How to write a must-read CV

Despite having all the experience in the world, the best teacher’s application can be let down by a shoddy CV. We asked some experts how to guarantee your name is on the shortlist.

Tes Editorial

A CV Being Typed

You might be a whiz with the national curriculum, but how are you with your own curriculum vitae? Selling yourself on two sides of A4 doesn't come naturally, but writing up a good CV is a crucial skill to learn.

Forget fancy fonts, elaborate layouts, and online CV templates that require sophisticated software. The most important thing you should remember when writing your CV is that it should be clear and simple with a great structure. Below are some tips from some of our experts.


Structuring your CV

Make sure your CV has a clear structure so that employers aren’t having to flip the pages to find the info they need. Aim for no more than a two-page CV. Avoid essay style writing, instead try to be concise by summarising key points using punchy, dynamic language.

Never write `CV' at the top - everyone knows it's a CV - simply put your name in a slightly larger font than the rest of the document. After your name include your contact details, followed by a personal statement, your career details, education and finally your out of school interests and achievements.

WATCH: What to check on your application before you hit SEND 

Design tips

Font sizes should be the same whether your CV is printed or emailed, with 12pt a good compromise. Stick to Times New Roman for printed CVs as it is easier to read, and a sans serif font like Arial for emailed CVs as this font reads better on screen.

Bold and italics should be used sparingly on a CV; bold for section headings and italics for job titles is a good way of breaking up the text and making it easier to read. Don't use bold to highlight key words. 

Use of space is as important on your CV as it is in the classroom. Gaping holes with nothing going on will do you no favours, and nor will shoving everything on it. Balance the page so it doesn't look lopsided, use bullet points where appropriate and use headings to help the reader navigate through the page.

Above all, make sure you're consistent in bullet style, spacing, font size and design.

Use the right vocabulary 

Throughout your CV, a good use of vocabulary will help take it from being an average one to an outstanding one.

The most common of these are action verbs (eg achieved, accomplished, managed, improved, developed) and positive adjectives (resourceful, versatile, innovative, positive, productive).  

Personal statement

This short paragraph between your contact details and work experience is probably the most difficult part of a CV. It’s also the first thing your employer will read so it’s important to get right. This is the part of the CV that makes you sound human and allows you to demonstrate your qualities and motivations rather than just your experience. Take time to write this section well and make sure it flows seamlessly, but avoid clichés at all costs.

It needs to summarise three key things; where you are in your career, your key achievements to date and your personal qualities.

The best way to make this paragraph powerful is to make sure every word counts - don't waffle, definitely don't exaggerate, but do get to the point. Three or four sentences should be enough.

WATCH: What goes in your covering letter or personal statement

Career summary

For most people who have been teaching for a number of years, this can amount to a lot of information. It is best to use bullet points to break it up.

State the role, school and dates that you were in post, and give a brief summary of specific teaching responsibilities and achievements in each role.

Making each point achievement-focused will show your employer you had a positive impact and weren’t just doing the bare minimum.

All good teachers show commitment to continuing professional development and employers definitely want to see evidence of this. So, ensure that you provide evidence of further personal or professional training and Inset days as well as your qualifications.

Out of school interests

Employers don’t really want to know about your obsession with astrology or how much you love Manchester United. They would be curious, though, if you had a relevant interest such as a passion for green issues, or an interest in sport as these can be utilised in school. So think about whether it is worth mentioning your interests.

Most heads are looking for people who will be part of the larger community, and those who have had more than the school-to-university-to-school experience.

Explain your gaps

If you have gaps in your employment history, this will be flagged as a safeguarding concern. It is really important that any time out of employment is explained on your CV.

You don't need to go into great detail, a simple 'break from employment due to studying commitments' or 'time at home due to caring responsibilities' will suffice.

Final check

It goes without saying that any CV should be checked for errors in spelling, punctuation and other possible errors. So make sure you do a final check before you submit it. Ask a friend if they can read it through.

This also applies if you're sending your CV digitally, and you should also remember to name the file with your own name, such as "Jo_Bloggs_CV.doc", and never just "CV.doc".

With thanks to Grainne Hallahan, Tes Recruitment Editor, Fiona Salvage, The CV Centre , Protocol Education , and John Howson, Chairman of TeachVac.