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CVs: creating a curriculum vitae

The point of a CV (Curriculum Vitae) is to show a potential employer your qualifications, skills and experiences. In turn hopefully to show you are a suitable candidate for a particular job. It should inform but also persuade. Unlike an application form, you can decide what to include in your CV and therefore select and highlight the most pertinent information.

There is no single perfect way in which to write your CV, but there are general rules and principles which you should follow. One size does not fit all, and you will tailor your CV to each application. You will use some of the information on more than one occasion, but you will rarely use exactly the same CV twice. In any case, you will be constantly updating your CV, adding new work experience, recent qualifications, courses or conferences, or any new publications.

You can judge the effectiveness and relevance of your CV by summarising what you have to offer a particular employer in two or three sentences. Is this message clear in your CV? If not, it’s not doing a good sales job for you. You may need to improve your own understanding of what you can offer. A careers adviser will be able to help you identify your skills and relevant experience. You can also work through the other areas of this site, such as the Skills topic.

How does your completed CV measure up against this checklist?

  • My name is at the head of the page. (There is no need to write ‘Curriculum vitae’, it should be obvious what the document is!)
  • The information is accurate and truthful.
  • The CV is targeted to the job.
  • The important facts are prioritised and the most important supporting evidence is prominent.
  • It fits on two pages. (This is the length that employers prefer.)
  • It is clear, easy to read and pleasing to the eye.
  • It creates the right impression. (Use good quality neutral coloured paper and don’t fold or staple it.)
  • It only includes relevant information that supports the application.
  • I have demonstrated all my relevant skills, both transferable and subject related.
  • I have given evidence for every claim I have made about myself.
  • The CV is interesting to read, and flows in a logical order.
  • The spelling and grammar are correct and have been checked and double checked.
  • There are no typos.
  • Someone else has checked for errors.
  • I have included a covering letter which draws attention to the impressive and relevant information in my CV. (Be aware, however, that some companies will only circulate your CV, so ensure everything appears there.)

Things to leave out


You will not be expected to attach a photograph to your CV unless specifically requested to do so. However, if you are an artist or designer you might wish to include a photograph as part of a creative CV.

Family information

UK employers will not expect information about family members, such as your father’s occupation, to be included in your CV. The information should relate entirely to you.

Disability and health information

Information about your disability or health should generally go in a covering letter to explain, for example, absences from work or study. However, a disability will sometimes be alluded to in the natural flow of your CV. For example, if you went to a school for the blind, employers will realise that you are visually impaired. Similarly, you may mention membership of a club, society or organisation set up for a specific disability group.

Current/previous salary details

While details of current and previous salaries are commonly requested in application forms, they are not expected to appear in your CV. Some recruiters like to see current and desired salary as part of a personal profile, but you should consider whether it is in your best interests to volunteer this information. What message will it send to a potential employer and is it the right one? Disclosing your salary in a covering letter will give you a chance to include your reasons for doing so, such as explaining that you are prepared to take a drop in salary to get experience in a particular field. If a recruiter wants to know about your current salary they will ask you at interview, or on offering you the post.

Optional information

Date of birth

It is unlawful for UK employers to discriminate against candidates on the basis of age. It is therefore entirely up to you whether or not to state your date of birth. The dates you went to school will be a good enough indication in any case!

Marital status and gender

Unless specifically and legitimately requested for the post (which is uncommon), you should not generally include marital status and gender. However, you may choose to do so if your first name is gender neutral (eg Chris).


It is not mandatory to state your nationality, but such information can be useful. It can help clarify your ability to work in a country. If you are an international student you can use this section to clarify your work permit status. Although many do, some UK employers do not recruit non EU nationals who need work permits and so early disclosure is advisable to avoid disappointment.

Content Author(s): Sarah Morey – University of Reading

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