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The University of Southampton
Careers, Employability and Student Enterprise

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.

If you haven't yet created your CV use the CV Builder to create a professional CV to suit your skills and experiences.

Why not try the CV360 tool on the UoS Career Hub? CV360 scores your CV against more than 50 checks. You get instant, detailed feedback so you can optimise your CV and significantly boost your chances of getting to interview.

Use the CV Builder hereUse the CV360 tool here

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 Ask the Adviser appointments. You can also watch our online version of our Discover...CVs workshop below, which provides the key principles for building an effective and professional CV.

For further resources including over 400 books and e-books, as well as free publications available to you, see our Careers Library and e-books pages and read our CV and Covering Letters Guide.

Discover...CVs workshop front page

Video support (10 minutes approx.)

We've created an online version of our Discover...CVs workshop which provides the key principles for building an effective and professional CV.

View it here

Writing Your Future Guide

Use our CV and Covering Letters Guide to help you create a CV that has impact with an employer.

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. You should reflect on your past experiences, including your degree, previous jobs, work experience and even extracurricular activities, to work out what skills you have used and developed.

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
  • 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 accessed at Winchester School of Art library

Some annotated CV examples can be found in our CV guide. 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 Ask the Adviser 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.

  • 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?
  • The usual UK CV length is two pages of A4 except in industries such as Finance. Make sure your most relevant information is on the first page
  • 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 and bullet points
  • Each section should be in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent events/qualifications first
  • Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation...and check again!

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