Writing a CV is one of the most important elements of the job application process. A good CV will enable you to stand out from the competition, but a great CV will put you on the shortlist for a cluster of exciting jobs.

Here at Michael Page, we’re on hand to help you through every step of the recruitment journey, and have put together this ultimate guide to creating a killer CV that will help land you your dream job.

We’ve also created a CV template that will help you map out your personal statement, career history and skills and achievements, in a clear and presentable way. Our CV template will do the hard work for you and it presents a great chance for you to get on the shortlist for an interview.

We also discuss key aspects of creating a CV, including how to explain career gaps, how to avoid the dreaded cliches, and key tips on converting your CV into a fully optimised LinkedIn profile that recruiters and employers will love.

Let’s begin.

Michael Page’s CV Template

The competition for jobs in the UK market is fierce and you’ll need to ensure that you stay ahead of the pack. By structuring your CV layout in the right way, you stand a far better chance of getting the attention of recruiters and getting the pick of your desired jobs. You also don't want to run the risk of creating a CV that's too long, so having a clear structure will allow you to fit in all the vital information, in a concise way.

Here, we’ve created a general CV template to help you fill out the key sections of a standard CV structure:

Brief personal statement

A few lines are required here to summarise your experience to date and what you can offer the employer. Avoid superfluous details, instead, try to make this very concise and unique to your specific skill set and the role you are applying for.

Career history

Starting with your most recent employer, list your past jobs in chronological order. If you do have gaps in your work history, be clear about what they were. If you have had two relevant roles with the same employer that could make a good impression, make sure the distinction between the two jobs is clear. Think about things that you have done in the past that will catch the eyes of the recruiter. Include skills that are relevant to the role and use stats or examples to back them up.

We can drill down further into this as you may want to tailor the information on your CV specifically to the industry as well as the role you are going for. If so, read our article on ‘How to write a CV for your sector’.

Skills and achievements

Keep it brief, but list a few short bullet points describing your key achievements and genuine skills. Remember, your skills should always be evolving, so make sure your skill set is up to date on your CV.

Education and training

Starting with your most recent qualification, list your education in chronological order. Make sure that you have the ‘to and from’ dates of the institution you attended, then fill out the subjects, grades obtained, and other related awards and achievements.

Interests and activities

This is a good opportunity to reveal a little of your personality. However, try to avoid putting uninteresting or unnecessary things on here.

References

Use this extra space on your CV wisely. It’s commonplace to put ‘Available on request’ rather than list the name, job title, and address of a former employer.

💡 Don’t forget: Proofread! Finally, check for typos and grammar. Any errors will severely dent your chances of a job interview or offer. If you can, get another person to look at your CV too, and if you’re applying for a job vacancy in the UK, remember to name it as a CV and not a resume.

Take a look through out insightful article featuring more examples of a good CV

Explaining the gaps on your CV

You might be tempted to ignore gaps in your career on your CV in the hope that employers won’t notice them. But for many hiring managers, a CV that’s full of unexplained breaks is a warning sign and they might disregard your application straight away.

Being honest during a hiring process is essential in every job search, and this starts with your CV. If you lie or try to cover gaps by extending the months you worked somewhere, chances are you’ll be found out at the reference check stage; even if you have nothing to hide, employers will be suspicious and put off.

Illness

Explaining a gap in your CV due to illness is sometimes tricky. If your career break was a long time ago, say more than 10 years, it’s probably not worth mentioning anyway. However, if the gap is recent, and long, you will have to acknowledge and explain it to some degree. The message you should be conveying in your explanation should be that, although you did have to take time out of work because you were ill, you’re now ready to go back to work.

Termination or redundancy

Employers won’t blame you for having some time in between jobs if you were made redundant or even fired from a previous position (although you might have some other explaining to do if it’s the latter). What you should accentuate, however, is what you were doing during the break to stay marketable; for instance, did you do any volunteer work or complete any additional training?

Travelling

If the gap you have to explain is due to travelling, it should be fairly simple for you to put a positive spin on this. Many employers will actually appreciate the fact that you’ve been travelling before you apply for a role at their organisation. For some, it means you’ve ‘got it out of your system’ and for others, it shows a sense of independence and cultural awareness.

Caring for family

Many people take time out of their career to raise their children or take care of a relative, so don’t think you should try and cover this up. However, it might be worth mentioning that your children are now in full-time education/childcare or that you no longer have care commitments and are ready to return to your career.

It’s highly likely that you’ll be asked about career breaks during any interviews you get, so it’s best practice to have explained them already in your covering letter, thus avoiding any awkward questions at interview. You may still get asked, but only if the hiring manager needs more details.

Avoiding CV clichés

Unfortunately, there are some words and phrases that have been so overused, that employers have become immune to them and may dismiss your claim without substantiated evidence.

Some clichéd ‘buzzwords’ to avoid are:

• Team player
• Motivated
• Detail-oriented
• Communication skills
• People management skills
• Results-driven
• Dynamic
• Entrepreneurial

The thing to remember if you’re tempted to list these skills on your CV is: would anyone else applying for the same job as you say they don’t have these skills? Probably not. There’s nothing wrong with saying you have good people management skills if it’s a ‘must have’ for the role, but don’t leave it there. Briefly state a time in a previous role when using your people management skills added something to the business. Always back it up with real life evidence.

Corporate jargon

Stay away from using corporate jargon, it makes reading your CV an arduous task and your aim here is to engage the reader, not put them off. It doesn’t enhance your skills and experience and in many cases it’s unclear to the hiring manager what role you’re actually describing.

What’s next?

We hope you’ve found our CV guide helpful and that you can now re-structure your CV to our tried and tested CV template provided. Once you’re happy with the general look and feel of your CV, it’s important to make sure you’re optimising it for your specific sector. Here are some of our insights into how to write a sector-specific CV.

Now you've updated your CV, t’s time to focus on your cover letter! Check out our complete step by step guide to writing a standout cover letter that'll help your application really stand out. 

For even more help on finding a new job, contact one of our expert consultants today.

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