Put together a great CV-The Times Online

Lynn Williams, careers expert and author of Readymade CVs and The Ultimate Interview Book answers your questions about how to put together a job-winning CV

Would you say consulting and professional services firms like PWC and Deloitte would prefer a chronological CV as opposed to a skills based one?Martyn O’Brien, Sheffield

Some prefer one thing, some another. There’s no reason why you can’t give them both in one CV. Put a Key Skills or Key Achievements section at the top of your CV, below a Personal Profile, to highlight your major points, then follow on with a chronological career history.


Personal Profile

Office administrator and PA with experience of all aspects of office work including managing up to five staff. Reliable, methodical, good at handling a variety of tasks efficiently, with a strong aptitude for organization and administration.

Key Skills

· Windows XP
· Word; Outlook Express; Excel; Access; PowerPoint;
· Executive office administration - Diary scheduling - Executive-level correspondence - Time-sensitive assignments - Advanced computer applications

Career History

2001 to present

Executive Assistant Reported directly to senior management; worked independently on a daily basis, and managed comprehensive day-to-day office operations
· Set up agendas and minuted all departmental meetings up to, and including, board level
· Trained staff in office procedures
· Co-ordinated department work schedules
· Maintained computer systems and confidential records
· Created databases, word processing and reports

1997 to 2001

Office Manager …

And so on.

I have three A grades at A level and 2 E grades. When writing my CV I always omit the two Es. Is this wrong? Andreas Kokkinos, Larnaca, Cyprus

It’s difficult to say without knowing more about your current situation. If you’ve just left school and are looking for your first job, all your qualifications are important as the employer has little else on which to judge you. Include your E-grade A-levels – after all, you studied the subjects and know something about them even if you didn’t do that well in the exam. You could omit the actual grade if you wanted.


A-levels: English; French; History – grade A; Economics; German
GCSEs: 7 including Maths, French and English

If you have a degree, or are studying towards one, this becomes your most important qualification – see the examples in questions three and 10, below. Once you start work, your work experience increasingly becomes more important than your A-levels. Keep them on your CV as an indication of your potential, but, ideally, you should aim to get relevant work-related training and qualifications that will supersede them.



NVQ level 3 Office Practice
A-levels: English; French; History: Economics: German
GCSEs: 7 including Maths and English

I'm an accounting and finance student from UWE in Bristol and in September I'll be starting to apply for graduate jobs. My A-level grades aren't that great, but I've worked really hard over the last couple of years and am on course for a 2:1, maybe a first. How can I concentrate my CV on this so that employeers will see the improvement that I've made on my studies? I have taken a sandwich year, and so also have over a year in relevant experience Josephine Cade, Manchester

Your degree course and your work experience take precedence over your A-levels. Highlight these on the first page of your CV and down-play your A-levels. Give full details of the skills and experience gained during your sandwich year, and details of the subjects covered in your course so that employers can judge the range of your theoretical knowledge as well as your actual experience. Mention your expected result in your covering letter along with the fact that you have relevant work experience – see the answer to question five below.


Career Objective

A highly motivated college leaver with relevant employment experience and a recently completed BTEC National Diploma in Computing, looking for a position that provides the opportunity to continue to build further experience in this area.

Work Experience

2004-2005 (sandwich year)

ABC Systems IT Assistant
· Updated and maintained marketing database
· Used a range of software to convert raw data into charts and graphs for reports
· Assisted with production of reports and analyses, including data research and compiling statistics
· Achieved maximum performance rating during appraisal

Education and Training

2002 - present

Surrey College BTEC National Diploma in Computing Specialising in: Networking and ICT Support
The course covered all aspects of computing, including:
· Computer Systems
· Communications Technology
· Computational Methods
· Software Development
· Programming Practice
· Network Design and Administration

1995 - 2002

Priory Park School

A levels: Maths; Computing; Physics; Economics
GCSE: Seven including Maths and IT

I am a final year LPC. I am applying for a training contract at the moment. In my previous career, I have been a midwife and NHS manager. I am trying to put together my CV for my application. How do I explain all this to give myself the best chance of getting a training contract? ML Lim, London

What skills have being a midwife and NHS manager given you that will be of use in your new career? Put them in a Key Skills section at the top of your CV (see question 1). Pick out the skills, qualities and achievements along with the responsibilities and duties that are most relevant to the new job and emphasise these in your CV and in your covering letter. Make yourself as good a fit as possible and show how you will be able to transfer your skills from one role to the other.

How long should a covering letter be? I have a feeling I may ramble on too long, but I don't want to miss anything out that might be integral to "selling myself" Caroline Beashel, Bournemouth

The most important thing to get across in your covering letter is your suitability for the job. Study job ads and job descriptions for the sort of work you want to do and include your relevant skills, qualifications and experience, using the letter to highlight the key points in your CV.


Dear Ms Smith (always write to a named person)

I will be completing a BSc Degree in Chemistry this year and I am writing to enquire if you would have a suitable vacancy for a newly qualified industrial chemist. My undergraduate courses included both organic and inorganic chemistry, and I also completed supplementary courses in mathematics and computing.

My work experience includes a summer placement with ABC Ltd, assisting in the alkali-wash trials for the treatment of petroleum waste. I very much enjoyed working in an industrial laboratory and found the experience both interesting and rewarding. During my placement there, I discovered I had an aptitude for detailed and accurate work. I also learned how to work as part of a team and to communicate effectively at all levels.

I include further details about my responsibilities and duties at ABC, along with the topics covered on my degree course, in my enclosed CV.

Should you not be recruiting currently, I would appreciate your keeping my name on file for future reference. I would, in any case, be very interested in a brief meeting with you to discuss possible career prospects in your field.

Yours sincerely

How important is the University you've studied at to potential employers? Louise Wallace, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

What’s more important is the range and depth of the topics you’ve studied, and any work experience you have. See the answers to other questions for ways to get these across in your CV and covering letter.

I have quite a lot of work experience but most of it is low paid bar work and shelf-stacking – nothing to do with getting into journalism, which is what I want to do. Do I need to mention these jobs on my CV and if so where do I put them and how do I make them sound useful for my chosen career?Dan Behan, Bristol

See question four, above. Briefly, make your experience relevant. Think hard about what you’ve learned in these jobs that will make you a better employee – self-discipline, taking responsibility, following instructions, getting on with others, and so on – and, even more importantly, what will make you a better journalist – interpersonal skills, seeing a wide range of life, being a good listener, thinking on your feet, etc.
Apart from that, can you turn your experience into actual articles that demonstrate you can find the story in hum-drum reality? What do shelf-stackers see behind the scenes; do people really tell bar tenders things they wouldn’t anyone else?

I’ve heard that you should put a “personal statement” on your CV, just a few lines to sell yourself. But isn’t this supposed to be what a covering letter is for? Jacqui Whewell, Ipswich

Put a Personal Statement or Personal Profile in your CV as well; your letter may not be kept and if you put your CV onto an on-line bank, there won’t be a letter anyway. Alternatively, call it a Career Objective and include the sort of position you are looking for – useful when writing speculative letters rather than answering job-ads (see question 3, above). Either way, use it to summarise the rest of your CV – what you are, what you do, your key skills and experience, your personal qualities.


Biological Sciences graduate with laboratory and administrative experience in an industrial environment and an understanding of the requirements of a commercial organisation. Used to adapting to high pressure and tight deadlines while remaining both accurate and good-humoured.

What should come at the top of a CV – my degree, A levels and so on, or my work experience? And should I put my name address and personal details before both of these? Ben Fanshawe, Bradford

See the examples given in answer to the questions above. Briefly, put your name, address and contact details at the top, followed by a Personal Profile that summarises your key strengths. Next, put the most important information about you. If your main selling-point is your degree, put details of that, the courses you’ve done, the topics covered, and so on, followed by any work experience, giving your duties and responsibilities.


Education and Training

2003 - Present

BSc Business and Finance
Final year modules:
· Financial planning and control
· Business statistics
· Business Information Technology
· Administration systems
· Business environment
· Human resources
· Policies and procedures

1996 - 2003
Priory Park School

A levels: Maths; Computing; Physics; Economics
GCSE: Seven including Maths and IT

Work Experience

2003 – Present

ABC Ltd Cashier and Sales Assistant
· Customer service
· Handled large amounts of money
· Alcohol and tobacco legislation

If your most attractive feature is your highly-relevant work experience, put that first instead, followed by the information about your degree – see question three above. Any other information comes after all this, including your date of birth, hobbies and interests.

Wax - Southern California (A Film By Spike Jonze)

This is the infamous music video by Spike Jonze... What a filmaker!!! Story so simple but its so effective and it looks visually incredible.


'Heaven' was used in the acclaimed skate film Fully Flared directed by Spike Jonze and Ty Evans. The collaboration inspired the directors to take footage and re-edit a sequence of shots that shows the Lakai skateboarding team demonstrating their considerable skills as they navigate through and around various exploding obstacles. With 'Heaven' as the musical backdrop, the resulting marriage of sound to picture is quite extraordinary.

Inglourious Basterds

Public Enemies

Spike JOnze-Where the wild Things are!

Explicit Ills!

This is Mark Webbers new film it looks incredible. I think that not only the story but the visual style looks really good. I hope to try and produce some films of this standard in the future.