How to write a successful CV

The CV a document that puts dread in all students. 
Curriculum Vitae is a latin word and can be closely translated to mean[the] course of [my] life. 

A CV provides employers with an overview of all the achievements you have made in your life. 

It is like writing a blurb for a book, you are summarising the whole story, or we can liken it to a dating profile – you want to sound interesting and show off your best features without coming across as arrogant. 


The CV is where you display your skills and abilities, and this is done through showcasing previous jobs you have had, including both paid and unpaid work, your education and the skills you learnt there and finally by you personal profile (the bio in all dating sites!) 

CVs are pretty simple when you split them into 3 parts. 3 non-scary and relatively quick steps. They are not done in order of the layout but instead by areas which can be done quickest & with the most ease. All 3 steps can pretty much work with any type of CV layout you decided to go with (Draft CV layout downloads can be found at the end of this post).

The 3 Golden Rules: (To make a successful CV)
Always keep them to 2 pages.
Always use font size 12 and stick with a basic font like Arial.
When listing past work/education (anything with dates) you need to have the most recent first. 

1.Numero Uno – Education & References

Of the 3 this is the easiest. All you need to do is list you education; where you went, what subjects you did, the grades you got and the dates you were there. You need to put your most recent education pursuits first – so with many of you it shall be you current University & course.

Some people write a little bit about what they have learnt & skills gained whilst in education but I view the CV as a quick read – you want employers to be able to scan through and find things easily.

You then need to get, at least, 2 people to act as your references. These have to usually be one employer (often best to have one from your last job) and one person from your Education (such as a personal tutor). Most people put at the bottom ‘Reference available on request’ – this is a great way to save space & helps stick to the 1st Golden Rule. 

2. Part Two – Employment History

Now here is when you get serious. This step means simply listing all previous work you have had, including volunteer work and internships, but the hard part is having to explain the work you have done. Below is example #1 from my own current CV about my work at Greenbelt festival (read all about that here)

Summer Intern (June 2011 to August 2011)
Greenbelt Festival
• I worked full time in the London office for a month, as a member of the 12 strong team
where I was responsible for making sure contributors were booked and on the website, dispatching the tickets and keeping the website updated as well as helping design the Trust Greenbelt flyer. I gained a real understanding of the different roles each team member plays in creating a major festival.
• Over the festival weekend (and the preceding week) I worked as the PA for the Programming Coordinator. These were 10/12 hour days that were exciting and unpredictable; I dealt with on site issues such as paying artists, re-booking missed flights, dealing with production problems and site issues and communicating with venue managers and contractors as well as being the gatekeeper for my Programming Coordinator, making sure she could focus on her role.

The thing that makes this area particularly difficult is finding the best way to explain the Job you did. With the example#1 I re-wrote it so many times, I showed it to so many people and got their opinions until I felt it was worded in a way that explained the variety and importance of my role. 

Do not expect to get it perfect first time. I find you need to keep it short but at the same time informative and interesting, which is why short bullet points or lists of responsibilities (which can be seen in example#2 below) just don’t work as well. When looking at the two examples you can see that the example#1 seems to show that more time was spent writing it. 

Summer Intern (June 2011 to August 2011)
Greenbelt Festival
Main responsibilities; dispatching tickets, updating website, making sure contributors were booked, paying artists, re-booking missed flights, dealing with production problems and directing festival goers.

If you have had a lot of experience then it best to put the jobs down that are most relevant towards the job you are applying for. For example if you are applying for a placement in the Events industry and have done a lot of volunteer work for festivals or conferences then there is no need to put down your work as a baby sitter. You need to be critical of the jobs you have had and whether potential employers need to know about them and if the skills learnt actually are relevant to the job you are applying for. 

If you haven’t got a lot of experience to write about then my biggest piece of advice is to go out there and find things. In the events industry you need experience, even if it means helping organise an event at University or working for a Charity. If you are applying for placements & your CV is seeming pretty bare  you need to remember that it is a competitive job market and you need something that makes you stand out for other Graduates – don’t worry you still have time to find things to add on. 

3. Final Part – Personal Profile

This is the hardest part  & should be the final step, because this is the first thing that is read and you need to leave a lasting impression. This is the area which should tell the person reading exactly who you are and what you can do for them. Under no circumstances do you use a statement such as ‘I am a motivated team player who works very well under pressure’ because these have been seen and heard a million times. You need to show your core strengths and the things you will be able to bring to the company. 

Once you have written your personal profile you have completed the 3 step process on HOW TO WRITE A CV! Congratulations!

Additional things to remember & DO: 

  1. Give your CV to some friends and family, get them to read through it and suggest any changes or to point out any grammatical or spelling mistakes (because no matter how many times you read it you will miss a few!) 
  2. Put it aside for a week and come back to it – you will be able to view it from a different prospective and either be ready to send it out or able to make a few changes that you didn’t see before. 
  3. Make sure that the email address you use is not an embarrassing one. Get a Gmail email address – DO NOT USE HOTMAIL – and preferably have one with your full name like; (my actual email address)
  4. Laws on discrimination mean you don’t have to put your age of date of birth on your CV (source)
  5. Make sure you have sufficient spaces between each section and paragraph of your CV, you do not want it all really close together and hard to read – simplicity is best. 

Design Elements:

Option #1: Really Basic layout: Personally I don’t think this looks professional or like you have spent any time putting it together. A great starting point when putting together your first CV – not good for placement applying. Click here to download sample layout 

Option #2: Most common layout: This is a really good set up for a CV with a clear and easy to understand order to each part – enough space to write sufficient details about each Job & professional enough to work with all types of job applications. Click here to download sample layout

Option #3: My CV layout & favourite: This is the one I use for my CV – I wanted to showcase the internships I had already done & the Jobs that were most relevant to the companies I was applying too. I put this layout together as I didn’t feel I had seen any that really worked for showcasing the time and effort I have put into finding relevant work experience. I feel this is the best of the 3 in being able to showcase the work you have done. Click here to download sample layout

Many elements of this post you will have read and been told before. But hopefully this post has made it a little clearer about the sort of stuff that should and should’t be featured in your CV when applying for Placements (or jobs). The University of Gloucestershire have a very good resources page to do with writing CVs that may be worth a look if you haven’t seen it before. 

Keep an eye out for the next post which shall be to do with writing Covering Letters. And do not forget to follow IDS on twitter
  • Nice informative Post. Tips to Write CV to be shared

  • Anonymous

    these tips can make anyone’s career shining like a glass table tops object. 🙂

  • denyalkoch

    here is when you get serious. This step means simply listing all
    previous work you have had, including volunteer work and internships,
    but the hard part is having to explain the work you have done.To get more information about event management institute.

  • naemd

    people write a little bit about what they have learnt & skills
    gained whilst in education but I view the CV as a quick read you want
    employers to be able to scan through and find things easily.To get more information about event management institute mumbai

  • Hi Naemd, Thank you for your comment. I agree with your point, the CV is a quick read where employers want to be able to quickly see what you have done in the past!

  • Louis Alfredo

    Thanks for your tips and these can be helpful when we are going to enter the professional life then CV can help us to provide more opportunists in this challenging world and every one should have knowledge about CV writing. I have got written my CV by and happy to do that.

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