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Work / CV
Write a British-style CV and covering letter
  Example CV
  Covering letter
  Example covering letter
  Sending your application


This page explains how to write a British-style CV (curriculum vitae, or resume, or personal history) and covering letter, used when applying for jobs in the UK.

You're Hired! CV: How to write a brilliant CV
Author: Corinne Mills
Publisher: Trotman
Date: January 2009

How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter
Author: Tracey Whitmore
Publisher: How To Books Ltd
Date: June 2009

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Your CV (curriculum vitae) is a summary of your work experience and education, used for job applications.
A resume (properly written as resumé) is an American English term for a CV.
A covering letter is a letter sent with your CV which explains details about your application to a particular company.
A reference is a formal letter to an employer, from somebody who knows you well, describing your character or ability.
A referee is a person who provides a reference for you.

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How should I design the layout of my CV?

There are many ways to design a CV. This section gives an example

Always type your CV.
Print your CV on good quality white paper. The paper size should be A4 (this is 21.0 cm wide and 29.7cm tall).
Usually you should not attach a photograph.

Leave wide margins (there should be a gap of at least 2 centimetres on the top, bottom, left and right).
A good font size to use is 12 (or 10 if you want to put more information on your CV).
The document should use only one font style, for example Times New Roman.
Use bold (Bold) or italics (Italics) to emphasise important words.
Only underline section titles (or do not underline any words).
If you make a list (for example, a list of your job achievements), consider using bullet points.

Try to keep the CV on one side of paper, or use two sides if you have a lot of relevant work experience or qualifications.
Keep your sentences short and simple.
A typical section order is:

- Name
- Address
- Employment
- Education
- Other skills
- Personal details

An explanation of how to complete the various parts of a CV is shown below.
There is an example CV shown below.


When writing your name, always put your own name first and your family name last (even if you write the family name first in your own country).


Include the full postcode in your address.
Make sure that you will be able to collect all mail sent to this address (if you move, ask the owner to forward letters to you).
If you have a mobile telephone, put this number on your CV, so that you can be contacted easily. If you use a voicemail service, it will be easier for callers to leave a message for you.
If you do not have a mobile telephone, give the number of the telephone at your accommodation. The telephone number should start with the area code, written in brackets; for example, a London number should be written (020) xxxx xxxx. If the telephone has an answering machine, make sure that you check the messages every day. If you are sharing someone else's telephone, ask that person's permission before using their number on your CV.
Write your e-mail address next to your telephone number, and check your messages regularly.


Create two columns

Use the left-hand column for dates.
For start and end dates, use either full years (eg 1998-2000) or the first three letters of the month followed by the last two digits of the year (eg Jun 98-Sep 00)

In the right-hand column, provide information about each of your job roles.
Start by writing the name of the company (in bold) and its location.
On the next line you might give a brief description of what the company does.
You might give a title for your job (and perhaps a department name) on another line (highlighting this in bold italics)
You should list your main responsibilities and achievements within each role (perhaps using bullet points)

List the most recent jobs first.
Give more detail for recent jobs.
Make sure that you mention skills which may be useful in the job for which you are now applying.
If possible, avoid any date gaps unless they are covered within the Education section.
Don't mention how much you were paid.

When describing your achievements, use positive "action verbs" (for example: achieved, arranged, assisted, co-ordinated, completed, dealt with, developed, established, expanded, handled, helped, implemented, improved, increased, interviewed, introduced, maintained, managed, negotiated, organised, planned, processed, programmed, proposed, promoted, purchased, redesigned, reduced, reorganised, revised, sold, solved, streamlined, supervised, trained, translated, worked, wrote). You should not use the word "I" on your CV; this is understood. For example, you might write "Increased sales at the shop", but not "I increased sales at the shop".


Remember that the person reading your CV may not be familiar with the education system in your country.

Create two columns

Use the left-hand column for the dates.
For start and end dates, use either full years (eg 1998-2000) or the first three letters of the month followed by the last two digits of the year (eg Jun 98-Sep 00)

In the right-hand column, list the name of the school or university on one line, followed by further details (the course name or the number of exam subjects passed) on the next line.

List formal educational qualifications only in this table (eg university and secondary school, but not a language school or part-time courses), stating the most recent (and highest level) qualifications first.

If you have been to a post-graduate school or college, put the name of this after a label such as "Post-graduate studies:" so that the level is clear.

If you have been to a university, use the word "University" in the name, or put a label such as "University:" before the name so that the level is clear. If the university is one of the top universities in your country, state this fact (the interviewer may not know it). State the name of the town and country after the university's name.
In the description, put the name of the main subject studied (try to avoid using the words "major" or "minor", which are used in American English). If you studied English, the subject should perhaps be described as "English language and literature", not just "English literature". Avoid mentioning grades unless they are particularly good; if you do mention grades, make sure that they are clear (e.g. "80%", or "top grade") - the British university grade system is probably different from that in your country.

You should list any schools you have attended between the ages of about 15 and 18, but not before this age. You should add the label "Secondary school:" before the name of the school, or include the words "High School" in the name. If you took exams in a wide range of subjects, you may prefer to list only the number of subjects passed instead of the subject names, or if you have been to university you may choose not to list any secondary school qualifications.

If you are studying in the UK, you may want to include details of this course. If so, write this in a line under the main table. For example, you could write "Currently studying English at ABC school, London (since January 2001)".

Other skills

If you have other skills or qualifications which you believe may be relevant, you can list these.
For example:
English exams which you have passed (eg "Passed Cambridge First Certificate of English").
Computer skills (eg "Good knowledge of standard office software, including e-mail and the internet")
Typing speed (only mention this if you are applying for data entry or secretarial jobs)
An international driving licence (only mention this if you may need to drive for the job)

Personal details

Create two columns; use the left-hand column for labels and the right-hand column for information.
The exact list of personal details you want to give may depend on your circumstances and what the job requires, but the list below will give you a guide.

Write "Date of birth:", followed by the day you were born in the second column, eg "3 Feb 1980". Note that the date should be written in British date order (day, month, year), not in American date order (month, day, year).

Write "Nationality:", followed by your nationality eg "Japanese".

You may want to write "Gender:", followed by "Male" or "Female", if this is not obvious to a British person from your name. Whether you are a man or a woman may be relevant for some jobs.

Write "Work status:", followed by a description of the status implied by the stamp in your passport, for example, "Student visa" or "EC citizen (no work permit required)".

Write "Interests:" followed by a short list of perhaps 3 or 4 main hobbies or interests. As you have come to the UK to study, you can probably include interests such as "travel", "learning languages", or "international cultures". Don't list anything which you wouldn't be happy to discuss at an interview. Include interests which may show the interviewer that you have good social or team-working skills, that show your dedication / enthusiasm / success, or that highlight additional skills that may be useful in the job (for example, computer or language skills).

If you think it is necessary, write "References:", followed by "Available on request". You should only provide references if your employer asks for them. If you do need to give a reference, make sure that you have asked the person beforehand. Possible referees include a teacher or previous employer. It may complicate your application if you give the name of a referee who lives abroad; if you want to do this, make sure that the person will be able to provide comments in English, and give an e-mail address so that delays can be minimised.

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52 Orchard Street, London W2 3BT
Telephone: 020-7654 3210; Mobile: 07960 999999; E-mail:


1999-2001 Natural Group, Tokyo, Japan
  A manufacturer and retailer of natural foods and supplements in Japan
  Sales Assistant
· Advised the main shop's customers about organic and health foods
· Developed new business in smaller satellite stores, explaining the benefits of supplements and organic food to potential new customers
· Increased sales at both the main and the satellite shops. The extra profits were used to expand the business by establishing a new shop
1997-1999 Sony Corporation, Tokyo, Japan
  A Japanese conglomerate which develops and manufactures consumer and industrial electronic equipment world-wide
  Administration Assistant, General Affairs Department
· Examined incoming mail and redirected this to the appropriate division
· Translated foreign letters (written in English) into Japanese
  Customs Clearance Officer, Import Division, Sony Air Cargo
  · Completed reports (e.g. bills of entry) to facilitate the import of goods from abroad
· Dealt with customs enquiries and procedures


Sep 2001 - Britannia School of English, London
  English language school; passed Cambridge First Certificate exam in June 2002
1993-1997 Meikai University, Chiba, Japan
  Degree in International Relations

Other Skills

Computer literate: good knowledge of Word and Excel, as well as e-mail and the internet
Fluent in Japanese; practical knowledge of English and Korean

Personal Details

Date of Birth 6 January 1975
Nationality Japanese
Gender Female
Work status Student visa
Interests Studying English, visiting museums, playing golf

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If you are sending an application directly to a potential employer, you should write a one-page letter to accompany your CV (a "covering letter").
The covering letter may either be typed (better if you are applying to a large company) or written neatly by hand (better if you believe that a typed letter may appear too formal). There is an example covering letter shown below.

If you know the name of the person who is dealing with the job applications, you can start the letter with "Dear Mr Smith" or "Dear Ms Smith" (you can use "Dear Mrs Smith" if you know she is married; if the person has a title you should use it, for example "Dear Professor Smith"), and in this case you should end the letter with "Yours sincerely". If you do not know the name of the person, you should start the letter with "Dear Sir" or "Dear Sir/Madam", and end the letter with "Yours faithfully".

If you are applying for a particular job vacancy, write which job you are applying for (including a reference number if there is one) and where you saw the advertisement. Briefly describe why you think you are suitable for the job; mention any relevant work experience or qualifications which you have.
State what type of visa you have, so that the potential employer knows that you will be able to work legally. You may want to mention the level of your English ability.

Explain in your letter how you can be contacted. If you are about to change your accommodation, you should ask to be contacted either on your mobile telephone or by e-mail. If you give the telephone number of your host family, you should ask them for their permission first, and you should check if they have an answering machine.

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  Akiko Tanaka
  52 Orchard Street
  W2 3BT
  Mobile: 07960 999999
Fortnum & Mason's  
181 Piccadilly  
W1A 1ER  
  3 August 2002


Dear Sir/Madam,


Re: Job as a part-time sales assistant (reference: JBW5014)

I would like to apply for the job of a part-time sales assistant in the food section of Fortnum & Mason's in Piccadilly, as advertised in Loot Recruit on 2 August. Please find attached a copy of my CV.

My previous jobs include two years as a sales assistant in an organic food shop in Japan. This has given me experience of dealing with customers, as well as cashier skills and a basic knowledge of food retailing. I have been living in London since last September, and am currently studying English at a language school. I have good English communication skills (recently I passed the Cambridge First Certificate in English exam). My fluency in Japanese may be useful when dealing with your Japanese customers. I am an enthusiastic worker, and enjoy working in a team. My student visa entitles me to work up to 20 hours per week (or longer during my school holidays), and I could start work immediately.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the job vacancy with you on the telephone or at an interview. I can be contacted most easily on my mobile telephone or by e-mail (see details at the top of this letter).


Yours faithfully,

Akiko Tanaka

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Check your CV and covering letter carefully before you send them.
Use the spell-checker on the computer (set the language to British English rather than American English).
Ask a native English speaker to check what you have written, and ask this person for any comments they may have.

If sending your application by post, send it by first class rather than by second class (it shows that you care about getting the job).
If you send an application by e-mail, telephone to make sure that it has arrived, or send an application in the post as well.
Alternatively, you may wish to hand in your application personally; if so, use this opportunity to find out more about the company and ask when you can expect to hear from them.

If you have not heard from the company two weeks after you sent your application (or before the closing date for applications, if there is one), telephone the company to check that your job application has been received and that there haven't been any problems contacting you.

It is often the case that people are invited for an interview for only a small number of the jobs to which they apply. Try not to feel depressed if it takes a long time to get a job. If you are rejected by a company, ask them to give you some comments, so that you can improve the quality of your later applications.

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