for the Summer of 2020. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic this was cancelled. At the time I was very disappointed, but on reflection I can see that it improved my resilience to deal with unexpected and challenging situations. I used this time instead to volunteer with the local Club who delivered groceries to the elderly and found this to be a very rewarding way to spend my time by helping others through difficult times.
Disclosing a disability
Information about disclosing disability can be found here.