A CV (curriculum vitae, or résumé in the US) is a summary of your academic, extra-curricular and work experience. It should be a brief document that illustrates your skills, achievements and interests.
- Make sure your CV says the right things about you in a clear and accessible way. Employers are not going to spend more than a minute reading it.
- Keep it short – ideally one page, no more than two pages.
- Remember that the CV is to enable you to get the interview or meeting, NOT the job itself. Highlight what you’ve achieved, to make the reader want to learn more by meeting you.
- Target your CV – don’t just make one CV and send it out to multiple employers. See samples of targeted CVs here:
a) CV targeted at management consultancy job (PDF)
b) CV targeted at job in marketing/fundraising in the voluntary sector (PDF)
- Find out what skills and experience the employer is looking for. Study the advertisement, read the organisation’s website and publicity material, and check the relevant occupation section of our website. Make sure that you highlight areas of your experience that demonstrate that you have the qualities they seek.
- Research the type of CV that is expected. There are various options listed below, which vary depending on role and sector. To find out which is most suitable, ask employers at fairs; use the Oxford Careers Network; research company website and brochures; speak to Careers Advisers – and use other strategies as you would to research any other sectoral information.
- Get the tone right – you don’t want to be too bashful or too boastful.
Traditional (reverse chronological)
- Most common style of CV
- Lists your education and work experience in reverse chronological order
- Skills and achievements are worked into the content against relevant experience
- Easy for employers to spot relevant information
- Gives a complete picture of candidate in a clear, well-structured way
Example: Traditional CV (PDF)
- Often used by people changing direction and seeking to highlight the transferability of their skills
- Information arranged to highlight the skills developed
- Work experience section is kept brief and details are presented in different skills categories
- Key skills are clearly shown on the first page
- If you have a lot of experience, you can focus on skills that are most relevant to the employer
However, this is a difficult style to adopt. Hard evidence is required to make the skills sound meaningful. This CV may require significant re-working for each application. For the average undergraduate we generally wouldn’t recommend a skills-based CV.
Example: Skills-based CV (PDF)
- Used for applying for academic posts: RA posts, postdocs, fellowships, lectureships
- Similar to other types of CVs, but also includes sections for professional memberships, publications and conference presentations/posters at the end
- Should focus on areas specific to academia such as research experience, teaching experience and any university/college administration or committee work
- Should also include details of successful bids for awards, grants and collaborations
- Should be focused on your academic work e.g. you do not need to include non-academic jobs or an ‘Interests’ or ‘Extra-curricular activities’ section.
- It is important to include referee details on your CV – usually three, ideally people who know you yet are known in your field.
- Further advice is available on our Academic CVs information sheet (pdf).
Visual and Infographic CVs
For the right field, an infographic CV could be just the thing to make you stand out in the pile. Done well, it explains who you are at a glance. If you are looking for a job in a creative industry – such as graphic design, brand consultancy, marketing and PR – infographics are a great way to show your creativity and talent.
Visual simply refers to any non-text based element such as images, diagrams, video or particular effects created by the design or presentation. Infographic refers to the presentation of data in an aesthetic and insightful way and usually refers to well made graphs and charts, as well as data in placed within interesting elements of design.
There are really good examples of infographic CVs on www.pinterest.com and at www.vizualresume.com to give you some ideas. There is also an excellent guide to putting one together on www.dailyinfographic.com. Be aware of the need to match content and style together to form a visual offer that is impressive, rather than gimmicky.
Always consider the sector carefully before submitting an infographic heavy CV – and if in doubt speak to a Careers Adviser or someone you know from the sector.
- CVs – information sheet
- Applications – information sheet
- Creative CVs - information sheet
- Putting Together the Perfect Consulting CV – information sheet
- Careers Beyond Profit – How to Write a Winning CV - presentation slides
- CVs: A Brief Introduction - presentation slides
- Jobs and CVs for Computer Scientists - presentation slides
- Our Resource Centre has a number of files and books on CV writing that you may find useful.
- Prospects has sample CVs, sample covering letters, and tips on what to include
- Academic CVs: 10 Irritating Mistakes – a Guardian article
17th Mar 2014
Are you thinking about a creative career? Have you been wondering whether your CV will really catch the eye of a potential employer? If you've got some basic design skills then take some inspiration from these fresh looking CVs created by professional graphic designers. Here are our top tips for putting together a creative CV:… Continue reading →
24th Feb 2014
Monday 3 March, 13.00-14.00, The Careers Service If you're applying to a creative field (perhaps working with communications, graphics, fine arts, textiles, brands, design, film and images), then it's usual for your CV to give a little flavour of your creative talents. Come to this interactive session to look at five examples - illustrative, infographic,… Continue reading →