Basic Rules

Your CV should outline who and what you are, what you have done and, above all, what you can do for the new employer. It should concentrate on work issues. The acid test for a well written CV is:

1.   Is it clear?

Can the employer quickly find the information they want? They want to be able to tell at a glance if you are the solution to their problem. They are more likely to find it in one or two well written pages than six or eight badly written ones. Remember, employers may spend just seconds looking at your CV in order to decide if they want to take it any further.

2.   Is it positive?

Using the right language to describe things is crucial. Compare the following two statements:

“And then I was made redundant”

“And then the business was reorganised nationally and my post disappeared”

The first is negative – making the reader feel that the person who said it might have a chip on their shoulder. The second is more positive, suggesting no feelings of bitterness.

Try concentrating on things you’re proud of (your skills, things you are pleased with at work, such as difficult problems solved or demanding targets met) and you will naturally start to use positive language.

Use positive action words. “I did this”

“I did that” is boring. Try using words like achieved, identified, negotiated, refined instead.

3.   Is it truthful?

The best way to get a dose of interview nerves is to have told lies on your CV! Never say anything you can’t support or justify with examples or other proof, e.g. certificates proving qualifications. Your CV should be an accurate reflection of “you”.

4.   Is it attractive?

In other words, is it well-designed, easy to read, typed, attractive to look at, on good quality paper and does it make the reader actually want to read it? Or is it crowded, cramped, poorly laid out, covered in corrections, stained   

What should be in my CV?

Five main things, and in roughly this order:

1.   Factual Data

Name, address, contact numbers, e-mail address, etc., and a personal profile statement of what you do (if possible), e.g. “Experienced head nurse, familiar with all aspects of practice procedures” or “Qualified VN with several years’ experience in small animal practice”.

2.   Your transferable skills

Try and list at least five using simple sentences to highlight each skill.

3.   Your career history

Outline your jobs to date, starting with the most recent and working back. Don’t leave any unexplained gaps, and say more about the last 10 years than the first 20 (if you go back that far!). Try and get in something that you’re proud of alongside a brief description of the job. Don’t just write a series of job descriptions – say how well you did the job.

4.   Your training and education record

Talk about courses you’ve done at work more than your education if you’re over the age of 30. Avoid a full list of every half-day seminar – take this with you to interview though! On the CV just indicate that you have attended regular training courses (if true) and pick out the highlights.

5.   Something more personal

Give a quick flavour of who you are rather than the what you are which has gone before. Include something on your interests outside work, and it may be useful to state if you have a driving licence.

For further support with this or any other HR issue, BVNA members can call the BVNA Legal Helpline on 01822 870270 or email


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky is the owner of HR Support Consultancy. She has a BA(Hons) in Business Studies, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has been a practising HR manager for more than 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA Members Advisory Service (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Service) since it began in 2002.

DOI: 10.1080/17415349.2015.1068544

• VOL 30 • September 2015 • Veterinary Nursing Journal