The aim of the CV is to show potential employers what your qualifications, experience and skills are and convince them that you are a strong candidate and should be invited for an interview. CVs are most effective when they are tailored to a specific vacancy - 'one size' does NOT fit all!
Good CVs take time to develop, so don't expect to get it right the first time. Please pick up your free copy of 'How to Write a CV' from the Careers Service. If you are a current student, you can find a copy of this, and some CV examples on MySOAS Student.
Once you have written your CV, have a look at the checklist below and see whether you can tick all the boxes. You can also come and have your CV checked at the Careers Service.
- Does your CV include: your name & contact details, education, work experience (including volunteering), IT skills, language skills, references?
- Have you included evidence of all your skills and experience required for the specific job you’re applying for? Job requirements are usually listed in the 'person specification' which is part of the job description or, if not, in the job advert or on the company website.
- Is all of your evidence fact rather than opinion? For example, writing "Communication skills demonstrated through chairing meetings for SOAS Business Society" rather than "Excellent communication skills"?
- Have you used the employer’s own wording to make it easier for them to see quickly that you are a good candidate? If they have stated they require "team working" skills, you should use the expression "team working skills" plus evidence. Don't use "group work skills".
- If you have included a profile (and we advise that you only include one if it adds some value to your CV), is it based on fact rather than opinion? For example writing "Politics graduate with research experience at Adam Smith Institute and organisational skills proven through a year managing a local football team" rather than "Politics graduate with research experience and organisation skills".
- If you decide to have a profile, does it reflect what the employer is most looking for?
- Have you included - at the end of your CV - the statement, "References available upon request" or have you added the name, job title and contact details of two referees? Referees should be people who know your work and who have agreed to act as your referee if asked; usually someone who knows your university work, such as a tutor, and someone you have worked for or volunteered for.
- Have you had your CV checked by someone (e.g. a friend or family member) for spelling or grammatical errors? Some employers will reject a CV on the basis of one error.
Format & layout
- Is your CV no longer than two pages? There are some exceptions to this. Some UK employers request a one-page CV. Academic CVs can be longer in order to include publications and conferences.
- For sections where you are stating dates, have you started with the most recent achievement and worked backwards?
- Is there about the same amount of text on both pages? Cramming most of the text onto the first page can make your CV look untidy and make it harder for the employer to read quickly.
- Have you used formatting tools (e.g. bold, italics, capitals) consistently? If your first heading is bold, are headings bold throughout your CV?
- Have you been consistent with spacing? If you left a one-line gap after the first heading, have you done this throughout?
- Have you allocated more space to the skills and experience that the employer is seeking and reduced the space allocated to information in which they will be less interested? For example, GCSEs - or equivalent exams taken at the age of 16 - should take up no more than two lines.