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Writing a CV
Your time at university gives you many experiences and skills that employers are looking for. Take some time each semester to update your CV.
Registered students also have access to our new CV resources. These tools will allow you to
- learn the layout of an effective CV, endorsed by our employer partners via our elearning modules
- follow guidelines to make your experiences stand out
- use artificial intelligence - CareerSet - to review your CV, get feedback and improve your CVs rating and compare your CV to a job spec.
CV essentials, tips and layout
We've got the information you need to get your CV together, prepare a great cover letter, and complete application forms.
1. Split your CV up into key sections
- Personal Details - no need to give your date of birth, gender or marital status!
- Statement of Career Aims/Objective or Personal Profile – this is optional and needs to be written well – don’t copy and paste from the internet – it has to reflect who you are/what you want.
- Education & Qualifications – you might include some of your modules, projects and essays that are specifically relevant for the job you are applying for.
- Employment – give your job title and employer name – focus on actions & results rather than a list of duties.
- Achievements (optional)
- Skills Profile with Evidence to support each skill you claim to have
- Interests/Other Activities/Memberships
- Referees - do ask for permission from your referees before you include them on your CV. It is usual to have one academic and one work reference.
2. Most Recent/Relevant First
- Start with your most recent/current qualification and work experience and work in reverse chronological order
- However, if you have relevant work experience you should put this first (and mention it in your cover letter) and then have a second section with “other work experience”
3. Tip 3 – Writing Style
- CVs are professional documents and should be written in formal language
- Avoid using personal pronouns e.g. ’I’, “me” and ’my’
- Use the past tense for previous employment and present tense for your current role – it is important to be consistent.
4. Keep it Concise
- Ideally 2 pages - maximum of 3
- It should be clear and easy to follow
- Recruiters often scan CVs and want information quickly
- You can’t include everything you’ve ever done so do get some help editing the CV if you are struggling to keep it to three pages
- Keep it short, punchy and to the point – avoid long winded paragraphs – recruiters don’t have time to read a story – use bullet points.
5. Make it Look Good
- Make your CV easy on the eye - avoid cramming lots of information on the page
- Use bullet points and keep sentences short
- Use white space between sections
- Use simple fonts that give a professional look – stick to Times New Roman or Ariel and don’t go below font size 10.
- The font should be consistent for headings and subtext
6. Be Accurate
- Ensure that there are no spelling errors Correct punctuation and grammar are very important
- Recruiters will reject CVs with avoidable errors, no matter how talented you are!
- Proof read and spell check – don’t trust spell check – “too”, “two” and “to” are all correct spellings but have very different meanings. Also, don’t take the first recommended spelling in spell check, it may not be the correct word for your sentence!
7. Tailor it
- CVs should be tailored for each position applied for. This is really important and is worth the effort.
- Employers need to see a clear fit between the job and the person. Changing the skills section and the modules you include in your education section can have a big impact on how the recruiter perceives your suitability for the role.
- Research the company and use the job specification to gauge what skills you should highlight
- One CV does not fit all. Have a couple of different CVs for the types of jobs you might be applying for e.g. a B Comm might have two CVs for a trainee accountant role and a graduate sales role.
8. Be positive
- In your work experience section, include power/action words such as ’developed’ ’designed’ ’managed’ ’co-ordinated’ to emphasise your duties. Check out our list of CV “power” words to give you some inspiration
- Don’t be afraid to sell what you have achieved
- There is no need to list details of all tasks keep focused on what you achieved in the role.
9. Be Honest
- There is a big difference between making the most of your experience and exaggerating and telling lies!
- Companies will check the facts!
- Any inconsistencies will be found out at interview stage and could cost you the job
10. Breathe some life into it
- Interests and hobbies give an insight into the ’real you’ so it is a good idea to include them.. This is the section where people are tempted to lie to make themselves more interesting- so don’t include a hobby or interest that you don’t have - you might just get the Irish Abseiling champion interviewing you for the job!
- If you’ve had similar jobs try to phrase the responsibilities differently to avoid being repetitive
- With each point you include, consider what it says about you – employers are looking for enthusiasm and interest and your CV has to reflect this.
- Experiment with your layout to stand out but avoid colours and photos (unless requested)
Once you have completed your CV – evaluate it against our CV Checklist and if you are a NUI Galway student, you can then meet a member of the Careers team at an appointment to review it (book through Careers Connect).
Download and use our CV Checklist to review your CV. Try to get as many “Yes” answers as possible before you have your CV reviewed in the Career Development Centre.
A list of power verbs to help you get started with describing your skills and achievements on your CV.
- Use in the present tense when describing responsibilities in your current role
- Watch your spelling (your spellcheck may autocorrect to the 'ize' spelling instead of the 'ise' that we use in Ireland)
The cover letter is probably the first thing the employer reads about you so it really does count!
Some basics to consider:
- Keep it to one page
3 or 4 paragraphs is enough
- Use the proper letter writing format
Make sure your address, their address and the date in the right place. Also check for spelling and grammar.
- How should it be structured? – see next item.
- Tailor it for the job
Don’t just write a generic letter that you use for all applications. Just like your CV you have to make sure the cover letter highlights how you believe you meet the job criteria.
- Address it to a person
If you are sending in a letter on the off chance that they might have a job, do find out the name of the best person to send it to rather than "Dear Sir or Madam".
- It can’t be all about how you would benefit!
The employer knows that getting a job with them would be fantastic for your career, would be a great learning experience, would be a dream come true etc.. You need to focus on how you can add value to their company, how you can meet their needs, what problems you can solve for them.
- Watch your language
This is a cover letter and not a solicitor’s letter. Avoid overly formal language – be professional but don’t be afraid to use emotive language e.g. "...is an area I am passionate about". Do use positive and energetic language – make them want to meet you.
- Emailing your cover letter?
It is becoming more usual to email your CV and cover letter. The cover letter can be in the body of the email rather than an attachment – if you do this however, here are some tips when emailing:
- Follow proper grammar rules, including proper punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. Avoid abbreviating words that you might abbreviate when texting or e-mailing a friend, such as "pls" or "thx" or “b4”.
- Use clear and easy to read English, but avoid colloquial slang that you might use when texting your BFF. It is inappropriate and will not be viewed positively.
- Write your phone number beneath your name.
- Put the job reference number (if there is one) or mention the job you are applying for in the subject line.
Outline of Covering Letter
Re: Job Title / Vacancy / Reference No.
Dear Person’s Name,
First Paragraph - WHY YOU ARE WRITING AND WHERE YOU SAW ADVERTISEMENT - "...to enquire if you have vacancies in... in response to your advertisement in..."
Ideally you would answer the following questions:
Final Paragraph - ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION
Conclude and reiterate your interest, availability for interview and close with a confident statement.
Yours sincerely (when you know the name of the addressee)
Yours faithfully (when you do not know the name)
____ Signature, hand-written________
NAME IN BLOCK CAPITALS
Although the Career Development Centre does not advocate the use of templates, we have created a document that students can download and edit as a result of student requests. This is also an elearning module and an AI review tool accessible by all students, as well as a dedicated elearning module for our international students.
Take a look at our student resources here.
Note that these samples are restricted to NUI Galway access only, you must be logged into your Office365 account to access these resources.
Watch: short video guide to preparing a CV.
For more videos related to CV writing see our playlist on YouTube.