Writing a first CV? The best CV layout to get you started

Updated: May 19, 2020

If you are writing your first CV then a free CV template, CV builder or good CV examples are very useful tools to turn to. With the right CV advice however you can be confident to create one from a blank piece of paper, even if you have never had to write a CV before. The following pointers on CV layout and what to include will help you get started. 

This advice is intended to be flexible and adaptable. It can be applied in whatever way works best for you. Use it alongside other templates, tools, advice or examples that you are already using or as stand-alone guidance to create a great first CV. 

Starting a CV

The opening of a CV can be the same, regardless of your background and level of experience. Any CV can therefore start with the following two sections:

1.)   Name and Contact Details

This allows a CV to be identified and for you to be contacted if there is interest in your application. Keep this succinct, so at the top of the first page include: 

  • First and last name

  • Town and county, or area and city along with post code for your location

  • Email address and phone number

  • You can add links to profiles, portfolios, blogs or websites here as well, but ONLY if they are of value and relevant.

Pro CV Tips:  

Make sure your phone number has an appropriate voicemail message that you would be happy for a potential employer to hear.

Is your email address also appropriate to use? Consider creating a new email address purely for use on a CV and job applications if your current one doesn’t sound professional enough.

Check that you haven’t put a full stop at the end of your email address. This may sound pedantic, but if a full stop gets parsed or copied from a CV when it is uploaded to applicant tracking systems (ATS) or databases then it can make the address invalid and so leaves you uncontactable. It is therefore worth a quick check!

Also Read: How to write a CV: Contact Details

2.)   Personal Statement

A short paragraph to enable a reader to establish very quickly an overview of what you offer them as a potential employee. This should cover very briefly any of the below that would relate to both your background and what you would be applying to:

  • If you have had previous jobs, the relevant elements of your professional experience such as roles and level operated at.

  • An indication of the level of your education, qualifications or professional accreditations that you have obtained.

  • Insight into the key areas of work experience and proven delivery that you have, or key skill sets or competencies that you can demonstrate.

  • You may also include an indication of current circumstances and what you are looking for, dependent on the value that it would add.

Pro CV Tips:      

This section is an opportunity to tailor a CV. Think about what you are putting your CV forward for to decide what information to include. For example, if you are coming straight out of full time education, your academic qualifications may be what you focus on or if you have had a previous job that relates strongly to what you are applying to, make sure that it is referenced in this paragraph.

Also Read: How to write a CV: Personal Statement

The Main Body of a CV

For the main body of a CV, the sections and content can be built using any of the following that apply to you. Chose the order you put them in based on which offer the strongest evidence about you. 

3.) Employment History

Details of the jobs you have been employed in previously starting with your current or most recent role first and working backwards from there. For each position provide: 

  • Job title with the dates (month and year) that you joined and left the company you worked for and location.

  • An overview and insight into what you did whilst there.

Pro CV Tips:

Don’t just write out your job description for each role but say what you actually did and delivered. Quantifying these achievements with facts and figures and giving them context also adds very real weight to a great CV. 

If you are struggling to do this, think about providing simple details such as how many people were in the team you were working in, who were you supporting (eg. team leaders and managers or providing services directly to customers), the volumes and time frames you were delivering to or the amount of money or budget you were dealing with.

Also Read: How to write a CV: Employment History

4.) Education and Qualifications

List out any academic qualifications that you have from your time in education as well as any professional qualifications or training that you have undertaken that either 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.

Pro CV Tips:

If you haven’t worked before or have limited experience, then it may make more sense to put Education and Qualifications before your Employment History on a CV. Similarly if you have studied a subject that really relates to what you are applying to and represents your main selling point for being considered, then that again may be your priority so should come first in your order.

Do include courses or qualifications that you are still undertaking or that you are booked on to start. Just because a course isn’t completed yet, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t benefited or built knowledge from it already and future training can show commitment, dedication and levels of ability that you want to get across to the reader. 

Also Read: How to write a CV: Education & Qualifications

5.) Key Skills or Key Achievements

If you have a limited amount of work experience or qualifications, then bolstering a CV with a section on Key Skills or Key Achievements is a great way of evidencing what you would bring to a role. Pull on any experiences that would demonstrate those abilities whether that be from your time in school or education, from clubs or activities you are involved with or from any situation you have dealt with that demonstrates abilities that are relevant and that you would be comfortable to talk about in interview. Use job adverts or descriptions that you are applying to in order to make an informed decision of what to include. Examples of competencies that are commonly asked for would be:

  • Communication

  • Team Working

  • Commercial Awareness

  • Organisational Skills

  • Personal Responsibility

  • Problem Solving

If you are adding a Key Skills or Achievements section, they are probably best coming straight after your Personal Profile and therefore before Employment History and Education.  

Pro CV Tips:

For each skill, don’t just state you have it but provide evidence that demonstrates it. What was the situation or context? What did YOU do? What was the successful outcome? For example, stating you are a strong communicator doesn’t provide any evidence that you actually are and is an incredibly broad statement to make. Providing details of what you communicated, how you communicated it, who to, what made it effective and successful or what challenges you had to overcome, all provide evidence of your ability and so are far more meaningful and therefore impactful to include on a CV.

Also Read: How to write a CV: Key Achievements

Also Read: How to write a CV: Key Skills

Other details to Include

Additional information can be added to a CV to provide further facts or details that may be relevant to a potential employer. This can be done by adding an additional section at the end.

6.) Additional Information

 Add a list of bullet points or short paragraphs to cover anything else that you would like to highlight such as:

  •  Hobbies

  • Teams, clubs or societies

  • Interests

  • Activities and pass times outside of work or education

  • Language skills, licences, accreditations or other areas of knowledge or expertise not already covered

  • Details that you feel pertinent such as referees, links to projects, blogs, websites, publications or portfolios

Pro CV Tips:

As well as adding additional information at the end of a CV, also look back through what you have already written to see if there are any details that you can put a greater emphasis on to give the person reviewing it a better feel for your personal traits and attributes. 

If you are very organised and methodical in how you work, is that coming across? If you are very good at presenting or speaking to rooms full of people, is that mentioned at all? Think about what traits or qualities you have and how you can evidence those abilities so that your CV can really provide an understanding of what you have to offer. By ensuring that these traits come across throughout your CV, it builds a far greater insight to you as a person and therefore what you would bring to a role.

Also Read: How to write a CV: Other Information

In Conclusion

There is no single layout that is the best for all CVs; use the above guidance to create a CV layout that works best for yours. 

Best of luck and as you write, think about what you are trying to achieve and keep reviewing your CV as you go. A great CV allows somebody who doesn’t know you to make an informed judgement about the skills, knowledge and experience that you would bring to a role and a good layout will allow them to do that as quickly and easily as possible.

For further articles on how to write a great CV, take a look the My CV Guide Blog or visit the website for Free CV Advice to help answer any further questions that you may have.

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