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Marketing Yourself   CV Structure   Practical Design Secrets  Covering Letters  Specimen CV

There is no 'best' or 'correct' way to complete a CV even though many people will try to tell you there is! We have many years experience in recruitment from graduates through to chief executives and believe that following the simple rules outlined below is your best chance of success.

Try thinking of what the person carrying out the selection will want to see. Probably, something brief and to the point with the minimum of spin and padding so as not to waste his or her time. The more you try to hide relevant details and make it difficult for the recruiter, the more annoyed they will become! The structure below is simple and effective and has stood the test of time. See also the specimen CV at the bottom of this page.


Remember that your CV and covering letter, whether sent by post or e-mail, will be your first introduction to the recruiter. You won't be there to explain anything, or to fill in any gaps, so your CV has to represent the best of what you are.

Remember the advertising slogan "AIDA" - attract ATTENTION, create INTEREST, generate DESIRE, stimulate ACTION.


Before you begin to think about writing your CV you need to ask yourself what you really want from a job. The Career Development Profiler will help you through this process by giving you an insight into your work interests, personality and motivation. Once you know what it is you want from a job then decide what skills and experience you have to sell. Then make a chronological list of your education, work history, experience and accomplishments and begin to organise this information into a concise and readable CV.



There is no 'best' or 'correct' way to complete a CV. Try thinking of what the person carrying out the selection will want to see. Probably, something brief and to the point with the minimum of spin and padding so as not to waste his or her time. The more you try to hide relevant details and make it difficult for the recruiter, the more annoyed they will become! The structure below is simple and effective and has stood the test of time. See also the specimen CV at the bottom of this page.

1.Your name and contact details

There is no need to write CV or Curriculum Vitae at the head of the page as it is obvious what the document is, so just write your name as a heading. Give your full address, e-mail. telephone/fax numbers, mention an answering machine if you have one, and good times to contact you. Make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to find you.

2. Key achievements

Next list three to six key achievements. Write these in terms of things you have done, using positive words such as completed, created, organised. If you have no job history, then relate the achievements to your education, your leisure activities, or vacation jobs. Where possible, relate the achievements to the likely requirement of the jobs for which you are applying.

3. Career history to date

List your job history in reverse chronological order, with the most recent job first. For each item focus on your achievements, skills and competencies, where possible giving examples of what you have done.

4, Education and Qualifications

List your education and qualifications, from A. Levels onwards, in chronological order.

5. Additional skills

Here list any skills which are not apparent from the above information, such as computer skills, or languages, which might be of interest to a potential employer.

6. Interests

Include a few interests or leisure pursuits, but not too many, and try to include some activities which have skills transferable to the workplace.

N.B. There is no need to quote referees at this stage unless specifically requested. References of the 'to whom it may concern' variety are almost worthless.




1. Length

Two A4 page's are ideal, and three the maximum. Anything longer is unlikely to be read, so put your efforts into making your CV lucid and elegantly simple, rather than writing a long-winded novel!

2. Use of language - make every word count!

Be concise and positive when describing your job history and your achievements. Avoid the usual strings of glowing adjectives and instead give real examples of what you have actually achieved.

Avoid :-

•Meaningless platitudes such as 'charismatic leadership qualities' or 'team player'
•Terms such as 'involved in' and 'assisted ' - be more precise.
•Vague achievements such as 'improved' or 'enhanced' - replace with something more specific to quantify what you actually achieved, e.g. increased turnover, managed 6 people, cut costs by 15%.

Pay attention to the key words in your CV and try to give them added value. For example, instead of using the word 'appointed' try 'promoted' or 'selected'. 'Ran a programme' could become 'created and developed' conveying a much more powerful message. Make every word work for you and use a thesaurus to enrich your vocabulary.

3. Grammar and spelling

Check your grammar and spelling avoiding jargon and unexplained abbreviations.

4. The paper

Quality, size and colour of paper are important when designing a CV. This may seem trivial, but good quality A4 size white or cream paper is the best setting for your CV. Unusual colours and sizes will only annoy your reader as will fancy plastic presentation folders. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. When applying to an advertising agency, for example, you might be expected to concentrate on the packaging as well as the content.

5. Legibility

Choose a clear, readable typeface with plenty of white space and no gimmicky graphics. When e-mailing, use fonts that are widely available such as Times New Roman - exotic fonts might look pretty but only if your recipient also has access to them. Highlight key words (e.g. job titles, organizations, qualifications) by underlining or bold type but avoid overuse of these techniques because they will lose their impact.

Avoid large areas of dark shading if your CV is likely to be faxed.

Lay out the CV attractively allowing plenty of space - don't cram everything together making the CV difficult to read.



A covering letter is as important as the CV. It is likely to be read first and if it fails to impress, then the CV might never be read at all. Most of the housekeeping points which apply to CVs apply also to letters - language, grammar, spelling, paper and legibility. In addition, the following are important:-

1. You cannot write one covering letter which will serve all purposes.

Each letter should be written individually as a response to a specific advertisement, or to approach an individual organisation.

2. Make the first paragraph the focus of your letter.

Make the first paragraph short and interesting - tempt the recruiter to read further and to take a look at your CV.

3. Market yourself

In your letter, highlight the aspects of your career which fit the requirements specified in the advertisement. Stick to the facts and restate the achievements listed in your CV if they are particularly relevant.

4. Follow instruction

Follow any instructions or requests for information, e.g. if an advertisement asks for current salary, or willingness to move location, then it is important to include that information in your letter.



SPECIMEN CV   (please note that due to variations in browser settings, the layout may not be ideal)

Christopher Smith
23 Longmead Road
London NW4 7SG
Phone or Fax: 0207 756 5871


Key Achievements:

• Introduced a new data base system in 10 European companies.
• Increased my team's sales by 30% over a two year period.
• Raised £25,000 for local cancer charity.
• Organised 20 person student expedition to Nepal.

(Begin your key achievements with 'action' words eg. - Managed, Increased, Organised, Designed and so on.. Avoid clichés such as - team player, self starter, charismatic leader and instead substantiate your claims with facts and figures. Everyone has three or four key achievements! Often, achievements outside work can be very relevant to a job application. For example, organising a charity activity might well indicate that you have management and leadership skills.)

Career History:

1999 - to date: Dentos UK, promoted to Sales Manager, Dental Products managing 6 people with a t/o of £2.5 million.
1998 - 1999: Set up own car hire business which grew to a fleet of four cars within one year. Sold the business on receiving  job offer from Dentos.
(Avoid leaving gaps in your CV eg through redundancy and put a positive interpretation on your achievements during such a time)

1996 - 1998 : SMGH, Assistant Brand Manager, Pharmaceuticals
1993 Work experience in Zambia supervising a bridge building project managing a team of nine volunteers.

Education and Qualifications:

2000 - to date MBA marketing programme at City university. Sponsored by my present company.
1993 - 1996 : BSc Chemistry 2.1 University of Southampton
1992 A levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry (B, B, C)

Additional Skills and Achievements:

Good working knowledge of German
Ashridge management and marketing programmes sponsored by Glaxo.
Duke of Edinburgh's silver award


Rock climbing, Squash and Acting. (Be realistic and honest - your interviewer may have similar interests!)




© 2002 West Associates - Business Psychologists

1 Berkeley Street
London W1J 8DJ

Tel 0207 016 9790