CV help and advice

Need some advice with CV’s and cover letters

What layout should I use for my CV ?

  • Length: 2 Pages maximum. It is your promotional tool and you need to give as much information as possible
  • Your CV should be clear, concise, and easy to read. Use strong headings (bold) and bullet points. Do not use paragraphs. The typeface should be conservative, i.e. Times New Roman, at pt.12 or pt.10 if there is a lot of information
  • Keep font and margins consistent throughout
  • Use A4 good quality paper – white or cream preferable
  • Change your CV each time you send it – tailor it to suit each position you are applying for. Always consider the position / organisation you are applying to and think how you CV will reflect what they want
  • Avoid irrelevant information
  • Use reverse chronological order dates i.e. your most recent education and work experience first working backwards
  • Use ‘action’ words (link from here to CV Action verbs below) – words that invoke action imagery: responsible for.., created, initiated and analysed
  • Always have someone else read through your CV, preferably a professional. Your CV needs to be absolutely error-free – spelling mistakes make a very bad impression on your prospective employer
  • Never print on both sides of the paper as it may need to be photocopied later by prospective employers
  • Unless specifically requested you do not have to include you referees contact details.

What content should I include ?


Analysing your skills is the best way to acquire an inventory of skills, abilities and aptitudes. This is an essential process and should be completed before you attempt preparing a CV or completing an application form.

An effective CV will contain all or most of the following information :

  • PERSONAL DETAILS: Name, address, and telephone number. You do not need to include your date of birth and marital status if you do not wish to do so
  • CAREERS AIM : Can be useful to include when you wish to highlight your personal suitability for a targeted job or sector
  • EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Normally reverse chronological : include most relevant subjects for the position your are applying for initially. Include Secondary and Post-Secondary education . Include also, additional training qualifications especially those that highlight skills development (e.g. computer courses) – include positive results although your leaving results now are not as relevant as previously – use bullet points throughout
  • SKILLS PROFILE : identification of the employability and transferable skills that you have picked up which will be useful in the position you have applied for.
  • WORK EXPERIENCE : Included paid/unpaid employment, full-time/part-time, and voluntary experience, detailing position, responsibilities and skills gained. Once again use bullet points and ‘action verbs’ at the start of each sentence eg completed, analysed, organised, communicated. Focus on your most relevant experience
  • INTERESTS AND HOBBIES : List interests, hobbies, membership of clubs/local organisations/community groups
  • REFEREES : A referee is someone who agrees to give a verbal or written reference to prospective employer on your behalf. Therefore, he/she needs to be someone who knows your work and is contactable.

Have your CV checked
Arrange an appointment with the Careers Officer to discuss any potential applications you may have and to have a quick look over your CV. Also look out for emails from the Service on workshops that will take place throughout the year. The UK’s Careers Services body, Prospects, provide a Free CV checking service (Link from this to link below) for students and graduates who are EU nationals. You may submit your CV once and have it analysed by professionals. Ensure you have made your CV as good as humanly possible before submitting it to Prospects!

CV checking

Here are a sample of Action verbs which can be used to highlight Work Experience part of your CV.

  • planning
  • monitoring and recording and reporting
  • communicating
  • working effectively in a team
  • implementing and completing
  • resolving and solving problems and challenges
  • working under pressure and meeting demanding deadlines
  • dealing with customers – internal and external
  • dealing with suppliers and partners and associates
  • supervising others and activities
  • checking and policing
  • researching and exploring
  • analysing and investigating
  • coordinating activities and work
  • listening, understanding, empathising, helping and solving
  • scheduling
  • creating
  • designing and developing
  • controlling quality and testing
  • carrying out processes and procedures
  • using systems and tools
  • operating equipment and tools reliably and safely
  • operating and implementing procedures
  • initiating and instigating
  • developing and coaching and mentoring others
  • teaching and training others
  • decision-making
  • negotiating and mediating
  • interpreting and translating [situations, needs, demands, etc – not just words and language]
  • managing activities
  • directing activities
  • determining direction, policy and strategy

Cover letter tips
The covering letter is vital to your CV. This is why it is the first page and not an addition. “Please find enclosed my CV” won’t get you very far.

  • Find the name of the person to write to. It will make it easier to follow up if you do not hear back ! Research indicates that those who included a letter with their CV were 10% more likely to receive a reply
  • The covering letter puts flesh on the bare bones of the CV. It points out to the employer the information showing that you have the qualities the job calls for, and makes a statement about yourself and your suitability for the job.
  • If emailed put your covering letter in the body of the email. If you just attach it along with your CV, with nothing in the email body it may be misidentified as spam.
  • Don’t make the employer work to read your letter! – Try not to go over one side of A4
  • Answer the question “Why should I see you?”
  • You might include your understanding of the work/knowledge of the company
  • Relate your skills to the job. Show the employer, in a clear and concise manner, that you have obtained the organising, communicating, analytical, problem solving, etc. skills that are appropriate for the job.
  • Say when you’re available to start work (and end, if it’s a placement): be as flexible as possible.
  • If you start with a name (e.g. “Dear Mr Bloggs”) you should end with “Yours sincerely”.
  • If you start with “Dear Sir or Madam” you should end with “Yours faithfully

Useful online resources which will help you with CV and cover letter