10 steps to writing your first CV
1. Collect data
Catalogue anything you’ve done which looks like work – all paid work (including holiday and weekend jobs), volunteering, work placements, team projects undertaken as part of your studies, activities outside the curriculum. Describe what you did and the challenges you overcame.
2. Dig deep
Identify skills you have learned. Record where you learned them, how you used them and the results achieved. Don’t miss out skills acquired from study or from outside interests. Give skills a context so a reader can picture you in action, and show skill levels by describing outcomes.
3. Pull out the good stuff
List the things you are most proud of (from work, study, or your outside interests). Include concreteevidence of achievement (e.g. ‘reduced customer complaints by 20%’).
4. Stand out
Identify your strengths – times when you solved problems, rescued a situation, or delighted a customer. Emphasise times when you learned things quickly and achieved results with minimum supervision.
Turn your evidence into punchy bullet points, each beginning with an action word (‘Planned…..’, ‘Organised…’, ‘Managed…’). Highlight the material most relevant to your next job application – this is for the first page.
6. Build your document
Find a good CV template - one that allows you to communicate your key areas of experience and your top skills near the top of page 1. Paste in your bullet points against any jobs you’ve done, and against courses you’ve studied. Begin with activities that happened some time back, adding more detail to recent events.
7. Foreground your strongest evidence
You may think you should start with details of your qualifications, but employers are generally more interested to know about skills and work history. Pick your strongest 6 bullet points and make sure they appear close to the beginning of your CV.
8. Style check
Avoid CV clichés such as self-starter, dynamic, and motivated. Focus on describing your actual experience rather than self-praise.
9. Be fussy
Double-check everything - dates employed, the spelling of organisation names. Ensure your qualifications and training are listed accurately, with grades (it’s fine to summarise your academic level on page 1 and put full details deeper in the document).
10. Road test
Triple-check details and get someone else to review your spelling, then ask for feedback from someone who regularly reads CVs to make sure that your key messages are communicated.