How to write your CV
Advice on what to include in your CV and how to structure it
Consider the skills and attributes you have developed and demonstrated through your postgraduate degree. These might include:
Willingness to learn and develop
Specialisation in relevant subject area
Commitment and motivation
Project management experience
Analytical and problem-solving skills
Ability to work independently
Keep these in mind when you’re writing your CV – they could make you stand out from other candidates.
Watch our Quick Guide to CVs. This film runs through the basics of writing an effective CV, including what employers are looking for, content, formatting and presentation.
- Video: Quick Guide to CVs
- Quick Video Guide to CVs
Here’s more detail on the key points.
How to tailor your CV
This means making it easy for the employer to see the link between what you have done, the skills you have developed, and their job description.
Think about everything you’ve done so far – work, study, positions of responsibility, and achievements – and ask yourself what skills you’ve developed, and what qualities you’ve demonstrated in each role. Research the job you’re applying for to make sure you know what qualifications, skills and experience they’re looking for. Then make the link between them - match the skills and experience required with the evidence of your suitability.
What to include in your CV
your name, address, email address, phone number and, if appropriate, links to your LinkedIn profile or blog
you don’t need to include a photo, your date or place of birth, gender or nationality
if you choose to include this, use it to summarise what you have to offer, and highlight why you are motivated towards a particular career
the best personal statements are focused, to-the point, and avoid generalisations such as 'I am hard-working'
if your personal statement doesn’t add anything to your CV, don’t include it
details of your university, qualifications, relevant degree courses, major projects completed, dissertation, and degree classification
Employment and work experience
describe your responsibilities and skills used for each position
if appropriate, divide this section into relevant experience and additional work experience
Additional skills and interests
don't just list these, describe your involvement and emphasise your achievements, keeping them recent and relevant
How to structure your CV
CVs can be structured in different ways.
Chronological CV: this is the most used format and includes a detailed education and work experience section in reverse chronological order. It can highlight how you have progressed over time, so may not be suitable if you have changed jobs a lot or are looking at a career change.
Skills based CV: this uses the skills required for the job as its structure and gives evidence to demonstrate that you have these skills. This can be a good approach if you have lots of experience in one career area, and want to change careers, or if you’ve had lots of short-term jobs and want to summarise the skills you’ve developed.
Combination CV: a combination of the chronological CV and the skills-based CV. It lists education in reverse chronological order, followed by relevant skills gained from work experience and education. This works well when you want to highlight particular skills for a job.
Creative CV: most often used for jobs that focus on art, design, visual effects and technology (sometimes also advertising, media and publishing). Watch this recording as part of our March 2023 focus on Creative and Cultural Careers, to understand the differences between creative and traditional CVs and decide what works best for your job search:
#EdCreativeCareers: Focus on Creative CVs (24 minutes, University of Edinburgh login required)
How long should your CV be
For the UK a two-page CV is standard (ideally using Arial 12pt font).
If you’re applying for a PhD, follow this CV advice:
Using generative AI to create your CV
Technologies such as ChatGPT can provide a reasonable basic structure for you to build upon, but what they give you is unlikely to be tailored convincingly and will be bland and generic, and unlikely to impress employers. Use them as a support and starting point if you like - but edit their product to make the end result your own.
Remember these points:
- adapt the content generated, to make it more closely related to you -otherwise it will lack impact
- be cautious about submitting any personal data, as whatever you put in could be in the public domain
- you may be risking plagiarism, as these systems incorporate, in their output, content produced by other people without acknowledging or referencing them
The Bayes Centre at the University has produced general guidance on the use of AI.
Getting feedback on your CV
After putting your CV through CV360 you can use your careers appointment to ask for feedback on your CV.
Read about our appointments system here:
Book an appointment (MyCareerHub)