CV writing

What is the purpose of a CV? 

A CV is the first thing you think of when applying for a job, and people often wonder what an employer looks for in a good one. Your CV gives you the chance to tell the employer all about yourself and what you have achieved before you even met them. It is important to structure it carefully and include relevant detail. Here are our tips.

  • Clear – organised and clearly presented.
  • Concise – not too long and not too short – ideally 2-3 pages.
  • Consistent – all formatted in the same manner, using the same fonts
  • Complete – tailored to the industry in question – all information must be relevant
  • Current – CV must be fully up to date

CVs are made up of a number of different sections that contain different kinds of information:

Personal Information

Your full name, full address, mobile number and email address. There is no need to include your place of birth, age or gender. Your photograph is optional.

Personal Profile

Include a brief paragraph that gives the employer an insight into your personal qualities, skills and experience. This need only be about 3-4 lines.


List your academic history in reverse chronological order (most recent qualification first), include dates, names of colleges/institutions and location. State the level of your qualification (e.g. Certificate, Diploma, Honours, Masters, or Level 6, 7, 8, 9) as many organisations have minimum requirements for certain roles. You can also include memberships of professional bodies here.

Further Training (if appropriate)

Depending on your role or your career goals, you may have continued to develop your skills by attending additional training or courses. List any relevant training courses in this section.

Professional Experience
  • List your previous roles in reverse chronological order. Include your job title, employer’s name and dates of employment.
  • You also need to include your duties/ responsibilities and achievements. Keep the information clear, and use bullet points to list the duties and achievements.
  • Try to make the information as relevant as possible to the job you are applying for.
  • Use specific metrics/examples if possible to highlight achievements
Hobbies, Interests & Achievements

List a few of your favourite leisure activities, so that the employer can get an idea of the type of person you are. It can be helpful to show hobbies if they reflect qualities which relate to the job. If you are just starting out in the job market, give any evidence you can to demonstrate initiative or practical skills, for example, voluntary work, elected office in a society, member of a sports team or contributor to a college magazine.

List of Referees

Listing referees is optional at the initial stage and you can include “Referees are available on request” instead. However some employers may request them on a CV. If required, it is important to use current references and also ones that are relevant to the sector you are applying to. Include at least 2 referees and make sure that you have correct and up to date contact details for them. Also check with the referees that they are happy to give references.

  • A lie, even a small one can cost you a job
  • Poor layout – too spread out or too condensed, too many different font sizes and styles
  • Referencing the wrong vacancy or company in your cover letter or CV
  • Not having your CV fully up to date, e.g. employment dates, personal details
  • Jargon and Acronyms – don’t use too many in-house terms that others may not understand
  • Rambling sentences
  • Unexplained gaps, if you were travelling, or on maternity leave, please say so
  • CV is too long – using long paragraphs instead of bullet points
CV ChecklistCV power words

– Included your name, address, email, and phone number.


– Put the most relevant educational qualification first.

– Included the title of the qualification, the grade, the start and finish dates, the full name of the institution

– Highlighted relevant modules or projects and give a short description of your thesis or any other major project


– Put the most recent job experience first and worked backward

– Included start and end dates, job title, and name and address of employer

– Listed at least 3 tasks or achievements for each job you held

– Used action words to describe tasks


– Mentioned positions of responsibility, volunteer work, and professional memberships


– Checked that the font and style of the CV is consistent throughout

– Used short and sharp paragraphs and sentences

– Explained any gaps in your CV

– Kept it to 2/3 pages

– Proofread it to ensure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes


A strong CV is the essential foundation for any successful job search.

Sample CVs can be found on the Collins McNicholas website and will provide you with an excellent template for your CV

Niamh Cregg

Senior Recruitment Consultant

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group