- Applying for a job in the UK?
- Find out how to write a British CV!
- 7 tips for writing an interview-winning CV included
So, you are looking for jobs in the UK, sending your CV and cover letters with the hope that you will be invited for an interview. Although you are confident that you have the right skills and experience to excel at this job, you keep getting disappointed because recruiters rarely get back to you.
Why is it happening?
If you can't progress to the next hiring stage, your CV likely lets you down.
The UK market is very competitive, meaning that it is now more important than ever to instantly convey that you are the best candidate for the role.
In some highly competitive industries, recruiters receive around 250 CVs for every open vacancy, and only 4 to 6 candidates get shortlisted for the next stage.
Due to a large number of job applicants, recruiters have a limited time to look at your CV. On average, it takes around 6 seconds to consider if it is worth inviting you for an interview.
So, how can you beat the competition and increase the likelihood of getting noticed?
We gathered the best tips for writing your CV and broke it down into small actionable steps you can take today to improve your job hunt.
Make sure your CV format meets UK standards
Job applications differ around the world. It is important to keep these difference in mind and research the standards used in the country where you intend to move.
So, even if you are a native English speaker from the United States, it does not mean that your standard resume would be applicable in the UK.
In Britain, the document that you use to apply for a job is called a CV, and rarely a resume. A CV stands for ‘curriculum vitae’, which in Latin means ‘(the) course of (my) life’.
You CV is a factual representation of you: your work experience, achievements and education history.
So, what does a typical British CV look like?
Do not exceed two sides of A4 paper
While in some countries, it is perfectly fine to have a ten-pages long resume that gives lengthy descriptions of your previous roles, this is unacceptable in the UK.
Ideally, you should fit all the information on a one-page CV. This is particularly important if you apply for roles in banking or consulting companies.
In some cases, you can have a longer CV if you have many years of diverse work experience, but you should never exceed the two pages.
Academic CVs are the only exceptions to the two-pages rule.
Get the look right
Your CV should look presentable and professional.
Make clever use of bold, spacing and underlining to distinguish between different sections of your CV.
Choose a clear and professional font, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Your font size should be between 10 and 12 to make it easy to read. Also, it is important to ensure that all fonts and font sizes are consistent throughout your CV.
It might be a good idea to save your CV as a PDF file to ensure that when recruiters open it, it looks the same way you wanted.
If you need help with formatting your CV, we have a list of free and paid tools with CV templates.
Use bullet points to showcase your experience
Your CV aims to get key information across and demonstrate that you are the perfect fit for the role in as little words as possible. Instead of writing a lengthy description, you can use bullet points as an effective method of showcasing your skill-set to a potential employer.
You can use bullet points to demonstrate that you have the competencies an employer is looking for in a succinct, easy to read manner.
Consider changing the order of your bullet points to suit the particular role you are applying for, showing the skills the company sees as essential first.
Write in a chronological order
The most commonly used format in the UK is to have a chronological CV.
This format serves to highlight your progressive career and list both the work experience and education section in reverse chronological order.
In other words, you should start with your most recent experience first and then work backwards. This principle applies to both of your education and work sections.
Have a professional email address
First impressions matter, therefore you should have a professional email address. Avoid using email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org
You can use your organisation's email (a company where you work or a university if you are a student), for example, "email@example.com".
If you don't have any professional email addresses, use a personal email that states you name and surname, for example, "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Avoid personal details
The only personal information needed for a UK CV is your contact information - your name, home address, mobile phone number and email address.
You should not be including any other personal details, such as your date of birth, ethnicity or nationality on your CV.
In Britain, there are equal opportunities rights and a policy against discrimination that prevents employers from considering personal factors in the assessment of candidates' suitability for the job.
Do not include your photograph
While it is common to include a photo of yourself in the rest of Europe and other parts of the world, it is rare to see a picture on a CV in the United Kingdom. Unless you are applying for an acting or modelling job, you do not need to attach your photograph.
Include the right sections
CVs are usually divided into smaller parts, so the recruiter can easily digest the main points.
Some sections, such as education and work experience, are essential, while others are optional.
This section is not compulsory, but a good personal introduction can be a great way to grab the attention of employers and recruiters.
You can begin with a brief overview, no more than five lines of text, that describes who you are, what you can do, and what you bring to the position you are applying to.
Consider slightly alternating your profile and tailoring for each role to demonstrate how you match the job description by highlighting the most relevant skills and experience.
As previously mentioned, you should list your work experience in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent job.
Bullet points are particularly useful in this part, as they allow you to demonstrate your responsibilities and achievements easily.
Do not make this section boring by talking about your daily duties. Instead, you should highlight the most important milestones and relevant experience to impress your potential employer. Consider mentioning how you affected change in your previous organisation or what impact you left.
Try to provide quantifiable data to support your claims, this will make your CV look more credible and impressive.
Depending on your profile, this section can go before or after the work experience. If you are a student with little to no work experience, this would be your main section.
Most of the time you should only include your graduate and postgraduate education. However, if you have less than three years of experience, you should also mention your A-levels (or your national equivalent).
When describing your education, ensure that you include the following details:
- The title of your course
- The name of the educational establishment
- Location of the educational establishment
- Your grades or predicted grades
- Any modules or core projects relevant to the job you are applying for
- The topic of your dissertation or final project if applicable to the role
- Any scholarships or sponsorships you received for the degree
British CVs commonly have a section that showcases your skill set. It can include a simple list of skills kept separate from your work history that provides a brief overview of things you excel at, without delving into your experience too much.
Here you can note any skills that you think your employer might be interested in. These might include languages that you know, tech and creative skills.
Make sure that you also indicate the level of your proficiency. Do not write that you know Spanish if you can only say a couple of words.
Only include a skill if you are confident that you can implement it in professional life.
You can include this part if an educational or professional organisation has recognised you for your outstanding achievements.
However, try to keep these achievements relevant to the job.
This section of your CV is optional, but it might add some volume to your character and demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual.
Consider listing your hobbies and volunteering experience here.
What are the main tips for writing a great CV?
Now that we have described essential elements and requirements for writing a British CV, it is time to talk about the little actionable steps you can take to beat the competition.
1. Conduct your research
Whenever you are getting ready for a job interview or preparing your job applications, you should always conduct research about the role, the company and the industry where you want to work at.
Similarly, you should gather information about the company and the job, figure out what your employer is looking for in a perfect candidate and ensure that your CV meets the job criteria.
2. Tailor your CV for different job applications
This advice goes hand in hand with the previous one.
Although it might be tempting to write your CV once and then send it to many employers, this game of numbers will result in a low response rate and disappointment.
Therefore, once you have done your research, you should change your CV.
Ensure that you reflect the values of the company and demonstrate that you meet the requirements of this particular job to make a good impression on the employer.
Keep your experience relevant to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a tech role, make sure you are highlighting your past experience as a web developer. You might want to omit to mention any early irrelevant experience.
There is no need to change your whole CV for each application. You might only need to tailor your personal profile.
A handy tip: if you apply for jobs in different industries and have a diverse range of experience, you can create templates for each industry.
3. Use compelling language
It would help if you treat your CV as a sales pitch for your transferable and industry-specific skills. Use powerful words and positive language to make a good impression on the reader.
It's a good idea to start describing your previous experience with a verb because it makes your text more dynamic. Saying that you 'completed sales calls' sounds more compelling than 'my duties involved sales calls'.
Do not forget to use adjectives and positive words when talking about your achievements and work experience, for example, you can say that you 'successfully managed a team of 10 people' instead of writing 'I was a manager'.
This article suggests many examples of powerful and positive words you could add to your CV.
4. Illustrate your words with concrete examples
Avoid using vague clichés and focus on providing real-life evidence of your achievements.
For example, instead of saying that you are 'a good problem solver', describe a situation when you effectively utilised this skill - 'developed a technical solution that increased the company's productivity by 15%, saving over £50,000'.
5. Make sure you use British English
Many international job seekers make this mistake. If you are applying for jobs in the UK you should demonstrate that you have an excellent command of British English and can communicate your thoughts well.
Therefore, always check that you are using British spelling and vocabulary.
|Common differences||British spelling example||American spelling example|
|British English words ending in ‘our’ usually end in ‘or’ in American English||labour||labor|
|Verbs in British English that can be spelt with either ‘ize’ or ‘ise’ at the end are always spelt with ‘ize’ at the end in American English||apologise or apologize||apologize|
|Verbs in British English that end in ‘yse’ are always spelt ‘yze’ in American English||analyse||analyze|
|British English words that are spelt with the double vowels ae or oe tend to be just spelt with an e in American English||paediatrics||pediatrics|
|Some nouns that end with ‘ence’ in British English are spelt ‘ense in American English||licence||license|
|Some nouns that end with ‘ogue’ in British English end with either ‘og’ or ‘ogue in American English||dialogue||dialog|
|British words that end in 're' often end in 'er' in American English||centre||center|
Always proofread your CV
Keep in mind that even the most outstanding CVs get spoiled by typos and spelling errors. After finishing your first draft, you should take editing seriously.
Practice makes perfect, so it is recommended to proofread your CV multiple times.
Identifying and correcting grammar mistakes is an overwhelming task for everyone, especially non-native English speakers.
It might be a good idea to ask your native English-speaking friends to take a look at your CV or seek the professional help of proofreaders.
Nowadays many tools can improve your writing: from a simple Microsoft Word to a more advanced proofreading software like Grammarly.
6. Never lie on your CV
Do not attempt to exaggerate information, invent jobs you have had or awards you have won.
British recruiters conduct thorough background checks, so you will not be able to get away with your lies.
Do not pretend to be someone else, eventually, the truth will come out and result in you losing your reputation and the job.
7. Use ATS technology to your advantage
British recruiters commonly use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to filter candidates easily. ATS looks for keywords and matches your CV against the advertised job description.
So, if you are not using the right keywords, your application might be rejected before it gets read by recruiters.
You can use this service to beat the system and make sure that you pass the ATS checks.
We are confident that by the end of reading this blog you are aware of the UK CV format.
Even if you are coming from a majority English-speaking country, there are some important nuances specific to Britain that you should consider as an international job seeker.
Now that you know the 7 tips and tricks for writing a great CV, you can implement our advice and improve your chance of receiving a job offer in the UK.