Free CV Advice can provide you with hints and tips to create a good CV that is readable, relevant and in a format that really works.  At My CV Guide, there is a continued focus on ensuring that free insight and advice is available to anyone looking to produce, update or maintain a CV at anytime and whatever their circumstances. CV writing should not be the daunting or inconvenient task that it can feel to be and free CV advice and guidance can provide the knowledge and confidence to help overcome that.


The following advice is designed to answer some of the most common questions or concerns people have about writing a CV.  Click on those questions that are of interest to you to open up the answer and further insight on the subject. If you have a question that isn’t covered then the My CV Guide Blog offers further free information on how to write a CV or our professional CV Guide, CV Review and CV Consultation services are available for more in-depth CV support. 

If you have any CV questions of any kind, don't hesitate to get in touch at any time. My CV Guide is here to help.

What is a CV?

A CV is a document that contains an overview of you, your education, professional experience and key skills and achievements.  It is most commonly used in applications for jobs, as well as work experience, placements or promotions. The name CV is short for curriculum vitae which translates from the Latin for "the course of your life".    

What is a CV for?

To communicate the relevant information about you, 

that will allow somebody who doesn’t know you,

to make an informed judgement about the skills, knowledge and experience,

that you would bring to a team, organisation and role.

Do I need a CV?

In the vast majority of recruitment processes, a CV will be a key communication tool and will make the first representation of you to a prospective employer. 


It will be used to make the critical decision as to whether to invite you forward to the next stage of the recruitment process and will inform the questions that you are asked at interview. Indeed many interviews will start with you being asked to talk through your CV or your professional background. 


Having a really good CV therefore will not only help you in securing interviews, but the process of creating it will also allow you to refine what it is you are looking for in a job, identify the types of roles and organisations that would really appeal to you and is fantastic preparation for the interview itself.

What should I include in a CV?

The exact contents of a CV will obviously be individual and personal to you, but including the following sections will provide the core and essential elements of a strong CV.


Name and contact details - So that your CV can be identified and you can be contacted if there is interest in progressing you forward.


A personal profile or summary statement - To enable a reader to establish very quickly an overview of what you offer. This should cover very briefly the relevant elements of your professional experience in terms of roles and level operated at, an indication of any qualification or professional accreditation if relevant along with insight into the key areas of experience and proven delivery that you have. You may also include an indication of current circumstances, dependent on the value that it would add.


Employment history - Details of the jobs you have been employed in previously, including job title, dates of employment, the company you worked for and overview and insight into what you did whilst there. This is not just your job description, but what you actually did and delivered within the role. Quantifying these achievements with facts and figures also adds very real weight and is essential to creating a great CV.


Education and qualifications - Any academic qualifications you have from your time in education as well as any professional qualifications or training that you have undertaken.  Only include what relates to the types of roles you are looking to be considered for, or which demonstrate a level of competency and ability that would be worth highlighting.


Additional information - In the form of hobbies, interests, activities outside of work or details that you feel pertinent such as referees, links to projects, blogs, websites, publications or portfolios.

Should I save my CV as a Word or PDF file?

Most importantly check with whoever you are submitting it to or whatever you are applying to for specific instructions.  They will most likely have a preferred format and you are instantly creating risk of being missed if you don’t follow that. If there is nothing specified, don’t be afraid to make contact to ask the question.


If no guidance is available then word (or equivalent) is probably a safer option. Some people prefer PDF because it protects the content and look of the document.  However some Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and databases, which are many and varied and will almost certainly be a part of a recruitment process, struggle with PDF documents and so create risk of a CV not uploading properly.  Although this may be rare, there are still advantages to having an editable document as it gives options for adding notes and removal of key identifiers such as name and address which some recruitment processes will look to do to protect against unconscious bias in the review process.

Why is it hard to write a CV?

A CV is not an easy document to produce for a number of reasons.  If you are finding it a struggle to write a CV do not worry, you certainly aren’t alone. Some of the main challenges that you may or may not have considered are:

  • Trying to represent so much about yourself in such limited space

  • Communicating with an unknown person without being able to see, hear or speak to them

  • There is something really important at stake

  • Selling yourself when it is not in your nature

  • It feels very personal, but it’s not

What should a CV look like?

Consistent formatting throughout a CV is really important to ensure that it is as clear and as readable as possible. Large blocks of uniform text will lose the reader, but so will over complicated formatting that make the text difficult to follow:


Font  - Use a Font Style and Size that is professional looking and easy to read. Once chosen, use it consistently throughout a CV.  Then use simple formatting such as bold type, underlining or larger font and line spacing for breaking up text – such as for section headings or job titles. This breaks up the page which makes it easier to read and scan which is key for many reviewers.


Formatting – If you are using a CV templates, it may autoformat your content, but if creating a CV from a blank document keep the formatting of text as simple as possible. Avoid using text boxes or elaborate formatting within the document as a CV is likely to pass between different software and database systems and so there is a risk of re-formatting that will change the appearance of the CV or potentially cause issues with it uploading properly.


If the visuals of a CV are relevant to your skillset and profession then you may want some creativity around how it looks. Otherwise avoid excessive use of colours for the sake of it and don’t format with the intention of it getting attention. Assume whoever is seeing your CV is very used to seeing and reviewing CVs. They are invested in finding the right person and they will pick up on great content rather than elaborate visuals.


Want to know how to write a great CV? My CV Guide can take you through it.