Must-know tips for creating a UK-friendly CV

Whether you’re sending a family member over or planning to immigrate yourself, one of the biggest challenges of moving to the United Kingdom is finding a job before your savings run dry.  Many South Africans have experienced the stress of moving to the UK and unexpectedly having to wait, sometimes up to six months, to find work.

Adjusting your curriculum vitae (CV) to UK standards will ensure you’re noticed quickly by recruiters and able to start earning precious pounds sterling as soon as possible. 

Here are our top tips for creating a UK-friendly CV:

1. Include your contact details

Include your email address and phone number directly on your CV to make it as easy as possible for a recruiter or interviewer to get in touch for an interview.  Don’t make them search through their inbox to find out how to contact you.

On the other hand, don’t share overly personal information.

“With regards to some of the CVs we have received from South Africans, they tend to include their race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status as well as a photograph.We usually recommend they remove these details before applying further,” says Penny Gerrard from Michael Page – a UK recruitment agency.

2. Use the third person

Avoid using ‘I’ in your CV.  Most South Africans have been taught to use the first-person voice in their CV, which unfortunately hurts the professionalism of your resumé. 

UK employers tend to prefer CVs written in the third person, making it easier for you to draw attention to your career achievements without coming across as boastful or arrogant.

3. Include an introductory paragraph

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of your work experience and academic achievements, write a short paragraph that immediately captures the attention of your reader and entices them to find out more about you. 

Think about what someone else might say about you when introducing you as a speaker at a business conference or look up examples of introductory paragraphs for UK CVs online.

4. Use their keywords

Many UK businesses use recruitment agencies to fulfil their staffing needs, which means you will often find yourself typing your CV information directly into their online platforms. 

These platforms use clever software that looks for keyword matches to evaluate the relevance of your CV compared to specific industries, experience or skill sets. 

This means it’s essential that you ‘code’ your CV to match the keywords in advertisements for the types of jobs you are interested in.

5. List your experience first

Unless you’re fresh out of university, in the UK it’s common practice to begin your CV with the details of your work experience. 

Start with your most recent work experience and work in chronologically reverse order, being sure to include the name and location of the company, the dates of your employment, your job title and a company website if they have one.

6. Highlight responsibilities and achievements

Use bullet points to highlight your key responsibilities and achievements for each role so the person (or software) scanning your CV can easily match your experience with their job description. This is extremely helpful to recruiters and employers as job titles in South Africa don’t always translate directly into the UK market.

” The experience and skills usually point out to us the candidate’s capabilities and strengths.In particular for us in the global opportunities team, the experience and skills allows us to find out where the candidate sits in terms of their discipline,” adds Gerrard.

7. List your education

In brief detail, list your academic and professional qualifications along with the grades you achieved, where applicable.

8. Share your key skills

Many recruiters and potential employers want to see a list of your key skills and capabilities that you’ve developed over the years.  Some of these skills will be connected to interacting with people and some will be more technical skills. 

Make sure to list all the foreign languages you’re fluent in, as well as the software packages you know how to work with, too.

9. Detail your hobbies and interests

This is an optional section to include in your CV, but the idea is to give the interviewer a more rounded picture of who you are and perhaps something more personal to discuss at the interview.

10. Indicate that you have references

It’s not essential to list references on your CV, but you should at least indicate that references are available on request.  Having three contactable references who aren’t family members is common practice.

11. Keep it short and sweet

Always keep your CV to two A4 pages.  Unless you’ve had your CV professionally designed, it’s usually best to avoid ‘jazzing’ it up with colour, images and huge paragraphs of text.  Stick to easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman or Arial and don’t forget to ask someone to proofread it for spelling errors or typos! 

12. It’s not for you

One of the UK’s leading job websites, Monster, advises job seekers to “design your CV for your readers, not for yourself”. 

Keep your CV short, interesting and to the point and you will be likely to attract plenty of interview opportunities. 

If you are looking for more recommendations or would like an industry professional to give objective input, please take a look at our CV writing services page.

If you need help getting a UK visa or understanding your UK immigration options, speak to one of our experienced consultants by calling 021 761 4608, email or take the Move Up online visa assessment.