What is the best CV format?

CV format example

There are many possible layouts and formats when creating your curriculum vitae, but this is the CV format that is expected by professionals. Our step by step guide walks you through each section, explaining what information is required and how it should be laid out.

CV format: length

The length of a CV depends on what role you are applying for. A medical CV for example may extend to three pages in total; however this is quite unique and typically three or more pages would be overkill.

The industry standard is two pages, which is what you should certainly be aiming for if you want to attract the attention of an employer. Any more than two pages tends to lose the attention of the reader as they would typically like to be able to quickly scan through a CV to ascertain whether or not the candidate is right for the role. With literally hundreds of applications to read, the hiring manager has to make a quick judgement call on which CV to add to the ‘shortlist’ pile for a potential interview. Having three or more pages CV could mean that yours is overlooked!

For further information on the correct length of a CV, read our article ‘How long should a CV be?

CV format: personal details

CV format - photo

The standard CV format will start with your personal details at the top. Here is what you would usually expect to see:

Name

Your name should be in a larger font than the rest of the CV so it stands out. After all, this is your chance to market yourself and if the employer can clearly see who they are reading about, it will help to keep your name fresh in their mind.

Middle names are optional, and you obviously need to avoid any nicknames like Mike ‘Speedy’ Smith. Always keep the format of your CV professional, and remember that you have no clue who will be reading it and how they will perceive any informalities.

Title is optional (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms) and rarely used.

Contact details

Include a phone number and e-mail – however, for obvious reasons don’t put down your current work contact details. Also, it may be a good idea to create a new e-mail address specifically for your CV to ensure it looks professional.

For example:

‘jennifer.lounds@gmail.com’

…looks far more professional than:

‘loundsyjay888@gmail.com’

Creating a new e-mail specifically for your CV will also make it easier to spot any messages. Can you imagine if you received an e-mail requesting an interview and it went into your junk folder along with a million others and you missed it? If you’re worried about checking two email accounts, set up forwarding from one account to the other. You can then log into your professional email account to reply.

It’s essential to put a phone number on your CV that you know you will be able to either answer immediately, or at the very least reply to very quickly. Don’t forget to also remove any jokey answer machine message.

If you are worried about answering the call whilst you are at work, then you could also consider stating some times on your CV that you are available to answer a call.

Marital status and family (optional – usually not recommended)

CV format - large family

Talking about your family on your CV may lead an employer to wonder if you struggle with family commitments – even if there is no actual cause for concern.

These details do not have to be included on your CV; however you may decide that it would benefit how the employer will perceive you. For example, being single may be a benefit to the company as they may want you to work difficult hours, such as weekends for example.

On the flipside, being a family man/woman may give off the impression that you can handle responsibility and you are a grounded individual, or perhaps someone who is comfortable around children. This could be in advantage in some roles.

Remember, giving details about marital status and family  is completely optional and it’s best to leave these out if you have any doubts. If you have a great understanding of the role/industry you are applying for and it seems appropriate to include it, then this could be a great way of making a good first impression at the top of your CV.

The employer cannot make a decision on whether to hire you or not from this information as per the Equality Act – however, be aware that some employers may discriminate ‘behind closed doors’ and you will have no way of knowing if this is why you didn’t get an interview.

Date of birth (optional)

Similar to your marital status and family life, your date of birth is not compulsory for a CV. You cannot be discriminated against based on age when employers are making the decision to hire you or not.

Again, deciding whether or not to include your date of birth comes down to personal choice and your potential knowledge of the industry. If you are worried that your age may put off an employer from requesting an interview (too young or too old), then don’t put it down. Although the employer is not supposed to select candidates for an interview based on this kind of information, it’s impossible to know whether this has been adhered to or not – so no need to take the risk if you don’t want to.

Nationality (usually should not be stated)

Your nationality is of no concern to the employer and doesn’t need to be stated unless it is 100% relevant to the role (for example, it may be an advantage to a translator or language teacher). The same legislation above also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality or race

Additional information

You may need to provide additional information depending on the job you are applying for. It could be a driving job, so stating that you have a full UK driving licence will show you are already ticking that box.

Another great example is if you are applying for a computer or website based role – you can then use this section to showcase your talents with links to website or ventures you’ve created yourself.

Photo

There  are mixed opinions about whether it is a positive or negative to include a photo on your CV. Certainly, if appearance is important to your job, it makes sense to include a professional headshot. For more considerations of the pros and cons, read our article ‘Should I include a CV photo?

CV format: objective statement (3 – 4 lines)

This is probably the most important part of your CV as it’s the first section the recruiter reads to start to get to know you as a person. If you fail to deliver in your statement, then the chances of them reading the rest just got a whole lot lower!

For the perfect guide on how to create a fantastic objective statement, read the relevant section of our article ‘4 super easy ways to make your CV stand out‘.

CV format: work experience (most recent first)

Voluntary work experience

If you’re short of work experience, consider volunteering.

When listing your work experience, a typical CV format to use is Job title, followed by the months/years that you have held the position, followed by the Company name. Some people include the location – this is optional but more important if there is some relevance in the location (for example, if the Company has multiple branches).

Office Manager (job title) – Jan 2013 – March 2016
Bricks & Mortar (company name)

(Insert a brief description of what the company does)

My responsibilities included:

(Bullet point list)

Achievements included:

(Name or list one or two key achievements)

Remember to highlight parts of your work history that are relevant to the role/industry you are now applying for. There is no need to create a huge list of tasks and responsibilities under each role if they will not make an impact on this new position.

For example, if you are applying for a sales job and you have some sales experience, then this is a great chance to highlight these roles as well as present some fantastic results. Were you the top salesman for three consecutive months? Make sure you highlight this.

For more on work experience, particularly when you don’t have much to list, read our article ‘Building your work experience‘.

CV format: qualifications (highest level to lowest level)

This section is quite self explanatory, but it’s worth noting that you can again consider what is the most important and relevant to the role you are applying for. Typically there isn’t anything wrong with listing all of your qualifications, and ensuring that you put the most relevant to the top, perhaps giving a little more detail if appropriate. Don’t forget to also show what grade you achieved IF this would enhance the qualification.

The typical format for higher level qualifications is to give the qualification and institution where you studied – for example:

BSc Computer Science (Upper second class honours) – Jan 2013 – March 2016
University of Liverpool

For lower level qualifications, such as GCSEs and A Levels, it isn’t absolutely necessary to name your school or college. You certainly do not need to name earlier schools.

CV format: skills

CV format - skills

Skills should be either directly relevant to the role, or useful to your employer.

When creating a skills section for your CV:

  • Present skills as a list
  • Divide hard skills (i.e. typing) from soft skills (i.e. communication)
  • Avoid fluff, i.e. ‘I work well in a team’. It’s better to weave these skills into other sections of your CV using real examples.
  • Do mention any skills that, whilst not directly relevant to the job, could be beneficial to your employer (for example, the ability to write legal blog posts if you are applying for a job as a lawyer)
  • Consider ways of presenting the list to make it more readable – for example, two columns with hard skills on one side and soft skills on the other.

Another great example of how you can tailor the CV to showcase yourself is the ‘skills’ section. What you are looking to present here is all the skills you’ve acquired from your past work experience and how they can be used in the new role.

You don’t want to be too obvious about this, and there is a way to be subtle by bringing the relevant skills to the forefront. Let’s say for example you are applying for an accounts role – previous skills acquired as a waitress are not going to be of interest here. You need to be searching through anything that is either directly accounts related, or is transferable – like computer skills, spreadsheets, databases, bookkeeping etc.

However, your previous skills and experience as a waitress may be transferable to a sales role – so you can see how easy it is to highlight the right information!

You may find our list of hard skills helpful.

CV format: interests and hobbies

CV format - interests

Listing sports or fitness activities amongst your interests tells your employer that you take an interest in your health = fewer sick days!

When writing your hobbies and interests section:

  • List 3 – 5 hobbies
  • Emphasise any health-enhancing activity (sports, fitness etc)
  • Choose hobbies that put you in a good light from an employer’s perspective
  • Avoid overly quirky hobbies – save these for when your new colleagues have got to know you better!

Although this section may seem quite insignificant, you’d be surprised at how often a recruiter looks at this section with a keen eye. This is probably one of the best areas of a CV for an employer to get an idea of your personality, and although it may not be entirely accurate, a picture can be drawn from here of what type of person you are.

If you enjoy volunteering at the local woodland park at the weekend, then instantly you get a sense that you are someone who is helpful and generous, and likes to work hard without expecting a huge reward other than job satisfaction.

If you are a keen reader and like to read serial killer novels, then clearly you are a nutcase and the police should be notified instantly… (just kidding of course – I love a good crime book!)

But you can see what we mean when we say how important this section could be when the employer is trying to build up a picture of what you are like in their mind. Of course, this shouldn’t make or break your chances of an interview, but you can of course highlight some great hobbies and interests which sum you up as a person.

You must avoid stating these kinds of hobbies:

I like socialising on the weekend

This basically means you like to get drunk on Saturday night!

I like hanging out with my friends

It might be true, but it doesn’t sound very interesting!

For more on preparing the interests and hobbies section, read our article ‘Does the hobbies and interests section of my CV really matter?

CV format: references

  • Give two references – one should be your most recent employer and the other should be a personal reference (ideally a professional person, and not a family member)
  • If you don’t want to give your most recent employer just yet, write ‘References available on request’.

Although you may have a fantastic long list of references from past managers and supervisors that will provide you with a glowing recommendation, you need to narrow it down to the people who would make the greatest impact on the new employer, and who can also communicate on the same level.

For more information on how to create an amazing reference section, read our article ‘Choosing the right CV references – what to include‘.

Now you know the best CV format, why not choose from our CV templates free collection?

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