In this article, we look at what to include in a CV, complete with examples you can use to create your own CV. 2019 is just around the corner and with it, millions of us will be making New Year’s resolutions to get that job we’ve always dreamed of. But why wait? If you’re serious about 2019 being “your year” and you really want to change roles, now’s the time to start your job hunt. So don’t leave it until the New Year – start searching those job vacancies and putting together the perfect CV for your dream job today.
What to include in a CV : section by section
1. Personal details
The personal details section should always include:
- Your name (including any professional letters after your name)
- Your address
- Your phone number
- Your email address
Other information which you sometimes need to put in this section includes:
1a. Driving licence
If the job specification requires a full clean driving licence, it is usual to include a note that you have this in the personal details section.
1b. Professional title
If you have a professional title, you may wish to include it here although this is optional.
1c. Social accounts
You could include certain social accounts IF you believe they will be beneficial to your prospects of getting the job. For example, if you are active in your industry on Twitter and LinkedIn, including your Twitter/LinkedIn handle will invite your employer to look at those accounts and see that you have relevant and up-to-date industry knowledge.
Some people like to include a photo – if you decide to go for this, make sure it’s a professional head shot and you look approachable and friendly. Our article can help you decide: Should you have a photo on your CV?.
What NOT to include on a CV
Some people include other details here such as their date of birth, marital status, nationality and number of children. We would suggest that you don’t, unless these details have some direct relevance to the job and in some cases, doing so opens up the potential for bias or discrimination.
In the above example, the personal details include the name, professional title (‘PHP developer’), address, phone number and email. View and download the ‘Acme’ template.
In the above example, the personal details section has been split into columns to make more room, and the LinkedIn handle is included. View and download the ‘Smart’ template.
It is usual to include an introduction to your CV but this section can alternatively (and more commonly) be named ‘Objective’ or ‘Personal Statement’. The purpose of this section is threefold – it is to tell the prospective employer:
- Who you are
- Why they should hire you
- What you are looking for
Try to link back to the job advert where possible – for example, if the advert requires ‘face-to-face selling experience’, mention this in your introduction.
In the above example of what to include in a CV, the introduction is labelled ‘Objective’. View and download the ‘Certified’ template.
In the above example, more detail has been given in the introduction which is presented under the heading ‘personal statement’. This might be answering specific requirements that were contained within the job advert. View and download the ‘Achiever’ template.
3. Work experience
UK applicants will typically include a work experience section next – US applicants by contrast may switch this section around with the qualifications section. The work experience section should include details of your past work experience, most recent first. For each post, you should give:
- Job title
- Company name
- Start date and end date, giving either just the year or if it makes more sense to do so, the month and the year. If you’re currently in the position, you’d write the starting month/year and then ‘ – date’. For example, ‘2017 – date’.
- Key responsibilities
- Achievements, if relevant
You should review the job advert and focus on experience that is most relevant to the position you’re applying for, as far as possible.
You can include voluntary work in this section which is a useful way to ‘pad out’ the section if you don’t have much paid employment to report. You may find these articles helpful:
- Building your work experience
- Voluntary work for work experience
You can also include freelance work but do list it as such, even if you traded under the name of a Limited Company – otherwise this can look like an attempt to deceive the employer. The ability to work for yourself and manage clients independently is a major skill which should be explained as such on your CV.
In the above video, listen to John Sonmez from Simple Programmer explain how projects can be framed differently on your CV to put them in the best possible light.
In the above example, you’ll see how the experience has been listed with the most recent position first. The candidate is still in their job so the dates are listed as 2009 – date. The candidate has listed a number of achievements for their most recent roles which have been simplified into bullet points, making them easier to read. View and download the ‘Subtle’ CV template.
The above template puts a huge emphasis on work experience with plenty of space for achievements. View and download the ‘elegance’ template.
In the above example of what to include in a CV, you’ll see that it may not always be appropriate to list achievements for every role. Instead, examples of work could be included with the CV. This is particularly appropriate for design-related jobs. View and download the above ‘centred focus’ template.
Some candidates have a comprehensive level of work experience which could push their CV to several pages. However, in the UK, no more than two pages is expected – whilst in the US, only one page would be typical. You can get around these space constraints by using a template that makes good use of the limited available space such as our ‘guided’ template (above) which can be used as a one or two page CV. Click here to view and download the ‘guided’ template.
As noted above, if you’re applying in the UK, this section comes after your work experience, but in the US employers would expect to find it first after your introduction. The usual order for education is the highest qualification comes first.
It is not always necessary to list all of your qualifications. Generally, you’d include all of your relevant professional qualifications and any degrees that you have. You might decide to include your A levels if the results were impressive and/or they are relevant to the role. You would only include your GCSEs if you didn’t have higher level qualifications (e.g. no degree or equivalent).
The key points to remember are that the highest qualification goes at the top and you don’t include lower level qualifications like GCSEs if you have professional/higher qualifications like a degree.
The exception to the guidance on GCSEs and A Levels is if the employer has specifically mentioned that they are required in the advert – then you would include them regardless of the fact that you had higher level qualifications.
In the above example template, the candidate has chosen to include a BTEC Level 3 certificate, their degree and a post-graduate diploma. All three are directly relevant to the role. View and download ‘fresh’ two-column template.
In the above example, the candidate has only included their A levels and degree. Although they likely would have done GCSE or BTEC qualifications, it is not necessary to list these where higher qualifications have been attained, unless the employer has specifically requested them in the job specification. View and download the ‘Guided’ template.
In this section you tell the prospective employer which skills you have that are directly relevant to the position. Focus in particular on any skills listed as essential or desirable in the job advert.
Skills may be divided into two categories: hard and soft. Hard skills are things that are specific and measurable – such as your ability to code using PHP. Here is a list of hard skills to help you think of which you might have.
Soft skills are those which are more difficult to measure but are nonetheless just as important to many roles. Our article on building your work experience has an in depth discussion about hard and soft skills with examples.
In the above example of what to include in a CV, you’ll see a lot of emphasis on skills – they are given two thirds of the space that goes to work experience. You will see in the example that the candidate mentions both hard skills (“fluent in Adobe Creative Suite/Cloud”) and soft skills (“a creative thinker” “proactive” “quick thinking”). View and download the ‘slick headers’ template.
Sometimes where you have a particular ‘hard’ skill, you will be expected to indicate your skill level, as in the above example. This might be appropriate where for example the employer requires that you can use particular software packages or speak a language with a level of fluency. View and download the above ‘designer’ template.
If a particular soft skill is important to an employer, try to tailor your work experience so that it SHOWS the employer that you have that skill. If, for example, they are looking for a good team player with good communication skills who is well organised, you could mention instances of where you’ve worked successfully in a team and met your deadlines.
6. Hobbies and interests
Don’t underestimate the importance of the hobbies and interests section – this is the employer’s chance to get to know the real you. It’s also your chance to stand out from other candidates.
This section can tell the employer a lot about you – for example, if you love sporting activities or visiting the gym, there’s a good chance you take an interest in your personal health and you’re less likely to have sick days. If you play sports regularly in a team, this suggests you can work with others, communicate well and develop strategies, exercise self discipline and even lead others.
Read our article ‘Does the hobbies and interests section of my CV matter?‘ to find out more.
Like most of our templates, our ‘highlight’ CV (above) has a good-sized space to list hobbies and interests. View and download the ‘Highlights’ template. Many of our CVs place this information on the last page so you don’t always see it in the preview pictures. There are two approaches to completing this section – you can list the interests like in the example, or you can explain the interests, pointing out the skills that they have helped you to develop. The latter is a good approach where you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience to prove the skills required by the post.
Your prospective employer will usually want to approach your current or most recent employer for a reference. It is usual to give an additional reference, which may be a previous employer, an academic contact from your studies or a personal (but professional) contact. Giving a couple of impressive references can make a huge difference to your prospects of getting an interview so think carefully about who you choose and what value they add. Here’s a guide to choosing the right references for your CV.
Some people choose not to give reference contact information in their CV because they are still employed in their current post. In such cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to write ‘References available on request’ on the CV. You can then give your current employer’s details if you are offered the job.
It is perfectly acceptable to write ‘references available on request’ or something similar, as in the above example. Some people combine the ‘references’ section with ‘availability’. This is useful to prospective employers as it tells them how much notice you need to work (and therefore how long before you can start working for them. If they are really in need of someone to fill the position, being immediately available is an advantage – but take care, if you write this and you’re currently employed, they may be suspicious as to why your employer is willing to let you go with no notice period! View and download our ‘legal’ CV template which can in fact be used for a range of industries and roles.
8. Other optional sections
There are a number of other sections you can optionally include in your CV – these include:
8a. Professional memberships
These might be, for example, memberships of organisations that relate to your professional qualifications. Being a member of industry groups can help demonstrate that you’re interested in the industry, you are involved in its development and you stay up-to-date with changes in your field.
If you’ve written journals, books or articles in respected publications that are relevant to the position, it’s worth mentioning them here – if you have room.
If you have relevant awards from professional industry bodies, mention them here – these will help establish your credibility within the industry.
8d. Key achievements
If you’ve made key achievements within a particular job or as part of your studies, those achievements should be included underneath the job role or qualification on your CV. However, if you have relevant / impressive achievements that don’t relate to a particular role or qualification, you might want to list them in a separate section.
As for the key achievements, typically these go in bullet points under each job role or qualification – however, if you’ve got several exciting projects you want to highlight that you haven’t included elsewhere, creating a projects section can be a useful way to draw them to a prospective employer’s attention.
Our ‘example’ template (above) shows a neat way you can highlight a project or achievement using a text box. View and download ‘example’.
We hope that the above guide on what to include in a CV is helpful and gets you well on your way to the perfect CV. There’s plenty more in our CV template collection and we’ve also got a comprehensive section on careers advice. Your dream job for 2019 is in the bag!