CV and Letter Writing
Writing a CV – “There is no single perfect CV”
This may mean you receive conflicting advice but it also leaves you
with the freedom to decide how to best present your strengths and
experiences in the most effective way. It is vital to remember that you
should use your CV to convey the information that you wish to give
an employer and not be confined to a restrictive format or to a
collection of headings.
In essence a CV is a marketing document which presents your skills,
achievements and experience in such a way that it will generate
interest and may be used to set the agenda for a positive interview.
Maximum impact is therefore paramount. Research shows that
recruiters spend just 90 seconds reading your CV so clear, concise
presentation and content are equally important.
This leaflet gives guidelines which have worked effectively for
University of Brighton graduates looking for work within the UK. See
the end of the leaflet for details of resources on international CVs.
When might you use a CV?
To reply to advertised jobs. Do not send a CV if an employer
specifically requests an application form.
To make speculative applications, e.g. to look for unadvertised
opportunities or freelance work.
To contact recruitment agencies. Try to find out whether they have
a preferred format before sending your CV.
A CV should:
Say more about your recent experience than your early life.
Be tailored to target specific jobs or organisations.
How should you organise a CV?
It should be word-processed onto good quality paper in a clear
In the UK CVs should be no more than two pages long.
make use of bold, underlining, italics and blocks of text to achieve
a clear layout, but avoid making it over-fancy,
A font size of 10-12 is recommended to make it clear and easy to
If sending it electronically make sure the font is one that is
Your present education and work experience should be in reverse
chronological order i.e. most recent first.
It should emphasise relevant skills, achievements and experience.
Use descriptive language. Do not make lists.
Use action verbs e.g. produced, achieved, established,
When completed it needs to be thoroughly checked for
appropriateness and accuracy.
Ensure that there are no spelling, grammar and typing errors. Do
not rely entirely on the spell checker! Show your CV to a tutor,
friend or careers counsellor.
Identification of Skills
Employers recruiting staff will have analysed the skills required to do
the job. The key skills required are often identified in job
advertisements, job descriptions, person specifications or in graduate
recruitment brochures or web sites. It is essential to be aware of
these key skills before writing your CV.
Prior to compiling your CV you need to identify the skills that you
have developed, both within and outside the education system, which
could be relevant to the type of work that you are seeking.
A simple way to identify your skills is to list your education, work
experience (full-time and part-time) and your other activities, e.g.
interests, significant events in your life, etc… and from this list draw
out the skills you obtained, for example:
• presenting a paper to course colleagues may illustrate
• acting as course representative may indicate negotiating and
• working in a pub or shop may indicate the ability to communicate
with tact and diplomacy.
Be positive, but be truthful. Recruiters will need back-up evidence of
skills, not just a bland, “I am good at...” statement.
Two examples of Curriculum Vitae follow. These examples are aimed
at people with differing backgrounds and offer different ways of
conveying information. It is important that you develop a format which
best achieves your objectives.
NOTE: Never be tempted to copy another person‟s CV and be
careful with the use of CV templates – it is best to find a format, style
and message which suits your own purposes.
SAMPLE ONE – The Traditional Chronological CV
This CV is likely to be of most use if you have progressed through the
education system without significant gaps. It is also useful to start
with this approach and then adapt and develop it afterwards to suit
you and your desired audience. It is the most traditional style used in
Begin with your personal details.
All contact details i.e. full name, email, website, term time address,
home address and telephone / mobile number.
The main point of this section is to provide the employer with an
immediate point of contact – this must be clear and unambiguous.
Date of birth
Nationality (indicate if you need a work permit)
PERSONAL PROFILE / CAREER AIMS
This is optional and is a short statement of 3-4 lines, summarising
your key attributes and suitability for the job. It should communicate
what is special or unique about you, to help you stand out from the
crowd. The rest of your CV must contain considerable evidence to
back up any assertions. Avoid using general and meaningless
phrases such as “I am a self-started motivated team player”.
EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS
2007-2010 University of Brighton Course Title (expected grade)
Start with the most recent experience of education, as this will usually
be most relevant to the employer. Include course title, subject
studied, outline of course and dissertation topic if this seems
relevant. Also include any special project which may be of interest
and give an indication of the skills you have acquired, e.g. working in
a team on projects, using communication skills in seminars etc.
List advanced level study and grades.
List GCSEs / NVQs gained.
(Do not list those attempted and failed)
Detail other relevant skills you possess, e.g. IT literacy, language
fluency or the ability to drive.
WORK EXPERIENCE / EMPLOYMENT
This section should include paid and voluntary work, full-time and
part-time, sandwich placements and vacation jobs. Again, start with
your most recent work experiences, highlight those details of your
work experience which best illustrate to the employer your capability
to do the job. If your experience is unrelated, demonstrate the
common areas and your transferable skills.
Brighton and Hove City Council 2010-Date
Six months sandwich placement, evaluating conference facilities in
East Sussex. Analysing data, liaising with conference organisers,
Voluntary Worker (part time)
Brighton Museum 2008-2010
Cataloguing, filing, routine enquiries, assistance in mounting
Sales Assistant (part time)
Miss Selfridge 2008
Dealing with public, cash handling, display of stock.
Playgroup Assistant (three months)
Devising games and activities for 2 to 4 year olds, organising groups
of children, administering finance of playgroup activities.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND INTERESTS
Employers may look at your other activities in order to assess the
personal qualities that they seek.
Include: sports; music, drama and other cultural activities;
membership of clubs and societies and any positions of
responsibility; independent travel.
Avoid offering a bland list; show how you developed qualities that the
employer will value. Do not be tempted to invent an activity or interest
– the interviewer might be an expert on it!
The first should be your course leader or tutor. The second referee
should preferably be someone for whom you have worked, or failing
that, someone who knows you well in a personal capacity. This
should not be a relative of yours.
Give names, professional title (if appropriate), addresses, telephone
numbers and email. You must check with the person concerned that
they are happy to act as a referee before putting their name forward.
It is a good idea to send a copy of your CV to your referees to keep
Targeted speculative applications for jobs and work
As it stands, this previous CV gives only the basic facts. If you want
to sound more persuasive you will need to tailor your CV. This is
essential if you are applying speculatively or are looking for a
To create an effective CV you will need to identify the employer‟s
needs (what they are looking for) and clearly communicate how you
can meet these needs. You should:
„Speak their language‟ – use the careers centre for information,
review their website or obtain company brochures to find out what
employers in your field expect.
If you are responding to an advertised job – analyse their
advertisement and job specification and subtly reflect this back to
„Get an insider‟s view‟ – if you can speak to someone within the
company. This will provide evidence that you are pro-active and
motivated and provide unique information as to what is required.
Provide proof that you can do the job - identify your skills,
achievements and experiences and match these to demonstrate
that you have a clear knowledge of what the position involves.
Stand out from the competition – identify your „unique selling
point/s‟ and position your key messages for maximum impact on
Use all networking opportunities to gain constructive feedback on
your CV with experts in the field.
Only ever send „tailored‟ CVs aimed at a specific position or
company – mass-produced or not accurately targeted CVs are
likely to go straight in the bin.
SAMPLE TWO – The Targeted CV
The following CV shows an understanding of the vacancy or potential
vacancy (if you are applying speculatively) and an awareness of the
needs of the prospective employer. It is tailored to show that the
applicant has the relevant skills and experience. This format can be
powerful and is particularly useful if you have substantial and varied
experience of life and work.
12 Pavilion Drive, Brighton BN2 4AA
Highly motivated humanities graduate with placement experience in
magazine reporting and submitting. Able to write sharp copy on a
wide variety of subjects. I am an effective communicator who is
confident and quick to learn.
RELEVANT SKILLS PROFILE
• Confident researching and writing articles covering a wide range
of subjects. I have had articles published in ‘Yachting World’ and
our student magazine ‘Blog’.
• Work effectively under pressure to meet submission deadlines
• I interviewed students and landlords for an article on student
accommodation in Brighton for our student magazine
• Able to use my own initiative and enjoy motivating team
members to meet shared goals. I was recently promoted to team
leader at Aquasports
Experienced in giving presentations. I recently delivered a
presentation on the „Fauve Landscape‟ which was acclaimed.
Mac and PC literacy
• Advanced: QuarkXpress, Word, Power Point
• Intermediate: Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver.
• Basic: Project, Excel.
EDUCATION / QUALIFICATIONS
University of Brighton (2007 – 2010) BA (Hons) Humanities -
Expected Class: 2:1
An inspiring and rewarding degree which addressed problems of
political and social change with the practical skills of research, critical
analysis and creative problem solving.
Main subjects, particularly enjoyed and excelled in: Historical /
Philosophical Inquiry, Modern World Studies, Critical traditions in
Western Thought, Self & Society, Politics of Ideology / Human
My dissertation was concerned with ‘The growth of reality TV shows.
Why are they so popular?’ I used both qualitative and quantitative
research techniques and worked to a deadline.
2007 'A' Levels: English C, History C, Psychology D
2005 7 GCSEs (A-C) including English, Maths.
Blog, University of Brighton February 2010 – to date
Our student magazine. Regular contributor and active member of
Yachting World, London March 2009 - Work placement
Monthly Magazine- I produced content and original ideas for the
structure of the Yachting World website
WH Smith, Brighton Oct 2008 – present
Sales Assistant. This included cash handling, dealing with customers
and working under pressure. I learnt the value of effective team work.
Aquasports, Bournemouth June-Sept 2007
Retail assistant/Team Leader. Aquasports is a retail and hire shop
supplying watersports equipment to clubs and individuals.
Responsibilities included training new staff, dealing with customers
and stock control.
ACTIVITIES / INTERESTS
Watersports – Secretary of the Watersports Society at University. I
organised a range of events and encouraging new members.
Cooking – I am a good cook and regularly hold dinner parties for
friends and family.
Dr. G. Smith (Personal Tutor) Mr. A. Adams (Manager)
Humanities Course Leader Aquasports
University of Brighton Bournemouth
Brighton BN1 1GA BO6 9JT
(01273) 654321 (01309) 443334
You should always accompany your CV with a covering letter. This
letter will usually be the first contact anyone will receive from you, so
make a good impression.
The aim of your letter is to create interest, gain the reader‟s attention
and arouse their curiosity so that they want to know more. If you are
replying to an advertisement, quote the job title and reference
number and mention where you saw the advertisement. It is essential
to demonstrate that you know about the organisation in which you
are seeking employment. This is vital if you are making a speculative
application as you do not want the employer to think that they are
receiving a circular.
Demonstrate your interest in the employing organisation and the
post, and suggest why you think that you would be especially suitable
for the job. Try to use verbs indicating action such as: achieved,
developed, organised, produced, persuaded, rather than saying “I
did...” Emphasise the contribution that you could make to the job and
why it would suit you. Knowing about the employer is vital, so
research and obtain as much information as possible.
If you are replying to an advertisement that specifies certain qualities
or qualifications, make sure that you show how you meet them and
be as positive as you can. Even if you feel that you do not fully meet
every specification try and provide evidence of comparable skills and
To achieve maximum impact your letter should be:
produced on good quality paper. Use the same paper for your
CV. Do not use brightly coloured paper, small writing pads or ruled
no longer than one page of word processed A4,
word-processed, unless the job advertisement suggests
otherwise, or your handwriting is a selling point, but make sure that
the content does not sound like a standard letter,
personalised. Find out the name and the job title of the person to
whom you are writing. If you are unsure, telephone the company.
If it is a woman, check whether she is Miss, Mrs. or Ms. Avoid
„Dear Sir or Madam‟,
businesslike, this does not mean being pompous or using jargon:
simply be clear and to the point,
carefully checked for the correct use of grammar and spelling.
The covering letter must always be tailored to each application and
always be an original. An outline of an accompanying letter follows.
You would obviously need to adapt this according to the kind of
company and job to which you are applying or if you are applying
Remember to keep copies of your letters and CV or application
forms, so that you have a record of what you wrote and therefore can
remind yourself of this prior to interview.
78b Norton Road
Hove BN3 3DG
Ms Abigail Phelan
The Recruitment Manager
Southern F.M. Radio House
Brighton BN41 2SS
18 May 2010
Dear Ms Phelan, (only use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ if you can’t identify
The first paragraph:
Make clear what you want to achieve e.g. a work placement (give
dates and your specific objectives) or if you would like advice on
how to get into the industry. You should say why you are writing to
that particular company. The more personalised you can make it,
the better your chances of getting a positive response.
If you are applying to an advertised post, identify what post you are
applying for, including reference number and how you heard about
Write in a straightforward and interesting way - put some energy
into it without sounding over the top – it must sound like you!
Useful phrases: I was delighted to see your advertisement / following
our recent telephone conversation / I am writing to enquire whether…
The middle paragraph(s):
Give details of why you want to join the organisation and do that
particular job – sound keen and enthusiastic – show that you have
found out about the employer and the job. Visit their website if
there is one or use newspaper or magazine archives for articles.
Give your main „selling‟ points – and how they may benefit the
company and why they should be interested in you. Say what you
feel you have to offer, showing clearly what skills, interests and
personal qualities you have and their relevance to the company.
Highlight the relevant points in your CV although don‟t repeat it.
Imply you understand their needs. Never apologise for what you
have or haven‟t done so far!
Deal with any negative aspects of your application – if you can
explain any potentially weak points in your application, for
example, poor A-levels due to illness.
Possible selling points: relevant work experience, related interests
and skills, aspects of your course that is particularly relevant.
Useful phrases: as you can see from my CV…/ attracted to working
for you because…/ I believe that I can offer…/ I am especially
interested in…/ I feel that my main skills are…
The last paragraph:
Make clear what you want to happen next. If the letter is
speculative, what you are going to do next, e.g. you could
telephone to discuss your request or arrange when you could visit.
You must be prepared to initiate the follow up communication
yourself and let your prospective employer / placement know you
will be doing this. „I look forward to hearing from you‟ can sound
End on a polite and optimistic note.
Useful phrases: „I look forward to further demonstrating my relevant
skills, experience and motivation at interview‟ / „I would welcome the
opportunity to meet with you to further discuss my application„/ „I will
be happy to supply you with any additional information or examples
of my work‟ / „I could be available for an interview at any time‟
Sign off with „Yours sincerely‟, or „Yours faithfully‟ if the letter
started with Dear Sir/Madam, and print your name clearly
JO MAHAL (Miss)
Each Careers Centre has reference books on CV writing:
McGee, Paul - How to write a great CV. (copies at
Moulsecoomb, Falmer, Eastbourne, UCH)
Williams, Lyn – The Ultimate Jobsearch Book (copies at
Moulsecoomb, Falmer, Eastbourne)
*Books on CV writing for creative careers and jobs abroad will be made available in due course.
Check the Careers Centre blog on studentcentral for updates.
The following online sources could also be useful:
Careers Centre website:
Prospects CV writing:
Targetjobs CV and letter writing:
Get/Hobsons CV and letter writing:
iprofile – Online CV template:
Prospects Employment Overseas and related CVs:
Making applications leads on to interviews. Be sure to read the next
leaflet in this series on Interviews and Assessment Centres
Careers counsellors on each site run regular CV review sessions,
where you can call in to discuss your CV / covering letter and ensure
that it does you justice.
Check the times online at www.brighton.ac.uk/careers/events-
news/cv-sessions.html or at your nearest Careers Centre.
Contact your Careers Centre
Come and carry out your research, make an individual appointment
to discuss your plans (or lack of them), or come along to a 'drop-in' or
our CV and application clinic.
Moulsecoomb Careers Centre Falmer Careers Centre
First Floor, Manor House, E Wing, Checkland Building Village
Moulsecoomb Place, Way, Falmer Brighton BN2 9PH
Brighton BN2 4GA (01273) 643584
(01273) 642855 firstname.lastname@example.org
Grand Parade Careers Centre Eastbourne Careers Centre
Student Services, 2nd Floor, First Floor, Room 113, Trevin
Grand Parade, Brighton, BN2 2JY Towers, Gaudick Road,
(01273) 643187/3 Eastbourne,
careers.grandparade @brighton.ac.uk East Sussex BN20 7SP
University Centre Hastings
LRC, First floor, UCH, Havelock Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34
A careers counsellor is usually available on Mondays
Careers Centres are usually open Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4.30 pm
studentcentral: select „Student Life‟ from the menu at the top right of
your home page. Then select „Careers, jobs and volunteering‟ from
the menu to the left of your screen.
This leaflet is available online at www.brighton.ac.uk/careers or in
alternative formats – please ask for details.