I’ve written a lot of job application forms since I arrived in Austria. In fact, rewriting my CV was one of the first things I did when everything was unpacked.
Your CV is the account of your education and work experience which you submit when applying for a job. It stands for curriculum vitae, which is the standard term in British English. You may also have heard of a resume, which is the American term.
Normally, your CV will form half of your job application. The other half is a covering letter, where you write at more about why you are qualified for the job.
As I was writing my CV for Austria, I noticed that there were a lot of differences to the way I had written it for the UK. The changes I had to make to my CV inspired this post.
Without further ado, here are some tips to help you apply for your first job in the UK.
What to include
Your CV has to include the following things.
Obviously, you should include your full legal name in your CV. You can do this in the first section, with the rest of your contact details, but many people also give their name as the title. For instance, at the top of my CV, it says
Mairi Rebecca Bunce – Curriculum Vitae
Your contact details
You should include a current email address and your daytime and evening phone numbers. You can also include your postal address. These contact details make up the first section of your CV. This means that the company will be able to contact you easily.
Your education and work experience
List your education in one section and your work experience in another. You should include all the dates and list the most recent things first. If you are still at school, or still doing the most recent job, write the date like this: Sept 2014 – Present.
In the education section, write the names of your schools, your qualifications, and any further training you have done. I also give the title of my university dissertation in the education section of my CV.
In the employment section, write the name of the company and your job title. Underneath this, write a short paragraph describing your responsibilities at the company. Be sure to focus on skills or duties which are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Your voluntary experience
If you have recent voluntary work experience, you should also list it on your CV. Naturally, if your experience is relevant to the job (for instance, volunteering at a local playgroup when you’re applying to work with children), it’s especially important. However, you may also have learned important work skills through something that seems less relevant. For example, if you have been part of a club at school you may have organised events, been responsible for money, or proved your ability to work in a team.
Reasons for any gaps in your CV
Your CV should give a chronological account of your education and work experience. If a large amount of time is missing, the company may want to know why. For example, I didn’t work in August or September 2014, as I was in the process of moving to Vienna. Reasons for ‘career gaps’ could include moving, caring for children or relatives, illness etc.
It is standard for UK CVs to include the contact details of 2 referees. The company can contact these people to find out more about you as an employee. Some employers specify that they would like a professional referee (someone you worked with, usually your last boss) and a personal referee (someone who knows you outside of work). If you are running short of space or would not like the referees to be contacted straight away, you can replace this section with the line ‘References on request’.
What not to include
I was very surprised by some of the things that I had to include on my Austrian CV. I consider things such as my age/date of birth and my marital status to be personal information that does not have an effect on my ability to do the job for which I am applying. In the UK you are not expected to give this information on a CV, although you may have to provide it if you are applying online for a job with a large company. Likewise, you do not have to include your photograph.
A lot of the Austrian CVs also include more information on your hobbies than UK CVs. I would advise against this unless your hobbies are relevant to the job you are applying for or show that you have had a high level of responsibility or achievement within a club.
CV Writing Tips
Write in sentences
A lot of European CVs are written in bullet points. UK CVs are written in complete sentences and short paragraphs. Remember, if English is not your first language, your CV is your chance to show off your English ability.
Break up the different sections
Use subheadings to differentiate between your contact details, education details, work experience, other relevant information, and references. Within these different sections, make sure that your different jobs are clearly separated with line breaks.
Use consistent punctuation and formatting throughout
This will really help the person who is reading your CV. Mark each different heading in bold, and then write your job titles in italic. Choose the way you will write the dates (e.g. dd/mm/yyyy or month yyyy) and do this throughout. Always make sure that you end your sections with full stops. Remember, the company might not register that everything is perfectly formatted, but they will certainly notice if something is out of place.
Unless the job advertisement says otherwise, keep your CV to two pages in a well spaced, easy to read font.
Your CV is your chance to sell yourself, so you should try to be as engaging as possible. However, you should also be concise. You don’t want to bore an employer who has a whole pile of applications to read. You can expand on the important points a little in your covering letter, and they will be able to ask you for much more information when they call you in for your interview!
Be honest and original
This should go without saying. Please don’t make things up to ‘pad out’ your CV, or exaggerate your experience. Equally, while there are hundreds of CV and covering letter templates online, you shouldn’t follow these too closely. It is important to be original and make yourself stand out from all the other applicants.
As always, thoroughly check your CV for spelling and formatting before you send it off. Bonus tip: Make sure you spell curriculum correctly. I spelled it with ‘i’ for the longest time.
I hope that you find some of these tips helpful when it comes to writing your first English CV. It is a daunting process, but if you take your time and keep an eye on the details, it will really pay off.
Remember I offer private tutoring services in all areas of English. If your new job is going to require business English, why not contact me?
Until next time
Mairi : )