By Cath McLellan

19 Nov 2019 - 08:54

How to prepare a good cv in English

If you have experienced job-hunting, you probably understand why people say that looking for a job is like a full time job in itself. The first stage of what is often a long and sometimes stressful process is putting together your curriculum vitae (CV, or 'resume' in the USA). Often this is the first introduction to potential employers, and as the old saying goes, 'first impressions count'.  It's important to remember that while there are no hard and fast rules for what makes a great CV, it's important to have a clear idea of what a CV in English should include (and what should be left out). Here are some ideas to get you started:


Don't write too much. Some people insist that a CV should be no more than 1 side of an A4 page. Although this might be a little too short to fit in all of your many achievements and work experience, often on a CV less is more. Nobody is interested in a beginner's level recorder certificate that you got when you were 8, so try to stick to relevant skills and experience only. Two sides of A4 should be more than enough space.

What to include? 

A CV should include all of these sections:

  • Personal details  - name, address, date of birth and contact details.
  • Academic qualifications  - Put the most recent ones first, so that your higher qualifications are at the top, and include the dates that you started and finished each qualification, plus the name of the institution.
  • Work experience - again, with most recent experience first. Think about how to write a brief description of each job in English, giving some brief details about what you did. Try to make sure these are relevant to the job you are applying for - e.g. if you were working in a hotel, highlight the customer service or language skills that you needed, if these are also relevant for the job you want.  It's worth looking up some key phrases for talking about job skills. If you don't have much experience, you could mention any voluntary work, work placements or other academic projects that you have been involved in. They probably required many of the same skills that are valued in the job market.
  • Other skills - here you could include information about additional skills such as IT, languages, or if you can drive etc. Remember to give an honest appraisal of your level; it's a good idea to use the CEFR levels if you can. If the job requires fluent English, and you put this on your CV, be prepared to demonstrate it in an interview!
  • Interests - these should be interests that reflect the type of job you are applying for and say something about you - for example, if you are looking for a job in HR, your hobbies should reflect an interest in people and teamwork.
  • References - Think of at least two people who could give you a reference. If you don't have space, you can simply write 'references on request', as most employers won't contact referees until after an interview.

How do you say....?   

Check how to translate job titles and academic qualifications correctly, but also don't be afraid to use Spanish where there is no English equivalent - academic qualifications are not exactly the same. You may need to write something in Spanish and then give a brief explanation in English - Check out some ideas below:

Português Inglês

Secundária (equivalent to A-levels) [para o Reino Unido]
Secundária (equivalent to High School diploma) [para os EUA]
Secundária (secondary school certificate) [para os restantes países]

Formação profissional Vocational training
Grau/Curso universitário Degree
Mestrado Master’s degree
Doutoramento Master’s PHD/Doctorate

The personal statement

Some people like to include a personal statement at the top of their CV. This is basically a short paragraph (4-6 lines), which is like a mini-advert for you, giving an overview of your profiles, skills, personal qualities and experiences.  The idea is that this allows the employer to quickly identify who you are and what you can offer them.  It could be something like 'I am a motivated graduate in communications looking for a support role in a media organisation. I have successfully worked on international projects during work placements in different leading media companies in Madrid, where was I the contact person for valued clients, and now I am looking for an opportunity to expand my international experience in a similar setting in the UK'.  Again, try to focus on skills and experience that are relevant to the job that you are applying for.  A personal statement is definitely not essential, but is becoming more usual on CVs these days, particularly in creative industry jobs.

Should I include a photo?

In neither the UK nor the USA is it usual to include a photo on your CV - in fact, in many cases it would be considered a bit strange, unless the application specifically asks you to. There are strict laws governing what an employer can and can't ask you to include in a job application to avoid discrimination, so don't assume that you need to put all your personal details on your CV. If in doubt, don't include one  - it is easy enough to direct an employer to your LinkedIn page if you have one, and if not, then they will soon see what you look like when they call you for an interview!

Stand out (but for the right reasons)

Remember that you probably don't know who will be reading your CV. It could be a young, hip HR manager who loves a reading quirky information about the candidate written on yellow paper using a crazy font. It probably won't be though, so make sure that your CV is not too flashy or that it draws attention for the wrong reasons. It is a professional document and should look like one.  It's a good idea to ask an English-speaking friend or better still, an English teacher to look over your CV to check your grammar and vocabulary, and make sure you use a reliable spell checker. Most recruiters say that bad grammar and spelling is enough to put them off a candidate. Make sure your e-mail address is up to date and professional sounding too, and not something like ''


Whatever job you are applying for, there are some key phrases that are useful when writing your CV. Try to incorporate these when you are writing about your previous skills and experience:

  • I was responsible for - e.g. I was responsible for dealing with customer complaints.
  • Develop skills - e.g.  I was able to develop my communication skills
  • Role (as an alternative to job) - e.g This role allowed me to use my language skills
  • Gain experience - e.g. I gained experience in keeping records up to date
  • Professional training - e.g My professional training includes....
  • Use positive adjectives to describe  yourself  - e.g. creative, pro-active, innovative, reliable, positive
  • Use action verbs to describe your experience - avoid using 'did' or 'worked' - e.g.  coordinated, implemented, managed, achieved, identified

Your CV should be easy to read, clear, accurate, honest, but most of all it should be a good reflection of you and your experience.  The British Council has some useful resources to help you practice CV writing, as well as some useful advice for what to include on your CV.  Good luck finding your dream job!