How to write a winning CV

4 Feb, 2021

The Career Development Centre has written a series of articles on a range of topics. Here is an excellent piece about writing a winning CV!

Your CV is not just a biographical account of your life to date; it is a marketing tool with which to “sell yourself” to potential employers.  It gives the first impression of you – so make sure it’s a good one!

Most importantly, it should ideally be a maximum of two pages in length and be tailored specifically for the job and the organisation in question.  If you are sending a CV in response to an advertised post, get a copy of the job specification and make sure your application reflects every aspect of it, e.g. knowledge, skills and attributes required.  If you are sending out speculative applications, then do lots of research on the organisation and the type of work you are looking for to make your CV as specific as possible to your potential employer.  

Top tips for content

  • The heading Curriculum Vitae is not essential. The modern approach is to replace it with your name using a larger font and bold print, followed by your contact details. Include your address, telephone number and area code and a professional email address. You may also wish to reference your LinkedIn profile or web address if you link to a portfolio.
  • Date of birth, marital status and nationality are not necessary under equality legislation (unless there are visa implications – and you want to show that you can legally work in the relevant country).
  • If you include a mobile number on the CV, make sure your message minder is activated and that your recording is professional.  
  • Your CV should include education, experience, skills, interests/achievements and referees sections.  A personal profile/career objective section has been largely replaced by a cover letter.  If you are changing career, you may find it helpful to include one.
  • Education details should generally be given in reverse chronological order (most recent first) or most relevant first. Expand on your most relevant qualifications, e.g. relevant course modules, projects, laboratory work and/or skills developed.  Elaborate on any thesis or research work and include a list of tasks involved in carrying out that research. Don’t include irrelevant information such as Junior Certificate or national school.
  • Your employment section should also be in reverse chronological order unless your most recent experience is not your most relevant. In this case, you could group jobs under the headings Relevant Experience and Other Experience.  Focus on your responsibilities and achievements in the role.
  • Tailor your skills section depending on the skills required for the job and provide examples of where you have developed that skill. Don’t forget to include the skill level, where necessary, i.e. fluent in, proficient in, good working knowledge of, etc.
  • Group interests and achievements under headings and expand on them. Try also to include achievements or interests related to the industry you are applying to.
  • Two referees are the norm. As a student or recent graduate, include one academic and one work-related. Give their phone number and e-mail along with their title and full contact details. Always ask for their permission first, tell them about the positions you are applying for and give them a copy of your CV when it has been completed. Remember to keep them informed of your career aspirations and achievements to date. If you are in employment, you may wish to include the phrase ‘please consult me before contacting referees’.

You will find many resources to help you craft an eyecatching CV here.

And if you have more questions, check out our Love Your Career website.