Career guidance: creating a CV

A CV is often a potential employer’s first impression of a candidate. Taking the time to write a good CV will help applicants to stand out from the crowd, and maximise their chances of being invited to an interview.

What are employers looking for?

Employers’ needs vary. Applicants should read the job advert/job description and person specification carefully as this will contain the key information needed. It should indicate the type of person the employer is looking for, experience required and the qualifications needed. Applicants should be prepared to create more than one CV. Tailoring a CV to suit a specific role is better than sending out the same CV for multiple jobs.

Which format?

There are several different kinds of CV to consider. The National Careers Service suggests that people should choose the format that best suits their aims and shows them in the best light. No matter which format is chosen, applicants should ensure that they give the most space to the information that is most relevant to the job that they are applying for.

Chronological CV

A chronological CV is one of the most commonly used CVs. This allows people to list their personal details, work experience and academic qualifications in reverse chronological order.

Functional (skills based) CV

Functional CVs focus on transferable skills and experience, and can prove particularly useful for people who are looking for a career change, students and recent graduates.

Returning to work CV

There are lots of reasons why people may take a break from practising as a pharmacist. For example, taking time to recover from a long term illness, bringing up a family or taking a gap year. Returning to work after a long break can be difficult. However, if you are able to demonstrate what you have achieved during this time it can make the transition easier.

Think about how the things you have been doing during your break can transfer to the jobs market. Key areas include communication, decision making and planning and organisation.

Student CV

Ideally, students should write a CV in the first year of their studies and then update it regularly to reflect new experiences. It is best to use a simple, clear format that is easy for prospective employers to read. CVs should reflect all of your skills, abilities and experience, including that not directly relevant to pharmacy. Good interpersonal and communication skills are also important. All universities have a careers advisory service and students can contact them for assistance with CVs.

Graduate CV    

Whilst some graduates apply for roles that are specifically related to their degree, for example, pharmacists, others may want to apply for roles that are open to applicants from any degree. Graduates should not assume that an employer will know what their degree involved unless they tell them. Applicants should include any skills developed through work experience and extracurricular activities.

CV checklist

No matter which format is chosen, all CVs should contain some or all of the following details:-

  • contact details
  • a personal profile
  • significant achievements
  • work experience
  • responsibilities and achievements at work
  • education and qualifications
  • professional development
  • technical skills
  • interests.

Applicants should also:-

  • ensure that they have highlighted their essential skills, responsibilities and achievements and that they are appropriate, or in some way transferable, to the job for which they are applying
  • remember that less is more, avoid long paragraphs and use bullet points wherever possible
  • check spelling and grammar
  • keep the layout simple unless they are applying for a role as a graphic designer
  • ensure that the only personal information listed is their name and contact details.

It is advisable to end by stating that references are available on request.

For more information on creating a CV, including a step-by-step CV builder, see the National Careers Service website.

Covering letter

When applying for jobs, applicants might like to, or get asked to, send in a CV and covering letter. A good covering letter should build upon the information contained in your CV. Cover letters should be clear and concise. Cover letters should include:-

  • contact details
  • a named contact
  • the position being applied for
  • reasons for applying for the role
  • what you can offer the employer.

Applicants can end by stating their desire for a personal interview and including any dates that they will not be available.

For further information on covering letters, and examples of covering letters, see the Prospects website.

Other useful information

See our Looking for work: job vacancy sites fact sheet

See our Careers advice and options for pharmacy graduates fact sheet

See our Career guidance: completing a job application form fact sheet

See our Career guidance: job interviews fact sheet

See our Career guidance: using LinkedIn fact sheet

Special thanks go to Renovo, a provider of career management, redeployment and outplacement support, for their help with the production of this fact sheet.

This fact sheet was last reviewed on 6 February 2020.