Top Tips

There is no single "correct" way to write and present a CV but the following general rules apply:

  • It is targeted on the specific job or career area for which you are applying and brings out the relevant skills you have to offer
  • It is carefully and clearly laid out: logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped
  • It is informative but concise
  • It is accurate in content, spelling and grammar. If you mention attention to detail as a skill, make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect!

Personal details
Normally these would be your name, address, date of birth (although with age discrimination laws now in force this isn't essential), telephone number and email.

Education and qualifications
Your degree subject and university, plus A levels and GCSEs or equivalents. Mention grades unless they are poor.

Work experience

  • Use action words such as developed, planned and organised - these will help describe you as an individual
  • Even work in a shop, bar or restaurant will involve working in a team, providing a quality service to customers, and dealing tactfully with complaints.
  • Try to relate the skills to the job that you are applying for. A finance job will involve numeracy, analytical and problem solving skills so focus on these whereas for a marketing role you would place a bit more emphasis on persuading and negotiating skills.

Interests and achievements

  • Keep this section short and to the point. As you grow older, your employment record will take precedence and interests will typically diminish greatly in length and importance.
  • Bullets can be used to separate interests into different types: sporting, creative etc.
  • Don't use the old boring cliches here: "socialising with friends".
  • Don't put many passive, solitary hobbies (reading, watching TV, stamp collecting) or you may be perceived as lacking people skills. If you do put these, than say what you read or watch: "I particularly enjoy Dickens, for the vivid insights you get into life in Victorian times".
  • Show a range of interests to avoid coming across as narrow : if everything centres around sport they may wonder if you could hold a conversation with a client who wasn't interested in sport.
  • Hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary can help you to stand out from the crowd: skydiving or mountaineering can show a sense of wanting to stretch yourself and an ability to rely on yourself in demanding situations
  • Any interests relevant to the job are worth mentioning: current affairs if you wish to be a journalist; a fantasy share portfolio such as Bullbearings if you want to work in finance.
  • Any evidence of leadership is important to mention: captain or coach of a sports team, course representative, chair of a student society.
  • Anything showing evidence of employability skills such as teamworking, organising, planning, persuading, negotiating etc.


  • The usual ones to mention are languages (good conversational French, basic Spanish), computing (e.g. "good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel, plus basic web page design skills" and driving ("full current clean driving licence").
  • If you are a mature candidate or have lots of relevant skills to offer, a skills-based CV may work for you Referees
  • Normally two referees are sufficient: one academic (perhaps your tutor or a project supervisor) and one from an employer (perhaps your last part-time or summer job).
  • Please make sure that your references are to the point and give an overall view of your skills.

Tips on presentation

  • Your CV should be carefully and clearly laid out - not too cramped but not with large empty spaces either. Use bold and italic typefaces for headings and important information
  • Never back a CV - each page should be on a separate sheet of paper. It's a good idea to put your name in the footer area so that it appears on each sheet.
  • Be concise - a CV is an appetiser and should not give the reader indigestion. Don't feel that you have to list every exam you have ever taken, or every activity you have ever been involved in - consider which are the most relevant and/or impressive.
  • Be positive - put yourself over confidently and highlight your strong points. For example, when listing your A-levels, put your highest grade first

An interview is your chance to show your new potential employer how good you are and to secure the position you have applied for. In order to help you perform at your best, Capita has prepared this pack of simple hints and tips.

Getting in the right frame of mind

Being selected for interview means you are nearly there, so go into the interview with a positive frame of mind. The employer has obviously read your CV and feels you are a strong contender for the position, so you should be feeling confident.

Think about the reasons you applied and what you have to offer the organisation and be ready to discuss any aspects of your CV to date. It is good idea to re-read your CV before the interview and think about questions which you may be asked.

It will also help you to get into a professional, positive frame of mind if you make sure you are dressed to impress and take the necessary paperwork with you. You should be smart and well groomed and have the job description, any information on the organisation and a pad and paper with you to make notes if necessary.

Gaps in your CV

You will also need to explain gaps in your CV. If you worked in a temporary capacity but didn't put it on your CV, know the details of which companies you worked with, what you did for them and the length of the assignments. If you did not work but did search for a job give some examples of the research you did regarding job opportunities and the process you went through to find the position.

Reasons for leaving

Prepare to discuss the reasons you left your previous jobs. If it was for a better opportunity, explain how it was an opportunity. If you left involuntarily, present the reason in the most positive light you can. Make sure your responses are honest and be positive.

Research the job and organisation

Before attending any interview it is important to do your research and familiarise yourself with the organisation and the job role. Visit the organisation's website, read the job description and ensure you have information to hand on:

  • Size of organisation, number of employees in department etc.
  • History, how long have they been operating - do they have any affiliated organisations or belong to an umbrella group?
  • General information about their services/products/aims etc.
  • Major competitors or other organisations operating in the same field.
  • Job description - understand the skills required for the position.
  • Relationship between the open position and other members of staff - have a sense for the department.
  • Have some well thought-out questions that would help further your understanding of the organisation e.g. how will the organisation be affected by the new legislation on xyz...

The interview is not only a chance for the interviewer to assess if you are the right person for the job, but it is also an opportunity for you to see if the job is suitable for you. By asking questions and giving the interviewer your full attention, you will be able to establish if it really is the right organisation, role and culture for you. Asking questions also demonstrates your enthusiasm and shows your interest.

Try to use 'open questions', which need full answers rather than a yes/no answer as this will give you much more detail.

Some questions you may like to ask are:

  • More specific detail on the key tasks and responsibilities of the job
  • What are the current and future projects?
  • Where do you see this role evolving?

Keep your concentration levels up during the interview and make sure you listen to the responses the interviewer gives you, so that you don't ask questions about topics that have already been covered, or don't hear or understand what the interviewer has said.

Answering questions and selling yourself

Of course, the interviewing will also be asking you questions. Do ensure you use this as an opportunity to 'sell' yourself. A good interviewer will often throw all sorts of challenging questions at you, in order to see if you are suitable for the job and you need to be careful that you are not defensive in your responses. Some examples of questions might be:

  • What relevant experience do you have for this job?
  • How do you perform under pressure?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What interests you most about this job?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a natural leader?
  • Tell me about yourself. This is an open question, and is a good opportunity for you to reveal the strengths that you mentioned in your personal profile. This is also your chance to reveal your personality, so just be yourself.
  • What are your biggest accomplishments? This should be job related, and is a chance to show your competency
  • How do you handle criticism? Try to portray the attitude that all criticism has a benefit, providing an opportunity for improvement. Also elaborate by giving an example of a poor idea that has been criticised rather than a substandard piece of work
  • How will you cope with a change in environment? Talk about how you can adapt and learn quickly Turning negatives into positives (change your weaknesses into strengths)
  • What can you do for us that someone else can't? If you have understood the details of the job then try to answer this with a combination of your skills/experience which others are unlikely to have.
  • Describe a difficult problem you've had to deal with. Clearly explain how you have approached a problem, the result and how the difficult outcome was averted. This will show that you have a positive attitude to all challenges, and you were not discouraged or intimidated by the situation.
  • What is your greatest weakness? This is your chance to show that you have identified and are working on reducing your weaknesses. Turn your weakness into strengths.
  • How do you handle tension/stress? Explain how you avoid stressful situations, and if not how you deal with it, for example: exercising and going to the gym.
  • How do you take direction? Show by giving examples of how you can be briefed and finish the task without unnecessary disagreements/complications
  • How do you handle rejection? Much of today's business is commercially orientated; therefore a good answer would tend to be that you move on but take on board what has happened and use it to benefit you in the future.
  • Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile. Smiling is a good positive signal, as it reaffirms your good nature
  • Ensure your manner is professional and business-like throughout the interview process
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Relax do not rush or fidget
  • Maintain an alert position, sit up straight, don't slouch, but be comfortable
  • Always speak clearly in a controlled range of tones. Do not speak in monotone and always pause before speaking, this avoids instinctively reacting and saying the wrong thing. Use positive language
  • Ask relevant questions
  • Don't get into discussions about your personal life, and decline any bait to mention secrets of your present employer, the interviewer should respect your trustworthiness and integrity
  • Ensure that you don't smell of any strong odours, e.g. alcohol, garlic or even perfume
  • Don't fidget or play with your hair, clothing, items in your pockets etc
  • Avoid negative phrases such as: 'I don't know'. I'm not sure'

Remember that as soon as your interview is over, your consultant will be eager to know how you got on and give your feedback to the client. They will also have feedback for you from the interviewer, so ensure you call as soon as possible and let us know how you got on and whether you would be interested in the job if it were to be offered to you.

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