How to write the perfect CV

Don't forget your CV has to be well-presented as well as well-written
Application advice

Whether you're applying for first year schemes, internships or graduate roles, the chances are you'll have to submit a CV at some stage of the application process.

Your CV should be used to sell yourself to potential employers and make them want to get to know you better at an interview.

Hundreds of CVs cross recruiters' desks every year so it's important to make yours instantly stand out from the pile. We asked around the City to find out what works and what doesn't, and here's our advice for a winning CV...

1. Start early

There's no better time than the present to sort out your CV.

Getting the basic structure down will save a lot of work when the perfect opportunity pops up.

2. Presentation and style

Keep the length limited to two sides of A4 maximum. The layout should be simple with bold headings to separate the sections.

Use bullet points to deliver information clearly and concisely. Stick to black text and use a font that's easy to read (Arial is one of the most universally accepted options).

3. Structure

Start with your contact details at the top. Next, introduce yourself with a short profile tailored to the job you're applying for - no longer than a sentence or two.

Now to the nitty gritty. Start with your education and qualifications, followed by your work experience, achievements and interests. Include a skills section if it's relevant to the job you're applying for. Finally, put references at the bottom.

4. Contact details

Provide your name, postal address, contact telephone number and email address, and make sure they're correct!

If you're still using the Hotmail account you set up when you were 13, get a new one for job-hunting and keep it professional ([email protected]).

5. Education

Start with the most recent qualification (your degree - even if you haven't completed it yet) and work back to your A Levels and GCSEs (or equivalent), listing the subject and grade you achieved.

Try to set yourself apart by including details of any courses, projects or dissertation topics that are particularly relevant to the job you're applying for.

6. Work experience

Whether it's an internship or stacking shelves over the summer holidays, think about the qualities you demonstrated that are relevant to the job you're applying for.

So, if you've had a part-time job in a bar, it could show your skills in client-service and your history of good teamwork and communication.

7. Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are important, but recruiters don't want to see a long list of society memberships because it can look unfocused.

Remember, even if you're applying to an investment bank it's better to be president of the tiddlywinks society than a mere member of the finance society's Facebook group. Recruiters want to see that you've taken on responsibility and boosted your personal and professional development.

8. Be honest and accurate

If you're invited to an interview be prepared to elaborate on everything on you CV.

If you claim to be fluent in a foreign language, make sure you actually are - you might be put to the test!

9. References

If you've been asked for references, give the name, job title and contact details of two referees at the bottom of your CV.

Make sure you ask tutors and former employers before you give their details so they won't be caught off-guard by a call.

10. Check spelling and grammar

We can't stress the importance of triple-checking your CV enough.

Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes look unprofessional, lazy and careless - and they give recruiters a good reason to discard your CV.

Recommended reading

Make sure your commercial awareness is up to scratch by reading our interview with Christopher Stoakes, author of Know the city and Commercial Awareness, and consultant to global law firm Hogan Lovells (although this advice is relevant to all industries)