Trying to decide what to include on a CV can be a challenging process for non-professionals. What will impress employers? What will make them cast your CV aside or pursue you as a candidate? Here, we outline what to include and what not to include to ensure you have the best possible chance of landing an interview.
Start by including your contact details at the top of your CV so recruiters can get in touch with you. The details you should include are:
- Location (This should be city/town and country. There is no need to include a full address. For example, 'London, UK' is perfectly acceptable)
- Telephone Number
- Email Address
- LinkedIn URL (Over 90% of companies use LinkedIn to find candidates, so it is important to utilise the platform.
Below is an example of the necessary details to include on your CV.
Notice that the contact details only take up one line. A CV is a marketing document that needs to make an impression within a matter of seconds; if a large chunk of the first page is taken up by contact details, you probably haven't got an effective marketing document.
A profile, sometime called a professional profile, is an introduction to your CV, ideally between 100-150 words in length. A strong profile entices recruiters to spend time reading your CV and demonstrates how you can add value to their organisation.
Your professional profile shouldn’t outline every skill and experience you’ve acquired. It’s a short pitch, your chance to wow the reader. So how do you do that in under 150 words? Start by detailing what you do and what industry you operate in (if necessary). For example, ‘Result-oriented Project Engineer with a wealth of experience in the oil & gas sphere’. Now that you’ve introduced yourself, you can start to draw the recruiter’s attention to your strengths: ‘Proven ability to deliver projects in line with time restraints and quality standards while maintaining stringent adherence to safety regulations’.
Don’t stop there. Demonstrate how you have made a difference: ‘Recognised for driving improvements in operational efficiency by developing and implementing new policies and procedures.’
A quality profile can take a while to perfect. It takes multiple revisions and rewrites, but when you have polished and fine-tuned those few sentences, your CV will be much more effective.
There are a number of methods of detailing your skills on a CV. You could include a simple list of skills in bullet point format, split into multiple columns, or you could include a list with information that demonstrates specific examples of times you have employed these skills. Either way, it’s important to ensure that your CV draws attention to your key skills. Try to avoid generic, vague skills such as ‘punctual’ or ‘flexible’, unless you have specific details to back them up.
Below are examples of how you can demonstrate your skills.
The above form of skills section can be very beneficial as it outlines not only the individual's skills, but the ways in which she has used these skills to add value. In a way, it proves that she possesses these skills.
The reason the above form of skills section works is its simplicity. Recruiters often have hundreds or even thousands of CVs to get through. A simple list of skills such as the one above ensures recruiters can develop an understanding of your competencies in a matter of seconds.
If you're highly experienced, it is unnecessary to include every qualification you've ever achieved. Simply include your most significant qualifications, such as a degree, and any other relevant trainings you have undertaken. Remember, if the qualification isn't relevant, don't include it.
Below is an example of the necessary education details to include for experienced professionals.
There is no need to include other qualifications such as A Levels or GCSEs as the individual has a master's degree in project management, project management being the sphere the individual specialised in.
However, if you have little experience or no experience, focusing on your education can be the most effective way of demonstrating your expertise and achievements. So which skills can you demonstrate via your education details? The answer is just about every skill, from teamworking to financial modelling.
Below is an example of an education section for an individual with little work experience.
As you can see, the education section on this individual's CV is much more in-depth. This is because she had no work experience when we wrote her CV and her previous CV was almost a blank page. What we did in this case was exploit her education to showcase her vast range of capabilities including legal research, teamwork, leadership, communication and problem solving.
Career Summary/Work Experience
Now it's time to add your work experience. Depending on the individual, this section might begin straight after the professional profile on the first page or it might not be touched on until the second page. Either way, you will usually be expected to detail your work experience in the reverse chronological format, in which you start with your most recent/current role and work backwards.
It's important to remember that this section is supposed to be an engaging story of your career, rather than a long list of what you have done. Remember to avoid repetition and superfluous information. Employ crisp language to keep the reader engaged and don't use passive language.
Below is an example of how to detail your work experience.
As you can see, we start with the job title, followed by the company name, city, country and dates of employment.
Notice that months are not included in the dates of employment. As the individual has spent a period of over five years in this position, it is not necessary to specify the exact months of employment. Doing so clogs up the CV and makes for a less pleasant reading experience. As mentioned earlier, it is important to avoid superfluous information.
Note: We only include the months of employment if the client works on a contract basis, spending short periods of time in different roles.
Notice there is a line of information regarding the company, above the first bullet point. This provides some context and enables the reader to understand the type of companies you have worked for.
Now it is time to include your responsibilities. It isn't necessary to add every single responsibility associated with your job. Where possible, try to link the responsibilities into achievements. For example, one of the responsibilities in the sample above is the development of project plans; instead of simply stating that the individual wrote project plans, we linked this in to the overall success of the projects.
Achievements are vital in demonstrating your ability to add value in your profession. However, there is a right and wrong way of writing your achievements. If possible, don't be vague and try to use specific examples. Notice that the achievements above are quantified with specific figures. The first achievement specifies the exact amount of money that was saved and the second achievement specifies the exact number of Project Managers that were successfully mentored. In a way, this provides the achievements with a level of authenticity.
What Not To Include
Personal details such as nationality and religion should not be included on any CV. Recruiters do not make decisions based on this information, so including it is not only redundant but potentially damaging to your chances of succeeding with applications. There is a chance that recruiters will not want to pursue you as a candidate as it may be believed that they pursued you because of this information.
Photos should not be included on CVs, except for acting or modelling CVs. Photos can consciously or subconsciously influence recruiters decisions. Whether you're incredibly good looking or not, this is not something you want.
References should not be included on your CV. At this stage of the application process, your references are not important. A short line stating 'references are available on request' is common, but not required.
Interests and hobbies have no place on your CV. The purpose of your CV is to market your skills, capabilities and achievements to potential employers. You're trying to convince recruiters that you can add value to their organisation. It is highly unlikely that you will do this by listing your interests and hobbies. However, you might have acquired achievements or skills through your hobbies and interests. If this is the case, include these details in a separate achievements or skills section.
Unexplained employment gaps of a significant period of time should not be included on your CV. Identify the positives of your employment gap and detail them in your career summary. Did you maintain a comprehensive knowledge of goings on in your industry? Did you volunteer at the homeless shelter? Put this on the page and turn a potentially negative aspect of your CV to a positive section that demonstrates your qualities.
If you would like further help with preparing your CV, please feel free to get in touch with us.