Application process

CVs

Introduction

Your CV will often be your first opportunity to make an impression with an employer and will frequently be used to make a very quick decision about your potential suitability for their organisation and role.

Despite its importance, we know that you won’t have long to make an impact so it’s worth spending some time to ensure you get it right.

Wherever you’re applying, check out local norms and expectations on GoinGlobal.

For applications in the UK and many international corporates, there are certain conventions we’d suggest you follow; our recommendations on what to include, how to structure as well as tips on avoiding pitfalls are set out below.

Some fundamentals


Getting started

An effective CV will be clearly structured and make good use of the page, so that it is easy to read and important information is emphasised. Content will be succinct, using vocabulary that suggests action and achievement and, critically, it will be targeted to the particular job in hand.

Deciding on a structure that works consistently throughout is important. We’d suggest positioning dates on the right of the page. Make sure the content of each section is listed in reverse chronological order and avoid personal pronouns. Use bullet points to help guide the reader’s eye and ensure they pick out key information easily.

What does the employer want?

The recruiter or hiring manager will be reading your CV with their particular job in mind, and they’ll be looking for evidence that you have the educational background, skills, experience and general profile they are looking for. This means they’re not necessarily interested in learning in detail about everything you’ve done – they want to know whether you can do their job, will fit into their organisation and whether they should take your application to the next stage.

Length

The recommended length of your CV will vary depending on sector and location as well as the particular requirements of a given employer, so make sure you check that out. Finance CVs are typically one-page, other sectors will often be happy with two, academic CVs can be longer still – but most employers tell us that you should be as succinct as possible, and if you can get the relevant experience on one page, do so. The less they’re asked to read, the better!

Structure

As far as possible, apply the same structure to all sections of the CV – that makes it much easier for the recruiter to read: in general, recruiters will want to know where you worked/studied, the dates you were there (including your future graduation date), the role and degree, and the most relevant things you did. Remember that the first role you list in a particular section and the bullet points you place first will typically be given most attention.

You can use your structuring to help you match your experience to a particular role. You can separate your work experience by type or sector; you can include internships within a general section on work experience or separate them out; you can include a section on extra-curricular activities and a separate one for volunteering or combine the two, you can choose to list all the awards you’ve received, you can use section heads like ‘Leadership experience’ or ‘Research experience’ if you know that this is something a particular employer is looking for.

Changing the sections and order of bullet points will have a very powerful effect in retargeting your experience from one role to another. Just keep in mind when you’re putting it together that it’s about what the recruiter needs to know, not what you want to say about yourself.

Grammar and spelling

As obvious as it sounds, make sure that your grammar and spelling are correct, that your formatting is neat, and sections aligned – many employers, particularly those for whom attention to detail is important, will simply discard CVs that contain any errors or look sloppy. Ask a friend and native speaker to read it through – it can be easy to miss errors when you’ve been focused on something for a while.

What to include


Contact details

At the top of the page. Keep these to a minimum. Your name, your email, your mobile number (one of each!). Possibly a link to your LinkedIn profile. No need to include ‘Curriculum Vitae or CV’.

UK employers don’t typically want a photo, though this remains the norm elsewhere; make sure you check out what’s expected wherever you are applying.

Jo Smith
jpsmith99@gmail.com // +44 7777888999

Personal profile/summary

Optional; can be useful if you have prior professional experience or particular skills that you feel are very relevant to the role and that you want to highlight. Needs to be short, succinct - three or four bullet points - and very specifically targeted. Avoid personal pronouns, anything generic or qualitative judgements about yourself such as ‘hardworking, motivated student’.

  • Currently completing a master's in environmental economics with focus on climate change
  • Strong data modelling skills, Excel and Stata
  • Multilingual with fluent English, Arabic, French and Portuguese
  • Two years' experience applying economics to environmental policy research

Education

List formal education in reverse chronological order: institution, degree, start and end dates. Use bullet points to list what would interest an employer: the overall focus of your degree, modules you studied, any particular papers you wrote, your dissertation – topic, research methodology, the marks you received. Very often we see that people don’t realise how relevant and useful some information about their education can be, so think carefully about what you can draw on. That could be content, particular knowledge, results. Remember that you can decide what to include and are free to give more space to whatever is more relevant to a given role. 

Education
London School of Economics                                                                             2016-2019
BSc Mathematics and Economics 
  • Modules included Principles of Finance, Econometrics and Discrete Mathematics

Any Town High School                                                                                         2008-2015

  • 4 A levels: Maths (A*), Physics (A*), Geography (A), French (A)
  • 9 GCSEs including English Language (A*) and English Literature (A)

Work experience

…or Professional experience, or Legal experience, or Research experience. Use headings to your advantage. If you can group together a set of experiences to really highlight things that are relevant to the role, do so. If, by grouping experiences under specific headings, you can create a sense of commitment to an area or position a very relevant piece of experience at the top of the section, do so.

If you are applying to train as a solicitor, you could include within Legal experience a mix of related paid work, spring weeks, unpaid internships, volunteering where you’ve used relevant skills. Remember that reviewers will tend to pay particular attention to what’s listed first.

Within each role, use bullet points to describe what you did. Start each bullet point with a verb – and ensure that you are describing things that are related to the job description. Make sure that it’s clear to the reader precisely what you did and, where relevant, quantify what was achieved. The reader needs to be able to quickly understand your specific contribution. At this stage, they need to be able to appreciate what you can do without asking any follow up questions, without spending time thinking ‘I wonder what this meansdid they organise the event entirely on their own, or were other people involved’. Remember that you have the recruiter’s attention for a limited time, so you don’t want them to be using that time trying to decipher what you mean.

By the end of your CV, the recruiter should have clear specific examples of how you have used the kinds of skills that relate to what they have listed in the person specification and job description. It’s absolutely fine to list more bullet points under one role than another if that experience is more relevant.

Employment
Inbound customer service adviser, Energex UK call centre                           2016-2018
  • Helped customers assess energy costs and tariffs
  • Ensured quality and compliance standards during the switching process
  • Met and exceeded sales targets consistently
Maths tutoring for 11+                                                                                         2015-2016
  • Assessed pupils' level of maths and confidence in their abilities
  • Prepared and delivered individual lessons
  • Achieved 100% pass rate of students

Extra-curricular activities

For graduate roles and where you do not yet have a lot of professional experience, employers are often very interested in the kinds of things that you have done alongside your studies, particularly if they have given the opportunity to develop those broader ‘soft’ skills that are important to them: team working, communication skills, organisation skills, showing initiative.

Some will quite simply want to see that as well as being successful academically, you have been involved in, and committed time to, other things. Including details about your participation in clubs and societies – again being very specific about your particular role - can enhance your overall experience. Describing your sporting, theatre and music activities can be valuable, particularly if you can be precise about your level of involvement. They will also give a sense of what differentiates you from other candidates. 

Volunteering

For some roles, for example in the Third Sector and in organisations which place strong emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility, a history of volunteering will be quite important, so it can be useful to highlight your volunteering experience in a separate section.

Volunteering
Coordinator Year 7 and 8 lunchtime maths club                                             2016-2018
  • Founded Math Buzz to help younger pupils enjoy and suceed at maths
  • Publicised group and recruited over 20 members with waiting list by the endo f term
  • Devised programme of weekly activities
  • Achieved imrpoved performance in class which was recognised by teachers

Part-time work/vacation work

Students are often surprised to learn that many employers are very interested in part-time or summer work, even when it doesn’t seem particularly relevant to the job in hand. Employers appreciate this exposure to the general world of work, the ‘real world’ understanding it brings, will be particularly impressed if you’ve worked alongside studies, and are keen that you can show you understand how skills developed in one environment can be relevant to another. 

Professional skills

You can include here concrete professional skills – specific IT and technical skills, languages, professional qualifications, giving a clear indication of your competence level. 

Interests

Some employers are quite interested in knowing something of your hobbies and interests, so listing a few of these can give a bit more information on your personality, particularly if you have not listed extra-curricular activities elsewhere. Remember that anything listed on the CV is ‘fair game’ for further questioning during an interview, so make sure what’s included is current and you’re happy to talk about it in more detail. For more senior roles, this is generally less relevant. 

Activities and achievements

Anytown High School Heads' Award for School Services for creating and running Math Buzz, Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver Awards


Sports

  • Member of Birmingham University Cricket 2nd XI
  • Captain of Anytown School Cricket 1st XI
  • Member of Anytown Rugby Club Under 18's XV

Targeting


It might sound a bit much, but even once you’ve got your CV to the point you are pretty happy with it, you need to look at it again in relation to each new application. Always do your groundwork; get a thorough understanding of the role, read the job description, the person specification, research the organisation and think carefully about which of your experiences you can draw on and what will resonate most.Speak to people in the organisation before you send your CV – this helps with framing your CV and might alert you to an aspect of your experience you would not have realised would be significant. Have another look at what you’ve said about your degree. It might be as simple as deciding to change the order of your bullet points within a particular role or listing different modules. There’s always something that can be tweaked to good effect. 

Alternative formats


We’ve described here the traditional chronological CV which tends to be preferred by recruiters. When you are planning to change career direction or have large gaps in your experience, a skills-based CV can sometimes work well. In this instance, the work experience section will simply provide an overview of your employment history (employer, role, dates). You will then have a separate skills section where you list key skills relevant to the role and group together examples of how you have used each, drawing from across a range of experiences.


Example

Skills
Team working
  • Colloborated with project team to plan Summer Dig and ensure each day ran smoothly
  • Devised and facilitated annual programme of events and talks for Archaeology Society
  • Edited and published newsletter for South West Branch of Council for British Archaeology
Organisation                                                                              
  • Combining study, part-time work, volunteering and extra-curricular activities
  • Coordinating well-received archaeological events for Dig NW and the university Archaeological Society

Negotiation

  • Negotiated changes to the seminar timetable to enable better use of available rooms and IT as staff student liaison for course
  • Agreed event programmes with colleagues and staff, booking speakers, agreeing terms and budgets

Written communication

  • Wrote articles for non-archaeologists for local Archaeology Branch newsletter 
  • Drafted report of summer dig for Dig NW 
  • Producing essays, reports, seminar papers for university course

Employment and volunteering

Shift leader, Starbucks Exeter                                                                             2017-2019

Staff student liaison officer                                                                                 2017-2019

Examples

Related pages

Cover letters

Cover letters

Application forms

Application forms