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How To Perfect Your CV for Employers

What’s the point of a CV? What even is it? The Curriculum Vitae aka resume, bio or generic application. All of these have one purpose: to sell yourself to a potential employer. So what makes you stand out from the monochromatic spiels passing into companies’ hiring departments on a daily basis? A good CV.

General rules (UK specific)

  • Keep it to 2 pages of A4
  • Use a reasonable font size e.g. 12, and a generic typography e.g. Arial or Calibri as well as standard formatting
  • Include key contact details
  • Ensure it covers key skills, education and employment history, and the details of two referees.

So those are the basic – then comes the more challenging task. You want to ensure that you have fulfilled the criteria that the job advert displays and you also want to avoid clichés. Follow the advice below for future success.

Be creative

Recently on social media, Jamie Laing (founder of Candy Kittens) posted his admiration for a budding intern who had designed her CV to look exactly like a packet of his company’s product. By tailoring her format to the employer she hoped to succeed with she ensured she got noticed – and a boost to her social media following to boot no doubt.

If you are applying to multiple different opportunities, then ensure that you adapt the visuals of your CV to match. A publishing company may be drawn to a design that reads like a story. A restaurateur  may appreciate a menu of your employment history. An online outlet may approve of your web-style design. Whoever your target audience is, in the current market it is likely there will be an overwhelming response for the best positions. So go the extra mile and see where it takes you.

Keep it real

We’ve all heard the urban legends of people who’ve lied on their CV and never been caught. The reality? Rigorous checks take place at most companies and therefore you’re likely to end up with a red face. Instead of claiming to be the UK’s answer to Jeff Bezos, be realistic about your experiences and skills.

Having said that, vocabulary is everything. If you’ve worked in retail, you can write about your ‘customer satisfaction experience’ or ‘product placement expertise’. If you volunteered to support younger undergraduates at your university you can divulge your ‘nurturing management style’. Be honest, but ensure you present your skills in the best light. If in doubt, ask a critical friend to read over it and ensure it makes sense.

Additionally, keep the explanations of your competencies linked to factors that make you employable. Avoid generic comments such as: I’m hardworking, I’m a team player, or I’m a quick learner.

Replace them with a more evidence based approach:

  • During my undergraduate studies, I maintained full time hours in my role in retail as well as volunteering time for younger students.
  • As a team leader at XYZ, I found that a supportive environment ensured better results.
  • Whilst studying for my Masters, I took up playing the clarinet and have already achieved Grade XX.

This way, you’re already proving your worth to the employer, and making them want to meet you in person.

Be specific

Peppering the market with CVs may seem like a winning approach to job seeking. But with the job market being an employers’ playground, generic applications are actually a risky choice. Yes, most of the basic information for roles in the same field may be the same. But job applications that have been amended to include key performance indicators extracted from the advert are more likely to be shortlisted. Even more so if a job description is directly catered to in the layout or content of a CV. Taking the time to let the hirer know you want their job rather than any job is a great way to identify yourself as a candidate worth a second look.

Overall, remember:

Be creative

Keep it real

Be specific.

Good luck!

What’s required to be a leader of the future?

Leadership: a great power as well as a great responsibility. And in 2019, leadership is what many students aspire to. Following intense workloads as university undergraduates – with many juggling internships, jobs and relationships – students achieve bachelors or foundation degrees and embark into the world of work. The goal? To find a career that is fulfilling obviously. But hopefully, to make steps up the ladder to management and leadership.climb-the-career-ladder

Here are a few examples of attributes required to get to the top, and some tips of how to get there yourself. Remember – all of these elements are great to improve your skills but also you will need to write about them in your CV. See our upcoming article on how to improve your CV later this week.

Make and take opportunities

Students understand that often the market is flooded with qualified applicants for a role. How on earth can you stand out? Make opportunities.

Think Mark Zuckerberg. He wanted to capture his classmates’ attention with a networking site. He is now a billionaire entrepreneur and social media magnate. He’s famously said that

“When we are connected, we can do great things.”

…so get connected! Find student groups, organisations and unions that represent your interests and those of your future career. Want to become an artist? Join local gallery tours and volunteer groups such as this. Apply for specific opportunities offered by world class galleries – like this one at London’s Tate Museum. Want to work in charitable organisations? Find your local goodwill or charity shop and lend your time.

Whatever your goal, seek out and forge those opportunities to make yourself standout from the crowd. In itself, this is a skill of great leaders – innovation.


It may seem counterproductive – or require some creativity on a students’ budget – but travel can make you particularly interesting to hiring managers (not to mention helping you to make friends at the pub too). In order to develop your leadership skills, and demonstrate them to a future employer, make your travel purposeful. You could complete a ‘voluntour’ in which you work with vulnerable people in earthquake ravaged Nepal. You could support animal conservation on the beaches of Guatemala. Whatever you choose to do, you will gain inevitable skills that allow you to work with others in a more constructive way. A journal, in which you note key experiences, may be useful to allow you to embellish your CV with the finer details later to demonstrate your independence.


Becoming involved in sport is a given for many people attending universities. But had you ever thought of how this could improve your employability in the boardroom? On the pitch (court or field) you will undoubtedly be required to show great discipline – a key attribute of great leaders. Harness that, and apply it in your academic studies and employment too. Additionally, it’s a great way to network and find like-minded people who may one day prove useful in a potential working environment.


Decision making – to be or not to be… a leader?

Some universities now explicitly teach decision making. Most have a student body, run by a union that makes decisions for the majority by an elected few. In order to nurture your ability to make decisions, you could consider becoming involved in such an elective course or by seeking an elected position. If that’s not possible, there are plenty of other ways to identify yourself as a good decision maker. In interviews ensure to exude confidence in your dress, manner and approach.

How can you do this? Mimic those who exude these characteristics. The likelihood is that your academic studies are conducted by experts. Listen to them. Ask questions. Demand the highest achievable results from yourself and utilize the expertise that you are privileged to be exposed to in order to do so. University is a unique opportunity to share airtime with such thinkers – learn their ways and make the most of it.

Shoot for the stars

There are probably a million ways to become a great leader, and yet they are few and far between. Rather than asking why, look around. The answer is fairly straightforward. To become a leader requires more than just a desire for success. It requires hard work. Dedication. Sacrifice. And a little innovation, independence, discipline, confidence – paired with good luck.


How to… Ace Your University Interview

It used to be that University interviews were reserved for only the most sought-after schools or classes. Before that they were a formality in which students would be inducted into the College of their ancestors with a handshake and a toast. Now, thankfully, the process is a lot more commonplace and a lot more rigorous. From Medicine to Teaching, Dentistry to Business, many universities now require students to present themselves at interview to earn a spot on their course. So, grab a cup of coffee and a note pad and settle in. Here’s some advice on how to wow the panellists and secure your dream place at university.

Understand the process – and prepare

There are many different protocols in place for interviews at Universities. It’s 2019! You could be interviewed by a panel or an individual, in a group or on your own, to measure your mental aptitude for a certain course or your measurable skill in an area of study…the list is almost endless. This can cause understandable stress. The solution? Ensure you understand the process by reading your letter/email carefully, and requesting further detail if required.

Then, leave early to arrive in plenty of time, and grab a bottle of water to calm those nerves and whet your whistle. Understanding the order of the day should allow you to relax and – dare I suggest? – even enjoy the process.

Know your stuff

This may seem incredibly obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people forget the basics. Revision is second nature to modern students and you should utilise this skill for interview. Why do you want to attend this particular college or school? What about the course is particularly attractive to you? Is there a renowned library or theatre you can’t wait to visit on campus? What is impressive to interviewers is passion – something you can’t fake. So, look into the finer details of the programme of study and show off that knowledge in your allocated time with your interviewers. People listen to people who are interested; show off your engagement with their product. It will go a long way.

Be smart

Even if the dress code says ‘smart casual’, err on the side of ‘smart’. As a famous person once said, ‘You can never be overdressed or overeducated.’ And you won’t have the opportunity to become ‘overeducated’ if you don’t dress to impress. Be comfortable, and wear something that gives you confidence. If you’re not a suit-wearer by nature then perhaps opt for smart trousers and a shirt and jumper. If you’re someone who avoids wearing dresses on a regular basis, don’t squeeze yourself into a pencil skirt. Be you…just the smartest version of you. Imagine this is a job interview: you don’t want to add to your nerves by glancing around the waiting room in your scruffs and seeing a sea of shiny shoes.

Be engaging

Manners don’t cost a lot – or anything – but they can be underutilised by many students. Hold open the door for people as you enter the building, smile at the receptionist: these people may be involved in the process, but even if they’re not using your manners will leave a lasting impression. Etiquette (in the UK, at least) dictates that eye contact and a handshake are a symbol of confidence and politeness. But if you are interviewing elsewhere, it wouldn’t harm to look up local culture and find out the appropriate greeting. Use non-verbal feedback to indicate you are listening to the questions and responses of your interviewers – nodding, agreement and eye contact are all sure fire ways to engage your panel.

Ask questions

Many people assume that interviews are all about your answers to questions. In actual fact, thoughtful and considered questions posed by you are equally important. How else will you know if the course, university or country are the right ‘fit’ for you? As much as you want to secure a place, and the university wants the right sort of person on their course, you also want to make an informed decision. So air any concerns and raise any questions you need the answers to. In addition, you will look even more confident and committed if the panellists know that you are a discerning customer choosing their institution.

It may seem a lot to keep in mind, but ensure you follow the steps above to smash the interview. Good luck!

5 Dos and Don’ts for a Successful Personal Statement

Writing a personal statement is a rite of passage. In order to apply for most universities – or a whole tranche of them at a time through UCAS – you need to outline the person behind the application in the form of a personal statement or letter of intent. But how can you tell if yours is going to grab the attention of your intended institution for the right or wrong reasons?


Here are 5 handy tips to help you make sure you are a surefire acceptance at the University of your dreams…


1) DON’T simply Google ‘University Personal Statement’ and then follow the proforma word for word.

Yes, the advent of the internet has meant a huge resource is available to students all around the world. And absolutely, you should draw on lots of examples to gain inspiration for your own foray into the world of writing about yourself. But simply following the top result on the world’s most used search engine is not going to gain you kudos with University admissions advisors.

Instead, do some subject or even institution specific research. Then, use that as a framework for your first draft. Do your first choice university have a key phrase used in advertising? Try to paraphrase it. Does your intended course require ingenuity, creativity or a drive for data? Incorporate that into your writing. DON’T simply Google it – if you put more time and effort into the crafting of your work it will show. Who knows? Maybe one day you could be the result when another budding student searches for ‘template personal statement’.

2) DO ask family and friends what they would say are your top qualities.

Many people – students or otherwise – find it incredibly difficult to honestly appraise their strengths and weaknesses. Either modesty or self-esteem prevent us from being able to confidently declare ‘I’m really good at x, y or z!’ So ask someone who knows you really well, and then reflect on their observations. Maybe you do have an eye for finer details that could be described as an ‘interest in the minutiae’, rather than just being ‘fussy’. Perhaps your passion for a particular sport or team could be construed as ‘vigour for life’ rather than fanaticism. Sell yourself, but be honest – and throw modesty to the side in order to ensure you present your best self to your chosen university.

3) DON’T use a thesaurus for every single word in your application.

Learn from the infamous Joey Tribbiani (a f.r.i.e.n.d.s reference that should translate to a modern generation due to the Netflix resurgence of the classic series in recent months). You do not need to replace ‘heart’ with ‘large aortic valve’. Neither do you need to list seven different adjectives to communicate that you are a hard worker.

What you should try to do instead is think of examples of scenarios that prove you have the qualities you are trying to exemplify. A great example would be avoiding the phrase ‘I love reading and going to the theatre’ for an application to study Literature. What would be better is to express that passion through an example of your particular interest in a performance you recently attended as part of your A-Level study. E.g. “The creative license employed by x in the recent adaptation of the ‘Woman In Black’ prompted me to re-read the original; I found the new perspective enlightening.” This not only shows you have a broader interest in story-telling as well as Literature more specifically, it also shows that you have critical reflection skills key to a good candidate for degree level study.

4) DO get someone with good literacy and grammar skills to proof read your personal statement.

If having to choose between there/their/they’re gives you cold shivers, or your/you’re not sure which form of a homophone to use – CHECK! A critical friend is a good friend, and when submitting as crucial a document as your personal statement you will want someone to cast an eye over it first.

You’re going to need to write several drafts before you ‘get it right’, so don’t be afraid to ask people to check it over. Any student going through the application process will be able to empathise, and your teachers know how stressful this can be for you. Asking for the help is the only way to be sure you get it.

5) DO plan ahead.

If you rush your personal statement, it will be obvious. The development of ideas will be patchy and the vocabulary is bound to be repetitive and – dare I say it? – boring. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, canvass for ideas, procrastinate, panic. Once you’ve done all that, write at least two or three drafts before you’re satisfied. For many students, the personal statement is their only opportunity to engage directly with the departments and universities they are applying to. The same level of commitment and attention to detail should be applied to the application itself as to choosing the institutions. Make sure you have planned ahead, and that way you can be sure you have your best foot forward.

So remember…

These hints and tips are a springboard to a successful personal statement. In summary:

    • Make sure you sell yourself well – take this opportunity to shine.
    • Make it personal – universities appreciate applications with a bit of personality rather than generic formulas and cliches.
    • Make it count – you have one shot.