Your CV is the single most important tool at your disposal in the job market and it has a big job to do. It needs to summarise a lifetime of personal knowledge, personality traits and achievements in a single short document. No small feat.

Successful job applications start with your CV, so it’s essential to get both the content and presentation right to maximise your chances of success.

The CV Life-Cycle

Most job seekers don’t consider the full life-cycle of a CV during an application process or, even if they do, they fail to grasp it’s importance. The way in which your CV is used from your initial job search through to your interview is very different and something your should be aware of to increase your chances of making it to the first stage of the application process.

The first thing is to be aware that there are two types of CV, speculative and targeted, and you should know what type of CV you are submitting and be prepared to provide different versions of your CV depending on the circumstances.

When you submit your speculative CV to a job aggregator or recruiter, you need to ensure that it’s in the correct format and that your CV has been optimised to maximise the likelihood that you will be found when they (hiring manager, recruiter, HR person) are searching their CV database at a later date.

How to format your CV

Your CV should be written in Microsoft Word and submitted in a .doc format. You should only use the standard formatting tools such as Headings, lists, bold and italics. Standard fonts and sizing should be used consistently.

The length should be 2 pages at optimum but further pages are acceptable if you have a longer, relevant, employment history. Use a smaller font (11pt minimum) and reduce margins, header, footer and space between sections to reclaim some space if you are just running over onto a new page.

What to include on your CV

Your CV should be made up of the following sections:

Personal information

Always provide your full contact details and always include a monitored email address and mobile phone number. You shouldn’t mention your age, include a photograph, details of marital status, race or religion as these factors won’t be taken into consideration.

Personal statement

Three or four sentences summarising your history and future ambitions. Tailor this for each job application.

Key skills and experience

Often similar skills are employed with different employers so summarising some of them in this area will give a solid overview of what you have achieved to date. Tailor this for each job application.

Qualifications / education / professional memberships

Ensure that any qualifications and professional memberships are current and if you are currently studying or awaiting results, make sure this is absolutely clear and in no way misleading.

Employment history

Don’t abbreviate the employers name and include a sentence of what they do and the industry it is within. Include several bullet points highlighting your key achievements with this employer.


It may be acceptable to put “available upon request” if you will run onto a separate page, however, try to include two distinct references wherever possible.

What to avoid on your CV

Avoid providing details of references at application stage. Referees should only be contacted at the point of job offer and only with your express permission.

  • Don’t abbreviate unless they are industry standard
  • Don’t include any graphics, images, charts etc
  • Don’t have spelling or grammatical errors on your CV
  • Don’t include hobbies or interests
  • Don’t mention your age, race or religion

We have put together a more complete set of guidelines for a health and safety CV on the main website, I’d recommend you read through that also for more tips and advice.

We would also recommend you take just as much time and energy creating a properly formatted cover letter to complement your application.

Understanding how your CV will be used and pitching it in the right way will give you a competitive advantage, ultimately improving your chances of securing your ideal job.