Getting a job in the UK: An expat’s guide to writing your CV

Wanting a job in the UK, but not sure how best to grab the employer’s attention? Read our guide on how to write a CV for jobs in the UK.

Moving into a new job market can be a challenge for anyone but the reward of finding a job you love makes the effort worth it. One of the key things you will need is a CV (Curriculum Vitae) where you can show potential employers your experience and present your unique selling point (USP). A good CV will help you stand out from the crowd and is the first step to landing a new job in a new country.  

Read the advertisement

Always read the advertisement or job posting carefully to make sure what you’re offering, i.e. skills and experience matches, what they’re seeking. If you don’t have the direct work experience but can prove that you do have the relevant skills, possibly gained from a less formal setting than the workplace, then include these in your cover letter, with details in your CV. Don’t forget that recruiters in the UK might not be familiar with any companies you’ve worked for before, so add a little detail about international organisations such as what they do, how many customers they have and how many people work there.

The cover letter 

When you write a cover letter to accompany your CV, this should be addressed to a named individual where possible. The letter should state that you’re applying for the job because it’s part of your career path and you have the relevant skills. It’s a good idea to address the job advert directly – when they ask for certain experience then you can demonstrate that you have it. 

Whether you are sending the cover letter in the body of an email or attached as a separate document, make sure it is clear. You should always add your CV as an email attachment. 

Online job sites will often give you room for a cover letter with a standard form, and your CV will be added as an attachment. Some employers won’t look at your CV if you don’t write a cover letter to accompany it. 

How to write your CV

Always check the punctuation and spelling of your CV. If you’re at all worried, ask a friend, family member, colleague or former teacher for a CV evaluation. Now is the time to reach out to anyone who cares about your success. There are also numerous online sites that will check your CV for you, such as CV Library or Top CV.

In the UK, the terms CV and resume are often interchangeable – title your document with either one. Before you start compiling your CV, have a look at our online example for an idea of what format to use. If you have an existing CV, make sure it’s current, as the CV you prepared for a previous job might not be suitable for a new position.

Highlight your strengths 

Keep your CV or resume succinct. Break up your document with titles, bullet points and bold font. Underlining can tire the eyes so avoid this.  

Keywords are important in your CV. Many companies use automated CV readers that depend on the use of the relevant keywords. If you don’t include some of the terms used in the job advert, you won’t get past the bot. 

When describing yourself, use adjectives such as: 

● Adaptable

● Creative

● Hard-working

● Innovative

● Reliable

● Strategic

● Valuable

When describing the work you’ve done and the impact it has had, use verbs such as: 

● Improved

● Modernised

● Optimised

● Orchestrated

● Transformed

● Developed

● Directed

● Obtained

Where to begin

Many European CVs will feature an image – this is not so common in the UK, and so probably something we suggest avoiding. Start the document with your name, contact details and a skill summary. Bullet points will quickly show an employer that you have the necessary skill set – indicating you are serious about the position and you have the relevant experience.

Some CVs have a professional profile and a skill summary – it depends on the type of role that you’re looking for as to whether you include this. This section of the document can be adapted to match the skills required by a specific position. 

The next paragraph should be titled ‘Career summary’. Start with your most recent position, and the name of the company where you worked. Then simply state your job title, the dates you held the position and your responsibilities and accomplishments. Continue this list chronologically, making each heading in bold typeface. Leave spaces between each role to help make your CV easy to read. 

The final section 

This is the part where you can list your education and qualifications and the professional certificates you hold – the section where your individuality can shine. If you’re applying for a job in the UK but have universally recognised qualifications, write these down. If your qualifications aren’t internationally recognised, write down their UK equivalent. You’ll want your prospective employer to recognise that you hold the relevant qualifications for the advertised job. 

For example, if you’re applying for a job as a chef in the catering industry and need to list your safety and hygiene certificates, even though you might have passed these overseas, insert their UK equal. It doesn’t matter if you have also put these in your skills summary. Your CV style is up to you. 

Extras 

If you have any interests that you think make you stand out from the crowd, make sure to mention them. Try to keep in mind that any prospective employer won’t have the time nor inclination to wade through pages of personal information. The last thing you want to do is bore them, but they might want to see that you are a person who could bring passion and individuality to their business. 

Some dos and don’ts for creating your CV:

Dos 

● LinkedIn is a channel that can be used to your benefit, especially if you have recommendations from work colleagues and previous employers. It’s a good idea to insert the hyperlink to your profile in your CV.

Make sure your LinkedIn account is up to date, including your picture.

Ensure your account looks professional and highlights only your working life.

Mention all of your accomplishments, awards and skills, as well as just filling in your employment history.

Be active – share interesting and relevant news, like others’ posts and keep updated on other companies.

● Referees probably won’t be asked for at this stage – but if someone is recognised as successful and a good employer and they want to give you a reference, shout this from the rooftops.

When you are asked for references, one or two will often suffice. Ensure your referee is aware you have provided their details and that they may be contacted.

● Use a clear font (such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman) so that your employer can focus on the content of your CV.

● Keep the detail relevant to UK employers – think about the differences between markets and customers and tailor your CV to suit their requirements.

Don’ts

● It’s a golden rule never to lie on your CV. This is the document that will earn you a position of trust and possibly an exciting career. Lies are always discovered.

● As social media is pervasive it’s probably not a good idea to post any links to the Twitter or Facebook account where you might have posted some questionable comments or late-night rants. Keep in mind that your employer may look you up online before inviting you for an interview, so make your profiles private or prune them for any potentially divisive comments.

● Emojis and memes just demonstrate to an employer that you’re probably not the right person for the job. Smiley faces are wonderful in a personal email but aren’t appropriate in a professional job application.

Good luck and don’t forget that when you do land the job you’re after, PagoFX is always there to help you make payments internationally. Whether it’s to send money back home or support your family abroad, PagoFX by Santander gives you a secure, easy and low-cost way to make international payments with any UK bank debit card. Download now via the App Store or Google Play or sign up via PagoFX.com