Employers scan CVs to weed out the less suitable job applicants, so a simple, well-structured and well-written CV will increase your chances of getting to the next stage.


Content

Try to ensure your CV meets the following criteria-

  • It is concise and relevant to the job being applied for
  • Perfect spelling and grammar is a must.
  • Omit irrelevant information
  • Use reverse chronological order to list your education and work history – or put the most relevant parts first
  • Demonstrate your employability with skills, achievements and even personal hobbies as examples. Emphasize those skills that are listed in the job specification to show that you meet the employer’s requirements.
  • Use examples and evidence to back up your skills. It is insufficient to simply state that your skills are excellent – provide evidence from a real-life situation.
  • Utilize every section of your CV to show that you are perfect for the job.

Above all, you should target your CV. By tailoring your CV to emphasize your suitability for a particular job, you increase your chances of being asked for an interview.

If you have an up to date profile on a professional networking site such as LinkedIn, include the URL on your CV. However, only do this if your profile is up to date and details match your application.


Layout

As a CV is likely to be only glanced at briefly by a potential interviewer, especially for popular positions, it is important that you stick to a clean, simple style that lends itself to being read easily whilst looking professional.

  • Two sides of A4 – this is the ideal length of a CV. However, it is okay for it to be longer as if the information included is clear and relevant. There is also the exception of an academic or science communication CV, which may have an appendix of publications.
  • Most relevant information on the front page – move around your different CV sections to ensure that this is the case.
  • Use suitable subheadings to split your CV into sections – skills, education, work experience, etc (but not too many!).
  • No ugly presentation – try to avoid sections spanning between pages, large, bulky headings, non-conventional fonts, etc. Keep it pleasing to the eye.
  • Simple, standardized and formal – don’t make it look different from standard professional CVs.

A CV shouldn’t have to look exciting to demonstrate your creativity – that’s what the interview is for. It is simply an at-a-glance guide to your employability. Remember, the best CVs stand out on both relevant content and appropriate presentation.


Writing a CV for abroad

Whilst the above guidelines are suitable for writing a CV for employers in the UK, different countries have slightly different expectations of what an applicant’s CV should contain.

If you are writing a CV for a non-UK employer, please check Prospect’s Country Profiles pages for further information on writing a suitable CV for an employer based outside the UK. However, be aware of the fact that some international companies will recruit you from their own UK based offices, in which case, it may be advisable to stick to the style of CV advised above for UK applicants.

Useful Links

Science careers– online careers magazine with advice and articles on employment in science 
Academic CVs – information and tips on writing an academic CV
Graduate CV writing guide – guide for writing a general CV broken down into several steps
CV writing tips – tips on writing a scientific industry CV from CK Science