The Ultimate CV Guide
How to structure your CV, dos and don’ts, CV templates and more!
What are the most important aspects of your CV? Find out in just 6 short steps!
Step 1: Personal Details
- Phone numbers
- Email address
- LinkedIn username or hyperlink to your profile
It is no longer necessary to include your date of birth or marital status!
Step 2: Personal Profile / Career Objectives
A brief introductory paragraph to highlight your suitability to the position, your relevant soft skills and where your previous experience matches the current requirements.
- Try to avoid common clichés such as team player, dependable, committed, etc.
- Amend the personal profile part of your CV for each individual application – this will ensure it stands out and doesn’t come across as too generic.
Step 3: Education & Professional Qualifications
- List the most recent first, including graduation year and University/Institute names
- State the level of your qualifications (e.g. Diploma, Ordinary Degree, Honours Degree, Masters or Level 6, 7, 8 or 9) – many organisations have minimum qualification requirements for certain roles
- Include professional memberships
- Include any other relevant training
Step 4: Work History and Achievements
- Outline in detail your work history beginning with the most recent.
- Use bold font to highlight company name, the position you held and dates of employment.
- Use bullet points to list responsibilities and achievements.
- Remember to include your start and finish dates (e.g. March 2016 – December 2019).
- Explain any ‘gaps’ in employment (e.g. Return to full-time education or Travelling).
List in bullet point format any additional skills or achievements that are relevant for your career, e.g.
- Specific computer systems.
- Technical skills you are proficient in.
- Fluency in other languages.
- Busy interviewers love bullet points as they keep your points neat and concise.
- Lead with your strongest section – if your education is stronger than your career history put this in first and vice versa.
Step 5: Hobbies and Interests
Outline what you like to do in your spare time – many organisations like to see a healthy work-life balance and often your leisure interests say a lot about the type of person you are. They may also reflect the qualities relevant to the role you are applying for.
Step 6: References
You can provide contact details of your referees, but it is perfectly acceptable to state ‘Available on Request’.
If you are listing referees, make sure that
- They are relevant to the sector you are applying to.
- They are happy to provide a reference for you.
- Their contact details are up to date.
CV Dos & Don’ts
What to include or exclude when preparing your CV!
- Make sure your CV is well laid out, with clear headings, easy-to-read font and is free from spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
- Keep it clear, concise and relevant – ideally 2-3 pages.
- Tailor your CV to the job you are applying to, matching your own experience as best you can to the experience and skills required.
- Clarify any ‘gaps’ in your CV e.g. Return to full-time education or Travelling.
- Use words that promote positive associations e.g. established, led, successful.
- Use action verbs in the past tense such as led, managed, increased, reduced, etc.
- Focus on key achievements because achievements tell the reader not just what you have done but how well you have done it.
- Use quantified achievements e.g. 1) Achieved 110% of target in my first year. 2) Awarded “Student of the Year” in 3rd-year Mechanical Engineering degree programme. 3) The only member of the team to be awarded for outstanding customer service levels in each quarter of 2020.
- Ensure that all of the most important information is listed first and filter out anything that is not relevant.
- Re-read your CV and ask a trusted friend or family member to read it as well.
- Crowd your CV. As a rule of thumb, three pages is the maximum recommended length, however, if it runs over, don’t worry!
- Write your CV in text paragraphs – Bullet points are best!
- Assume the interviewer will know what you have done in each of your roles.
- Lie! You won’t have done everything, so don’t pretend you have.
- Use “I” too often.
- Use textboxes or columns when formatting your CV – keep it clear and simple.
- Use jargon – using too many acronyms or in-house terms may be confusing.
- Include any sensitive or confidential information regarding your current or past employers.