Seen these icons?

If we have events, jobs or news that are relevant to the page topic, you can access them by clicking on icons next to the print button.

CVs | The Careers Service CVs – Oxford University Careers Service
Oxford logo
Key advice

A curriculum vitae (or résumé in the US) is a concise summary of your skills, achievements and interests inside and outside your academic work.

Employers may initially spend a very short time studying your CV (perhaps as little as 3 seconds), so it must be engaging, conveying the most relevant points about you in a clear, accessible way. The primary challenge is to make it easy for the reader to find exactly what they are looking for. Focus on their core requirements and adjust or adapt your CV for each specific application.

Top tips

Be concise

  • Keep it to one or two full pages (only academic CVs can be longer)
  • Use bullet points to package information succinctly
  • Avoid too much context, excessive detail or unfocused material that will dilute the impact of your most relevant messages

Remember the purpose

Your CV is to get you the interview or meeting, NOT the job itself – highlight three key elements:

  • What you were responsible for
  • What you achieved
  • And how you would be a great team member

so that the reader wants to learn more by meeting you

Target your CV

  • Target your CV to each position applied for – it should not be a list of everything that you have done
  • Download a Management Consulting CV and a Fundraising CV for examples of how to tailor your experience

Be evidence based

  • Provide clear evidence of your contribution and impact
  • Focus on responsibilities, to showcase your skills …
  • … and achievements by using numbers, percentages, and values to quantify your impact and give a sense of scale to your actions

Be clear

  • A well laid out CV is inviting to read and easy to scan quickly; clear font of 10pt or 11pt; some blank spaces; not too narrow a margin
  • Use simple language – avoid jargon, generalisations, ‘management speak’, and acronyms
  • Do not write in prose or paragraphs – space is limited
  • CVs are (mostly) a record of what you have done, so completed tasks and activities are written in the past tense

How to create your focused, relevant CV

  • List for yourself all of your experience, achievements, and key dates, including educational achievement, work experience, prizes, awards, involvement in societies, sports and clubs and your other interests and skills (for example, languages and special/unusual IT skills). Note down the key skills and attributes which led to these achievements.
  • Identify the skills and competencies required for the role. You can do this by reading the job advertisement or job description and by looking at the organisation’s website, publicity material and recruitment literature.  Check the relevant occupation section of our website and see our page on demonstrating you fit the job criteria for more advice.
  • From your list, select your most relevant  examples that demonstrate the skills and competencies required for the role. Remember, valuable transferable skills are developed and demonstrated in a broad range of activities that you may have undertaken.
  • Select the format of CV – for most student applications, the traditional reverse chronological format is recommended.  If you are unsure about which CV type is appropriate, please ask one of our Careers Advisers.

Three sections makes it easy and clear for the reader

  1. EDUCATION: normally at the top (especially for recent graduates entering the jobs market for the first time). Include awards under each relevant education section, for example, grant awards for a DPhil, school prizes, undergraduate prizes or high rankings (‘2nd in year’)
  2. EXPERIENCE (rather than “Employment”): this can include voluntary work, student society roles, internships, paid work etc
  3. INTERESTS or COMMUNITY ACTIVITY AND SKILLS should be included to indicate extra, diverse talents. Within this section, you might use sub-categories such as IT Skills (but only if they are specialist or unusual); Languages; Music; Sports etc

 

What you don’t need to include

Remember that the CV is to get you the meeting or interview only, so don’t feel you have to include every last detail – leave them wanting to learn more about you. Specific things to leave out include:

  • The words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV’
  • Date of birth and / or age
  • Marital status, disability, children, partner, sexual preferences, sex, racial background, religion
  • Home address
  • Nationality – unless you want to show that you do have the Right to Work in the country in question
  • Referees – this takes up space, they’ll assume you have them, there are probably other opportunities to record these details
  • Basic IT skills: these days everyone can use the internet, word processing, spreadsheets etc to a competent level – but do include any super-advanced qualifications in MS Office and of course any specialist software like C++, SPSS etc
  • Areas of potential, personal contention, e.g. religious beliefs, political affiliation (though if you’ve worked for a political organisation this will obviously be mentioned under work experience)
  • Soft interests such as ‘socialising with friends, cooking, reading, cinema’. If you do have deep and specialist interest in one of these, then give more details: ‘French films of 1940-1960’

Using bullet points

Aim to create powerful bullet points, with each bullet focused on a single idea. Consider applying the ‘CAR’ mnemonic

  • Context: the organisation name, your job title and dates is often sufficient.
  • Action Words that demonstrate you took responsibility are useful for starting the bullet point, to highlight skills used – e.g. analysed, created, recommended, managed or led. See our list of action words on our Demonstrate You Fit the Job Criteria page for more.
  • Results can often be linked within an individual bullet point.
Standard CV formats

Traditional CV

Traditional CV

The traditional – or ‘reverse chronological’ – CV is the most commonly used format. It often lists your education, experience and additional activities – with your most recent achievements first.

The sections of the traditional CV will normally be as follows:

  • Personal information – such as contact details – but NOT date of birth, sex, marital status etc. Space may mean you should just list one contact detail, e.g. Oxford email address (not XYZ@fluffybunny.com), and your mobile number
  • Education
  • Experience – the core of your CV
  • Additional skills
  • Interests

This format makes it easy for employers to spot relevant information fast and gives a complete picture of a candidate in a clear and structured way.

Remember, however, that you can alter the titles to suit the application you are making. For example, you could use the heading “Teaching Experience” instead of “Experience” if you are applying for a teaching job. Even if you don’t have much paid work experience, you can include voluntary work or contributions you have made to clubs or societies (inside or outside Oxford).

Skills based CV

Example Skills-based CV

In a skills-based CV, the information is arranged to highlight relevant skills, with details presented under different skills categories. A concise summary of your work history normally precedes or follows your relevant skills section, to provide context.

This type of CV is used to highlight the transferability of your skills, and so is useful if you are applying to a role without direct experience. We generally only recommend using this style if you have great experience, as a considerable amount of evidence is required to make the skills sound meaningful. As such, it is normally used by:

  • people changing career direction
  • people transitioning from academia into industry or other sectors.

However, a similar style may be useful if you are applying to your first ever piece of work experience and have had few positions of responsibility, as it allows you to emphasise transferable skills you have gained from studying at Oxford.

Resumes for North America

Resumes for USA and Canada

If you are heading to north America, then you might need a résumé rather than a CV. They are very similar documents so use our CV guide, and supplement it with the information here to build a great CV into a great résumé.

Format differences

Default page size – A4 (21cm x 29.7cm) is replaced by Letter (21.59cm x 27.94cm)

  • Use ‘Page Layout’ options in Word (or equivalent) to change the size of your document page
  • Cut down a piece of A3 paper to size when checking out how it prints

Spelling – insure / ensure the résumé is oriented / orientated to the readers’ spelling conventions:

  • Set your default language to US or Canadian English to use your spelling and grammar check
  • Watch out for common ‘Britishisms’ such as ‘analysed’ and ‘organised’ (both have a ‘z’ in North America)
  • See Wikipedia’s page on spelling differences.

Application etiquette

  • Include a cover letter with a résumé, unless you are told otherwise
  • Write a considered and thoughtful thank you letter within 48 hours of any interview
  • Convert your résumé and cover letter into PDFs before sending them to an employer
Academic CVs

Example Academic CV

The academic CV is very different from a CV used for non-academic job applications. It focuses purely on your academic achievements and experience, and there is no page limit – although you should always keep it concise and relevant.

Before you start

First, look at the skills and competencies that the hiring department / research group requires. You can identify these from the person specification, the job advert, or your own research. Is this a research or teaching only job? Or will you be doing research, teaching and administration (typical for lectureships)? Do they highlight any particular skill areas, such as organisation or team work?

Look at what you need to do to apply. CVs are usually accompanied by cover letters, but they might also ask you to submit an application form, research and/or teaching statement.

Once you are clear what the employer wants, start to tailor your CV to the post.

Typical sections

The following sections are typical for the academic CV:

  • Personal Information. Start the CV with your name, address, telephone number and email address.
  • Research Interests. Write bullet points or a short paragraph summarising your research.
  • Education. Include degrees, possibly titles of theses, and the names of supervisors.
  • Awards and Funding. Include undergraduate/postgraduate prizes, travel grants, doctoral scholarships, early career fellowships, and grants you have led on or are named on.
  • Research Experience. Include any post docs or fellowships and research assistant jobs. You might include more detail about your doctoral research in this section too.
  • Teaching Experience. Note any lecturing, seminar, tutorial, supervising, demonstrating, mentoring experience, and potentially non-academic teaching. Give details about the role and responsibilities – even if it was informal – such as level of students, class sizes and topics you taught.
  • Admin Experience. Highlight any conferences/seminars/reading groups you’ve organised, committees you have sat upon, and any other relevant administration experience.
  • Relevant Training. Include academic teaching training, research methods training etc.
  • Relevant research/technical/laboratory skills. You may find it useful to list these under one heading if you find yourself repeating throughout various sections.
  • Patents. Give details of the title, inventors, patent number and date granted.
  • Professional memberships. List these – e.g. the Royal Society of Chemistry or the British Association of American Studies. Include dates.
  • Publications. Give full details as you would if citing them, and use a consistent style. You may wish to highlight (e.g. bold/underline) your name.
  • Conference presentations and posters. Highlight whether paper or poster and cite similarly to your publications with full author list, title, date and location.
  • Referees. Ideally these should all be academic referees. They should be people who know you well and who are known in your field.

Top tips

  • Make sure the CV is focused on academia. Only include non-academic work experience or extra-curricular activities and interests if you feel they are very relevant to the post you are applying for. You might include languages and IT skills if they are relevant.
  • You might include your nationality in your personal details if you think it will be an advantage – e.g. so that they know you are a European citizen and have the right to work in the UK.
  • If you have limited or no published work, consider including works in progress. Clearly label publications as ‘forthcoming’, ‘under review’ or ‘submitted’ if they are in process, but not yet in print or accepted. If you are unconcerned about giving your ideas away before they go to a publisher, you could have a separate heading for ‘Working Papers’ that you are preparing for publication but have not submitted yet. Include when and where you plan to submit them.
  • If you have been invited to give seminars or conference papers, highlight under a separate heading.
  • Translate jargon/acronyms that others might not understand, especially if applying abroad.
  • Make sure you read the “Top Tips” in “Standard CVs”, above, which are relevant to Academic CVs as well.
Check your CV

Personal details

  • Does your name stand out? (Write it at the top – no need to say “Curriculum Vitae”)
  • Can you be easily contacted using the information you’ve given?

Education

  • Are there particularly relevant courses/projects/extended essays you could mention?
  • Are A-levels and GCSEs summarised on one or two lines each?
  • Have you given an indication of the equivalence or grading system of any non-UK qualifications?

Work experience

  • Are section headings tailored to the recipient? (e.g. Teaching Experience, Voluntary Work, etc.)
  • Have you included greater detail on more relevant experience?
  • Have you tailored your achievements and skills to the job?
  • Are your sentences punchy and concise?
  • Have you followed the advice in our page on demonstrating you fit the job criteria?

Other Skills

  • Is it clear what level of attainment you have in languages, IT, etc.?

Interests

  • Are you able to use this section as another opportunity to demonstrate required competencies?
  • Have you indicated your level of commitment?

Referees (academic CVs only)

  • Is this section headed “referees” and not “references”?
  • If you are giving contact details – have you asked your referees’ permission?
  • Does the section take up too much space? If so, put their details on a single line – for example:

Dr M. Misra, Keble College, Oxford, OX1 1AB, maria.misra@keble.ox.ac.uk, 01865 377778

General

  • Does it look attractive at first glance? Would you want to read it? Would an employer want to read it?
  • Does it fit on to one or two full pages?
  • Has it been checked for accurate and consistent grammar and spelling? Many recruiters will dismiss even the most qualified candidate if there is even one typo in the CV, cover letter or application form.
  • Are fonts (type and size) consistent and not too small (11pt minimum)?
  • Is the layout well balanced, with effective use of space, using the full width of the page?
  • Broadly speaking, does the most relevant information occupy the most space?
  • Are dates reverse chronological if you are using this type of format?
  • Have you quantified your achievements?
  • Have you checked for gaps in your history? We recommend you explain any significant time gaps in your CV. There is no right or wrong way of presenting your personal circumstances. You may have been travelling, working on an independent project (e.g. writing), been ill, or caring for others. If it helps, speak with a Careers Adviser to identify the most effective way for you to present your circumstances on a CV and/or cover letter as this will differ with each individual.

Finally:

  1. Hold your CV at arms-length – does it look easy to read?
  2. Fold it vertically and scan the left side in 3 seconds
    – Will the reader get the gist of your application?
    – Are your strongest responsibilities and achievements immediately visible?
  3. Check for jargon and acronyms, and over-long bullets – edit vigorously
  4. Is it the right length?
    – Some employers ( e.g. investment banks) expect just one page, so check beforehand
    – Aim for a maximum of two pages, except for an academic CV
  5. Save your CV as a PDF to ensure it keeps its beautiful formatting
  6. Finally, finally, take a break and then proofread – yes, again! Double check for typos and errors. Then send it off!

It can take a number of revisions before you are happy with your CV, and getting independent advice can prove very helpful: it might all make perfect sense to you, but you could be surprised by the things that others may question or not understand. Make an appointment and ask for feedback from a Careers Adviser.

Our resources

Example CVs

Related pages

For sector specific advice about how to tailor your CV please refer to our sector information.

Presentation Slides

Books

Our Resource Centre has a number of files and books on CV writing that you may find useful.

GoinGlobal

The Careers Service subscribes to GoinGlobal on behalf of Oxford students. It features around 40 country guides.

Advice appointments

You can get advice on your CV from any of our Careers Advisers by booking an advice appointment. Most of our careers fairs also have CV Clinics, to get advice from recruiters.

External resources
This information was last updated on 29 June 2018.
Loading... Please wait
Recent blogs about CVs

Bar Pro Bono Unit: Caseworker Volunteering Opportunities

Posted on behalf of Bar Pro Bono Unit. Blogged by Annie Dutton on 15/08/2018.

The Bar Pro Bono Unit is the Bar’s national charity, based in the National Pro Bono Centre on Chancery Lane, London, which helps to find pro bono legal assistance from volunteer barristers. They are seeking dedicated and enthusiastic individuals to volunteer as Academic Year Casework Volunteers 

This is a fantastic opportunity to obtain unique exposure to the Bar as a profession and to a wide range of areas of law. By volunteering you  will  learn a great deal about the practical working of the courts and the needs of litigants in person which should complement your studies.

You will be assisting the caseworkers one day per week, over a four month period. Tasks will include:

  • Drafting case summaries, using the case papers provided by individuals who need legal assistance; these case summaries are then used by experienced barristers when reviewing the file.
  • Drafting case allocation summaries which are used to try to find volunteer barristers around the country to take on the case on a pro bono basis.
  • Taking telephone calls from the public and providing updates to existing applicants.

Closing date for applications: Monday 27 August 2018 at 23:00

Requirements

You must have completed at least one year of law-related study or law-related work.

Previous volunteer’s feedback:

“I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in pursuing a legal career to try and spend some time with the BPBU. Not only does it look great on your CV, it also helps you hone crucial skills such as succinctly summarising the key facts of a case and identifying the relevant legal issues, something that should stand you in good stead for any pupillage or training contract interviews. The staff are all wonderfully welcoming and helpful, and whilst a key benefit is the range of areas you will experience (anything from Defamation to Child Protection), they will also accommodate specific requests to see more work in certain areas. Ultimately you are doing genuinely important work that makes a material difference to people’s lives, whilst being supplied with copious amounts of tea and cake. What’s not to like?”

The Student Consultancy Michaelmas Term – apply now!

Blogged by Lili Pickett-Palmer on 14/08/2018.

Consultancy Training in Michaelmas Term…

The Student Consultancy provides you with an exceptional insight into consultancy practice. Across a term, you will work in a team on a real-life business challenge for a client organisation.

Past students have worked with clients including: The Oxford Boat Race, Yellow Submarine, Belu Water, Eco Concierge, Eve, Happen, IBM, Minervation, Modern Art Oxford, Oxfam, Oxford Limited, OxHub, OxFizz, Oxford City Council, Oxford University Library Services, Pegasus Theatre and the Playhouse Theatre plus a range of start-ups.

… but it isn’t just about consulting!

The Student Consultancy can help you prove or improve a wide range of employability skills, some consultancy but also transferable skills including team work, communication, problem solving and business and customer awareness skills. These will be helpful in a huge range of future careers. Many of the students who take part actually do want to be a Management Consultant – which is great, but not a prerequisite! In other words, we don’t mind what you are studying as long as you have the right attitude and interest. Past TSC participants have ranged from 1st years to DPhils and from English to Economics students – with everything in between.

The Careers Service tries to match you to a client in a sector of interest – to provide experience for future applications. Whether you want a career in museums or marketing, or an insight into IT or charities, The Student Consultancy can help.

Apply now

We run The Student Consultancy each term – and applications for the Michaelmas Term 2018 Student Consultancy are now open. We strongly advise applying as soon as you can, as the application window will close once we have a certain number of participants.

To apply please search “Student Consultancy Michaelmas Term 2018” under the opportunities tab of CareerConnect.

For further information, and for mandatory assessment and training dates, please visit The Student Consultancy webpage.

RisingWISE: Empowering Enterprising Women in Science and Engineering

Posted on behalf of RisingWISE. Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 14/08/2018.

RisingWISE is a newly established Oxbridge network that aims to foster long-term relationships between enterprising early-career researchers and women working in industry, to encourage more women to build careers across the science and technology sector.

PROGRAMME AIMS

Our 4-day workshop will bring together approximately 50 women over three weekends to:

  • Inspire and strengthen the Oxbridge WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) network;
  • Improve early-careers researcher’s (ECR) knowledge and understanding of how research works within industry and showing where their skills could apply and explore the different approaches across the two sectors;
  • Create a space for ECRs to meet other women who are already working within industry so that we can: break down barriers, encourage more women to take up internships and secondments within industry and/or work collaboratively on R&D;
  • Offer mentoring and leadership skills development opportunities to women in industry; and
  • Help all participates to enhance their confidence, learning techniques to apply these in their own working environments.

WORKSHOP DATES

  • Weekend 1 (Madingley Hall, Cambridge) – Friday 9 November 2018, 14:00–20:00 and all day Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 November 2018
  • Weekend 2 (Egrove Park, University of Oxford) – Friday 30 November 2018, 15:00–22:00, and all day Saturday 1 December 2018
  • Weekend 3 (Egrove Park, University of Oxford) – Friday 18 Jan 2019, 17:00–22:00, and all day Saturday 19 January 2019

Please note – successful delegate’s travel, accommodation, meals and all training workshops will be funded by the programme.

HOW TO APPLY

The application deadline is Friday 31 August 2018. As this is a pilot programme, spaces are limited. For more information and to apply for this programme please visit, the risingWISE page here

Win £50,000 to kickstart your entrepreneurial journey

Posted on behalf of WorldLabs. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on 09/08/2018.

Got a bright idea? WorldLabs can help you elevate it!

WorldLabs’ mission is to help ideas develop and grow by providing the funding, tools and connections needed to thrive. Too many promising entrepreneurial projects fall by the wayside due to lack of resources, help or funding.

This is why we created the Elevating Ideas Competition: to give you the ability to showcase your idea, find valuable collaborators and gather the supporters you need to elevate your project to the next level.

  • No idea is too big or too small.
  • Projects can come from any field, and will not be judged based on your level of professional or entrepreneurial experience.
  • The award of £50,000 is designed to give your early-stage entrepreneurial venture an instrumental boost!
  • The best 10 applicants will have the opportunity to pitch at a large start-up conference in October in London.

For further details and to apply (deadline 3 September) visit the WorldLabs website.

LGBTQ+ Investment Banking Insight

Posted on behalf of Diversity Solutions. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on 01/08/2018.

When: 13 September 2018

Where: Central London. Reasonable travel expenses within the UK (up to £75) will be reimbursed.

To apply: Submit your CV and a covering letter as soon as possible through the Inside & Out Website. 

Inside & Out is an investment banking insight event for first and second year LGBTQ+ undergraduates of all degree disciplines (i.e. finishing studies in 2020 and 2021).

A career in investment banking is highly competitive and extremely challenging, so it’s important that you have a strong academic background. If you are to attend, you should have achieved good grades at A-level (120+ UCAS Points or equivalent if you completed A-Levels in 2017 and earlier). Of course we will take any mitigating circumstances you provide into account. Because of the wide range of careers we offer, we welcome applications from all degree disciplines, so you don’t have to be studying a traditional finance-related subject to apply. What you will need is a real desire to find out all you can about the industry and the wide range of intern and full-time opportunities on offer.

The participating firms are:

  • BNP Paribas
  • Citi
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Goldman Sachs
  • HSBC
  • J.P. Morgan
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Nomura
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The day will include a number of sessions, including a welcome speech from our supporters Stonewall and a networking session with representatives from the aforementioned firms.

Any issues? Queries? Email the organisers at events@staffordlong.co.uk and we’d be more than happy to help!

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.