What is a CV?

The term ‘Curriculum Vitae’, commonly abbreviated to CV, can be literally translated as ‘course of life’. Sometimes referred to as a résumé, it’s a summary of your career history that is often the first phase in getting yourself noticed by potential employers.

Why CVs are requested
When employers have a vacancy they need to fill they will put together a person specification; a list of the skills and experience they want the ideal candidate to possess. From this list, the job advert is created, which is where they will ask you to send them your CV.

How closely your CV matches the person specification is the key factor in determining whether they see you as a suitable person to join their company.

Unlike an application form, a CV allows you to decide which information is most relevant to each role you apply for.

[Your CV] needs to be concise, accurate, engaging and thorough.


Practice and improve online

With any skill you might like to improve, it’s important to give yourself enough time so you can develop and practice, especially if you are preparing for a test or exam.

Typing is something many of us do these days, possibly in our own way. Learning how to touch type is an invaluable skill which, if added to your CV, can increase your chances of employment.

You can practice online with a wide range of free resources or apps if you plan to take a Touch Typing test and this will no doubt build up your proficiency and confidence in time for your final exam.

How to write a winning CV

It is worth remembering that employers are busy people, many of whom are short of time and are therefore less inclined to look at your CV in detail first time around, especially when they have a pile of them on their desks.  

An employer will probably read the first half of the first page of your CV so you need to have grabbed their attention by then.  They are likely to read only the first couple of lines of each section so make sure you put the most relevant or best stuff at the beginning of each section.

  • CVs should be no more than 2 single sides of A4 paper – word processed.
  • DO NOT LIE ON YOUR CV – employers have taken legal action in such cases.
  • Consider what to include or leave out of your CV . You need to be able to differentiate between what will encourage  an employer from interviewing you and what will discourage them from interviewing you.



Summarise your skills, experiences and achievements using action words, such as “active team player”, “achieved business targets”, “excellent time management skills”, “able to meet deadlines” etc. Remember to write in the third person, like someone else is talking about you to the employer.  For example, put ‘an active team player who is quick to establish rapport with both clients and colleagues’.

For personal profiles remember to:

  1. Keep it short and to the point.
  2. Include a sentence or two about the type of work you are aiming for.
  3. Include a few lines about the attributes which make you suitable for the role.



Further on is a list of skills grouped under different areas – look at these to give you ideas for this section of your CV.  Does your CV reflect the relevant skills, experiences, achievements and qualifications for the job you want?  You can have more than one type of CV to target different types of work, for example one for sales work and another for office administration, using different skills and experiences.


Do some research on your chosen industry sector i.e look at adverts or occupational information – do employers ask for a recent graduate? In which case put qualifications first. Do they ask for someone with two years experience in the industry? In which case put your employment history first.

  • If you have limited work experience think about the tasks and responsibilities involved in running your home or activities you may do in your spare time; voluntary work, committees, playgroups etc.  Use these when thinking about transferable skills and experiences you can bring to the job.
  • Mixing and matching some headings can be helpful for example EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING HISTORY is useful when your most recent experience has been in training/upgrading your skills for the labor market as opposed to EMPLOYMENT.


Think about any in house training you have been on – Health and Safety, First Aid, customer care, operating a particular piece of machinery.

This document describes keys you may find on your keyboard and some of the functions available

Know your keyboard


Are there any gaps or areas not fully explained? Try and fill them so there are no unexplained gaps.  Perhaps include an ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section where you can explain gaps in more detail.  For example time spent travelling. If you are an ex offender you may wish to draw the employers attention to a letter or recommendation from your probation officer.



Only include hobbies and interests if the ADD to your CV.  If they say something about you as a person which would make the employer feel that you would be suitable for the job or would fit in well.  For example being an active participant in sport shows you are a team player.



Can be put down as “supplied on request”.  Employer’s normally only contact referees when you have been selected for a job.  Always ask your referees permission to use them as a reference and make sure they are not a friend or family member.

  • Think about your contact number; has it an answer phone message? If it does remember to keep it short, clear and professional – no music or funny messages!


Use empowering language – this does not mean complicated and difficult words.  If you are stuck for a word, use the list below to search for the right one.  Also as part of your research, look at adverts or occupational information and use the language the employer uses.  For example do they want ‘customer service skills‘, or ‘a client focused approach‘ or a ‘client centered approach‘?  All different ways of expressing customer service skills or dealing with people.  Use the appropriate expression in your CV so that when the employer is scanning through they will see words they recognise and use, this will give them the impression that you are on their wavelength and will fit in better.

Personal Qualities Power Words Action Words Skills
quick to learn
self motivated
set up
research skills
time management
problem solving
social skills
Computer Literacy / competence e.g. Microsoft Word

When your CV is finished check and double-check GRAMMAR, SPELLING, PUNCTUATION, PLACEMENT and PRESENTATION.

For more information call National Careers  on 0800 100 900








You can also contact a bi-lingual adviser.