The University of Southampton
Careers and Employability ServiceStudents

CV Advice

A student writing their CV
It is important to take your time writing your CV

A CV is a self-marketing tool used in applications that enables you to demonstrate your key skills and experience.

Below you will find information and advice on how to prepare for writing your CV, what to include and how to put this into practice. Further advice and examples of CV layouts can be found in our CVs and Covering Letters guide below which we have created for University of Southampton students and alumni. You can pick up a hard copy of the guide from a number of locations including our Careers Centre in Building 37, Highfield campus, the Hartley Library, the Health Services Library at Southampton General Hospital, the NOC library and at Winchester School of Art.

We also offer a number of CV workshops as part of our Events Calendar and an opportunity to discuss your CV and get feedback from an adviser through our Drop-In Service.

Before you begin

Types of CV

What to include

Video Support

CV Top Tips

Know yourself

Before writing your CV it is important to know what skills you possess and what evidence you can provide to support this. The best way to do this is by conducting a skills audit. This is where you reflect on your past experiences, whether this is your degree, previous jobs, work experience or even extracurricular activities, to work out what skills you have used and developed. More information and examples of how to carry out a skills audit can be found in the CV guide above.

Know the job/employer

In order to give you the best chance at success, it is important to tailor your CV for each position that you are applying to. This means adapting your CV to give relevant examples of the skills/experiences that the employer is looking for.

  • Make sure that you carefully analyse the job description/person specification, highlighting any key information. An annotated example of this can be found on page 5 of the CV guide above
  • Research the employer. What do they say about themselves? What are their values as an organisation? What type of people do they employ? Your research will give you a feel for the organisation and enable you to align your CV accordingly. Further information to aid in your research can be found on page 4 of the CV guide

There are several different types of CV:

  • Reverse chronological - This is the most common type of CV and lists your education and experience in date order, most recent first. Details about tasks completed and skills gained can be listed under each section
  • Skills-based - This type of CV focusses primarily on skills gained and can be useful if you don't have much experience or if the experience you do have isn't related to the sector you are applying to. Headings are chosen depending on the skills required for the job, for example, marketing, communication, leadership
  • One page - In the UK CVs can be up to 2 pages in length, however certain sectors such as Finance often prefer a one page CV. These can also be useful when applying for part-time positions or applying speculatively
  • Academic - CVs for applying to academic positions. These can be longer in length and feature additional sections not required on an industry CV such as conferences, awards and research abstracts. Vitae offers further information, tips and example academic CVs
  • Creative  - CVs used when applying for the creative industries often feature more creative formatting, designed to demonstrate skills such as graphic design. The Creative CV Guide by Jan Cole is an excellent resource and contains examples of creative CVs. Copies can be found in the Careers Centre on Highfield campus and at Winchester School of Art 

Some annotated CV examples can be found in our CV guide above, as well as in our 'Useful downloads' section below. TargetJobs also offers some good example CVs for specific sectors.

There are many different sections that can be included on a CV and these can be moved around in order to best reflect your skills and experience. Below are some of the sections most commonly found on a CV and an explanation of what to include.

Personal details:

  • Name, telephone and e-mail. Address is optional but ensure you are careful with your personal details if posting your CV online

Other personal information is not required, however you may wish to disclose this in certain circumstances. If you are unsure and would like to discuss this further, come along to our Drop-In Service.

Personal profile:

This is optional and can offer employers a quick summary of your key skills and experience that relate to the role. Personal profiles can be tricky to write so have a look at the guide above for some tips and examples.

Education and Qualifications:

  • Degree subject and classification expected/attained. Describe your degree but be selective - think about what the organisation is likely to be interested in such as projects or dissertations. Consider including what you have gained in terms of skills and technical abilities, for example, research skills, report writing, problem solving, project management
  • List A levels or equivalents with grades. Summarise GCSEs, for example, 9 GCSEs grade A* - C including maths and English language
  • If you have obtained non-UK qualifications, you may be asked to provide the employer/university with the equivalency of your qualification in UK terms. UCAS may initially be a useful resource to try, however, if this does not provide you with the relevant information, try NARIC - although please be aware that they make a charge for their services
  • If you are interested in working and/or studying abroad, you may need to translate your UK qualifications, for example in the USA to a GPA score. See Fulbright Commission. You could also try World Education Services

Work Experience:

  • As well as placements and internships, consider including volunteer work, part-time jobs and vacation work
  • Summarise long lists of short-term temporary work
  • Include name of organisation, job title and dates and give a brief account of your duties and responsibilities. Ensure that you also include what you gained from these experiences such as skills and knowledge
  • Use action words such as achieved, developed, managed

Annotated examples can be found in the CV guide and in 'Useful downloads' below.

We've created two video presentations which provide the key principles for building an effective and professional CV. Each video lasts approximately 10 minutes.

  • Target your CV to the specific job and organisation: Look at the key skills, attributes and qualities the employer is asking for and provide evidence of how you meet these
  • Sell yourself. Employers want to know what you can do for them: What are your achievements, how are they relevant?
  • Allocate space according to the importance of the information and make sure your most relevant information is on the first page
  • The usual UK CV length is two balanced pages of A4. In certain industries such as Finance, a one page CV may be preferred
  • Countries outside the UK may use different CV formats. For more information see TargetJobs or our subscription to GoinGlobal accessed via MyCareer or on SUSSED in the 'Careers and my personal development' option
  • Use a professional font that is a reasonable size. Size 11 or 12 is usual
  • Avoid long paragraphs of narrative text - break information into shorter sections
  • Use short, punchy sentences
  • Bullet points are helpful but avoid overuse
  • Each section should be in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent events/qualifications first
  • Ensure that there are no gaps and all your time is accounted for
  • Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation...and check again!

Useful Downloads

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