Classic CV Guidelines

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The Do’s and Don’ts

Either of the two formats outlined below can be used for any application for many jobs including managerial, professional, administration and any other non-academic job. In general the chronological format tends to be used by new graduates or those with less work experience. You need to choose which of the two layouts suit you best and what you are most comfortable writing.   

A Chronological layout gives an historical account of your career path so far.  This is the format most people are familiar with – we have called this the ‘Classic CV’.

A Skills layout places emphasis on the skills, experience and strengths you have acquired and can offer the employer.  It is not written chronologically but under headings which prioritise and match the skills the employer is looking for.

However, the ‘do’s and don’ts are the same for both CV formats. _________________________________________________________________________ 

You only have two pages to sell yourself, so your CV needs to be a powerful marketing document which markets you to a prospective employer ahead of other applicants.  It is important to realise that the purpose of a CV is not to get a job, but to get on the short list for an INTERVIEW.  You do not need to write your life history: don’t tell them everything or you will have nothing left to talk about at the interview!  Only write what is relevant to the post you are applying for. 

You need to match the content of your CV to the needs of the organisation you are applying to.  It should highlight your education, academic history, skills and any work experience you have which will enhance your application, Use evidence to demonstrate that you can provide the skills the organisation needs.


  1. Use 14 font for your name and 11 font for the rest of your CV.  Use Ariel or another clear font style – why not look at Tahoma or Verdana
  2. Capitalise and bold your major headings and use bold for any sub-headings
  3. Write your name on the top of each sheet you write
  4. Use one font style
  5. Be crisp and concise
  6. Be appropriate to your situation
  7. Make it attractive and appealing to the eye
  8. Write in statements – bullet points are most effective
  9. Avoid using the word ‘I’
  10. Use action/power words at the beginning of each statement (See end of this section for examples)
  11. Do not be afraid of white space
  12. Write headings which suit you and your experience/history.  The headings in the CV example are for guidelines only
  13. Make sure it is two pages long – max!


  1. Use the words Curriculum Vitae – the reader knows what it is!!
  2. Your photograph (unless you are applying for a job for which a photo is essential)
  3. Job descriptions – the reader will know!
  4. Non-essential personal information
  5. Long sentences
  6. Lists – such as your GCSE’s

Top 5 Layout Suggestions

  • Write your name in the middle of the page – or on the right margin.  Use a large font – this is you – this is what you are marketing!  Your date of birth is NOT necessary
  • Put a line between your contact information and the main body of your CV.  It gives your CV more definition
  • Always write an Objective – you may be sending your CV speculatively to an organisation and they do not want to second-guess what you are looking for.  It also helps the person reading your CV to focus exactly on what you – and they – are looking for.
  • Prioritisation of information – for instance education followed by employment history in the chronological format.  Then prioritise the information under each heading.  One example could be:
  1. Played football for the University 1st 11 and was captain
  2.  Captain of 1st 11 University football team

The second example would be the preferred option as it highlights that you were captain and could lead a team not that you played football.

  • Be consistent – make it easy for the reader to find out all about you in a logical and readable layout.  For instance, write your dates in the same place – perhaps always on the left-hand margin.

Words to use on your CV 

Here are some examples of action/power words you could use.  Select words which match the opportunity you are applying – the clues will be in the job description.

Achieved                     Administered               Advised                       Analysed

Assessed                     Arranged                     Budgeted                     Calculated

Completed                  Conducted                  Controlled                    Co-ordinated

Created                       Designed                     Devised                       Developed      

Discovered                  Distributed                   Evaluated                   Examined       

Explained                    Increased                    Instructed                    Liaised            

Managed                     Monitored                    Negotiated                   Organised      

Planned                       Promoted                    Recommended           Reformed

Represented               Researched                Responsible for           Resulted

Selected                      Sold                             Solved                         Supervised     

Taught                         Tested                         Trained                        Welcomed 

Your CV Checklist:

  • Is it in a consistent and readable format? First impressions matter – how your CV is laid out tells the person who is reading it, a lot about you – see about being consistent mentioned above
  • Does the document emphasise your skills and achievements?
  • Does it tell the reader what they need/want to know about you? Look at what you have written from the employer’s perspective – is it logical and fluid? 
  • Is it accurate? Check your documents for spelling and grammar
  • Have you used enough white space? Do not put too much information on a page
  • Have you prioritised your information and used words which make you sound proactive and positive?
  • Have you asked your referees if it is OK to give their names before you include them?
  • Have you used abbreviations? Don’t!
  • Have you asked someone to proof read your CV before sending it?
  • Have you told the truth?
  • Have you kept a copy?

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