If you are looking for a CV layout that is easy to follow and can be applied to almost any profession, then look no further – we explain the sections to include, the order to present them in and what information to leave out.
With literally thousands of different types of CV layouts out there, choosing the right one can be very confusing. Sure, you could choose something very different from the standard layout to try and get an edge over the other applicants, but if you don’t want to take the risk and would rather create a CV that follows a simple but yet still very effective layout, then follow our guide below.
How many pages should my CV have?
First of all you need to decide how long your CV should be. Our recommendation would be to keep your CV layout to only two pages long. A CV needs to quickly catch the attention of the reader, and two pages is just the right length to do this if you want to play it safe.
One page is of course too short, and could cause the recruitment manager to think that you haven’t made an effort and you also may not have too much to offer. A three page CV on the other hand might just be too much, and could put someone off reading it because of its size. However, if you do feel that you need to use a third page, then you must fill it as much as possible. One of the most common mistakes made when creating a CV is to only use a paragraph or two on the third page. If this is the case, why not consider shrinking the font slightly, or decreasing the border size to make it fit into two pages?
What personal details should I include?
The very first part to a CV will be the ‘personal details’ section. The hiring manager wants to instantly see who they are reading about, so of course your name and contact details will go right at the top. Make sure your name is in a larger font than the rest of the text so it stands out.
Your name is essentially also your ‘brand’ name, and a CV is your marketing tool. So highlighting your name at the top and making it stand out is a great way to catch the eye of the reader. This will make it far easier for them to remember your name and potentially help remember your CV also.
Your contact details should included a phone number and email address. Make sure both of these are easily accessible and can be answered or replied to quickly. Also ensure that a professional answer machine message is present rather than one you use for your friends.
Our advice would be to create a new separate email address with a professional name – for example firstname.lastname@example.org. This will also allow you to easily see a new email that doesn’t get swallowed up by an existing address that has thousands of spam messages.
Along with your name and contact details, some people include other personal information such as date of birth, marital status or whether you have children. This however is optional, and should only be included if you feel it is relevant in some way to the job. Generally we would advise leaving off any type of information that might allow an employer to discriminate against you.
An employer would be discriminating if they were to make a choice based on any “protected characteristic” (such as age, race, religion or belief) whether directly or indirectly. A list of protected characteristics can be found here. Qualifications, experience and skills are what an employer should look at when deciding on an interview.
Any additional information which the employer needs to know, like holding a particular driving license for example, should also be stated here.
Should I include an ‘objective statement’?
Whoever reads your CV is of course going to start right at the top and work their way quickly down, so now that you’ve well and truly established your name, you need to make a great first impression with your Objective Statement.
The statement needs to be concise and to the point, ensuring that you sell yourself correctly and grab the reader’s attention. You want to make sure the recruitment manager instantly recognises your strengths and that they are relevant to the role.
An appropriate format for the objective statement is:
- One line explaining who you are and your experience e.g. “I am a Marketing Manager with a CIM qualification and 7 years’ practical experience in online marketing…”
- One line explaining any particular strengths, skills, achievements or ways you meet the job spec e.g. “My specialism is PPC and I currently manage budgets totalling £2m…”
- One line explaining what you are looking for e.g. “I am looking for a position in digital marketing where I can use my current skills and gain further experience leading a team…”
For further information on how to write an objective statement, read our article 4 super easy ways to make your CV stand out.
How do I present work experience?
The easy and obvious way to create this section is to list all of your past jobs, starting with the most recent first and working backwards to when you left education. However, this isn’t always the best approach, and we would recommend first of all looking at each and every job you’ve had and highlighting which parts directly relate to the new role you are applying for.
Some roles may be exactly the same – take for example a previous car sales job where you are now applying for the same – so this would be an easy and obvious inclusion. However, you now need to search through all of your previous roles and tasks to see what relates to the new role.
Let’s say for example you are applying for a car sales executive role. You now need to hunt through your past experience to see where you have been involved in sales. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t the same product, as sales techniques, skills and experience are certainly interchangeable.
Even something like waiting tables can be highlighted on your CV to show that you have experience in interacting with customers. There may of course be more obvious links to sales from your previous jobs, but with this example you can see that even this would be a good place to start.
Again, rather than simply listing all of your tasks and responsibilities for each role, why not make it easier for the reader by showcasing the relevant roles and skills? With so many CVs to get through it makes a lot of sense to omit irrelevant tasks and responsibilities, and even omit showing roles altogether in your CV layout.
Which qualifications should I include?
If you’ve just left school and are trying to go straight into work, you will be looking to put down your GCSE results, as well as any A-level and University degrees. However, if you’ve left education a long time ago and have higher level qualifications acquired since, then you can leave them off – which will help to make this section look far cleaner on the eye. Some qualifications are simply irrelevant to the role too.
A good example of this may be a car mechanic who is 48 years old. The garage wouldn’t be too interested in seeing a full detailed list of school results, but would however be interested in any University degrees as well as other practical qualifications obtained that are directly related to car mechanics, or similar mechanical work. The past work experience would also play a huge part in the hiring decision for this type of role. Someone who had worked at Rolls Royce for 15 years as a car mechanic would obviously stand out on paper as a great potential candidate, and getting a ‘C’ grade in GCSE French wouldn’t be of interest.
Should I list my skills?
As before, tailoring your CV is an absolute must in all areas if you want to get an interview – and the skills section is no exception to this rule. Try to ensure the skills are relevant to the new role like before, and highlight the best and relevant skills at the top so they are instantly read.
A CV is typically only read for about 20-30 seconds before a quick decision is made on moving it to the ‘yes’ or ‘potential interview’ pile. So you need to either put irrelevant skills at the bottom, or consider removing them altogether.
What about hobbies – are they important?
Interests and hobbies are often overlooked in a CV layout and considered unimportant. Although this section is definitely the least important, it doesn’t mean to say you can’t capitalise on providing relevant and innovative insights into you as a person, and how you may function in the recruiter’s company as part of a team.
A recruiter likes to try and visualise how a person may act in the workplace, and even though they have never met you they will begin to build a picture up of how you might conduct yourself in the workplace. For example, is this someone they will get along with? Do they like reading, or water sports, or football, or volunteer work?
Here’s two examples and some comments on each:
I like to go out on weekends and socialise with my friends. I also enjoy reading books and watching films with my partner. I often go to the cinema to see the latest blockbusters.
My favourite movies are anything with Channing Tatum in. I also like to play football for my local team on occasion.
I enjoy volunteer work on weekends at Oxfam, and have been volunteering for various charities for many years. I am also building a website in my spare time, and enjoy learning how. My current project is – www.howtowriteacv.guru
In the past I have enjoyed building model airplanes in my garage, which I found to be extremely rewarding although very time consuming! Although I don’t get as much time for this anymore, I am still very passionate about building and painting models. Here are some pictures on my website – www.modelairplane.com/mypictures
The two examples above clearly show two very different people, and even just from a few lines of their hobbies we can begin to build up a picture of their personality and potential work ethic.
For instance, the person from the first example has what can be perceived as ‘normal and everyday’ hobbies. They like to watch movies and go out with friends, and they like to play sports. Do we get any indication that they are hard working? Do their hobbies present any kind of clue as to how they may perform at work?
From the second example we can easily build up a picture of how they may perform, as well as their personality. They clearly like to help others as stated with the volunteering, and someone who is happy to give up their weekends will very likely be happy to work overtime when required, and is clearly a hard worker.
They are also very creative as the website and model airplane building shows. They’ve also taken great initiative to show the websites as well as pictures of their hobbies – which will make their CV very much stand out from the rest on this alone.
Of course, they are not going to get the job based on their hobbies, but this example just goes to show you how important ‘every’ section of a CV is when trying to stand out from the rest of the competition.
For more on this topic, see our article ‘Does the hobbies and interests section of my CV matter?‘
Do I have to give references now?
Choosing the right references could make or break your chances of being hired. Take your time with this selection and don’t just rush into picking the obvious people. Ask yourself these types of questions:
- How relevant is this person to the new role?
- Are they on the same level as the recruit manager?
- Are they in the same role or industry, or similar?
- Can they communicate on the same level?
For further information on how to create a reference section, read our article ‘Choosing the right CV references – what to include‘.
Ready to make a start with your CV layout?
Check out our basic CV template for 2017 – it’s clean, fresh and perfect for just about any job application. Click here to view and download the template.
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