Writing the perfect CV

Looking for a new job can be daunting, especially if you have limited work experience. But everyone has to start somewhere, and you’ll be one step ahead if you can show potential employers that you’re motivated to work hard and have the ability to get on well with other people.

One way of highlighting these soft skills is on your CV. If you’re a student or graduate, referencing your soft skills as well as your academic qualifications on your CV helps a potential employer get a better idea of the person behind the CV, as well as the breadth of skills they have to offer their business.

A perfectly written CV can be tricky to write but take your experience and skills and make sure you tailor them to the job you’re applying for. HR recruiters will want to know that you are keen on their particular job – so be sure to write with that in mind.

Key things to remember:

Structure

– Start with your name, address, email and telephone number.

– Then add a short personal statement reflecting your experience and skills.

– Work experience – where possible, make each one relevant to the role you’re applying for, listing your achievements and responsibilities.

– Qualifications – as well as your academic qualifications, remember to include your DofE Award.

– Interests – make sure you include your volunteering work here.

– References – at least one should be work related (or a college or university tutor, if you’ve just left education).

Formatting

– Always keep a CV to two pages at most. Recruiters don’t have time to read pages and pages.

– Type it so that it is easy to read and use a clear font of at least 11 point.

– Follow the structure above as it is the one most recruiters will expect.

– Remember it is all about your audience – make things easier for them and they’ll respond.

Your personal profile

This can prove a stumbling block to even the most experienced job hunters. What should it include? Aim to write one paragraph about yourself and your skills, ensure that these closely match the job criteria. Then the second paragraph should include your experience. Again tailor this to the role. An example:

I am an enthusiastic, proactive individual with superb communication skills. Happy working individually or as part of a team, I am always keen to take on new responsibilities and challenges. This is reflected in my time doing my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which resulted in achieving my Gold Award.

My experience to date includes working for a major retailer where I was responsible for customer care, money handling and stock management. I have a 2:1 degree in Communications and I am looking forward to building on my experience and qualifications in this role.

Work experience

You might not have loads of experience but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of what you have. Although unpaid, you could include any work experience or voluntary work here, such as your DofE Volunteering section. You might find it helpful to split each role into your achievements and responsibilities:

Store Supervisor – Books R Us, London
September 2011 – June 2013

Books R Us owns eight bookstores in London. They employ eighty staff.

Achievements

– Promoted to Store Supervisor

– Awarded ‘Employee of the month’ three times

Responsibilities

– Customer service responsibilities

– Stock management

– Money handling

Think about the soft skills you may have gained that could be applicable to the role you’re applying for. For example, helping at an event will have given you experience of dealing with the general public and demonstrates good communication skills.

References

You’ll normally have to give references at some stage of the application process – two will suffice – and at least one of them should be a professional reference. If you’ve never worked, give the name of a tutor from school, college or university as a reference.

Language

– Your CV needs to stand out to recruiters, so be sure to use convincing language.

– If they’ve used certain adjectives to describe the person they’re looking for, describe yourself as those things in your personal statement.

– Pull out elements of your work and education history and tailor them to the role. Use proactive language to demonstrate that you’re the person that they’re looking for.

To help you showcase all your DofE skills and experience to potential employers, download our CV template and user guide to help you to fill out the different sections on your CV. You may also find it useful to refer to this example.

Top tip: some jobs may require you to fill in an application form rather than submitting your CV. You can find useful tips for this here.

Don’t forget – you should also let universities and employers know if you’ve continued any of your DofE activities (volunteering, keeping fit etc.) after achieving your Award. This demonstrates that you’ve set up good habits for life and shows you’ve got staying power.