What to include in a CV - 6 essential things
A strong CV is the only way you will get noticed by employers, and land job interviews
But it's difficult to know what to include in a CV.
What is the essential information that will wow recruiters?
And what are you better off leaving out
This guide shows you everything you need to include in your CV… And what to keep out
What to include in a CV – overview
These are the 6 essential elements that every CV needs
- Name and contact details - Placed at the top so nobody misses them
- Profile / Personal statement - Hook readers with a quick sales pitch
- Core skills section - Create a snapshot of your abilities
- Work experience - Prove the impact you make in the workplace
- Education and qualifications - Show that you have the right knowledge
- Hobbies and interests (maybe)
This infographic shows you an overview of how these sections are arranged into the structure of your CV.
Try to stick to this structure as closely as you can.
Name & contact details
You need to make it as easy as possible for recruiters and employers to contact you, so put your contact details at the very top of your CV in big bold text.
Never hide them at the bottom of your CV - it will cost you interviews.
The import details you need to include are:
- Your name
- Your email address (use a professional looking one - no nicknames)
- Your telephone number
- Your location, or area you are looking to work
- Maybe your LinkedIn profile if you have one
Take up minimal space with your contact details to save plenty of room to write the rest of your CV.
You do not need to include:
- Your date of birth
- Your full address
These details are surplus to requirement and will not affect a hiring decision, so don’t waste space with them.
**Also, an ID thief could steal those details and use them to apply for loans in your name - so having them on a document which you are circulating online is not very safe**
An intro/profile/personal statement
When apply for any job, your CV will usually land in the inbox of a busy recruiter or hiring manager.
They will probably be looking through lots of other CVs, so you need to impress them quickly.
Something like this:
The purpose of this section is to give the reader a quick overview of your skills and experience, and encourage them to read on.
So what information should you include in your profile or personal statement?
- Education & qualifications – include your most recent and relevant qualifications with lots of detail if you are inexperienced, and less detail if you are experienced.
- Industries you’ve worked in – Where does most of your experience lie? Banking? Retail?
- High level skills – Do you have sales experience? Or are you an admin specialist?
- Problems you solve for your employers – Try to show how your actions affect your employers. If you are in customer service, then maybe you help to drive sales, if you are in accounting then maybe you help to save costs.
Remember to sell yourself in your profile – you only have a few seconds to get your message across, so write a persuasive paragraph that tells people why they should hire you – don’t be afraid to brag a little, and tailor your profile to the jobs you are applying for.
A core skills section
If you really want to make a big impression in the first few seconds of your CV being opened, then you should include a core skills section just underneath your profile.
This snippet of an example CV shows how it looks
Essentially, a core skills section is a bullet pointed list split over 2 columns which highlight your most important skills and knowledge for the roles you are applying for.
The effect this section has, is that it creates a very quick snapshot of your abilities – so that readers can get a great idea of your talents from just a quick glance. This will really help you to make a big impact when your CV is opened
Pack your core skills with factual skills and experience that recruiters will be searching for (e.g. Reporting, Excel, Customer service, Marketing degree), and avoid generic clichés like “hard working”, “team player”, and “strong communicator”
Your work experience
Once you’ve written the introductory section of your CV, it’s time to delve into your work experience.
**Don’t worry if you have no direct work experience yet** You can always include school projects, work placements, voluntary work – or any thing else you can think of.
In most cases, you should list your work history in reverse chronological order – starting with you most recent role and moving down the page as far back as necessary.
Recruiter’s will be most interested in your most recent roles, so include plenty of detail in them – they are often the best way to prove your current capabilities too.
Writing your role descriptions
Within each of your role descriptions, you should aim to demonstrate who you’ve worked for, the skills you’ve used and how your presence has benefited the employer.
Format your roles like the example below to create a pleasant reading experience for recruiters, and allow them to find the information they need easily.
Never delve into the details of your roles without setting the scene first – or you risk confusing readers. Write a quick intro to show recruiters who you work for, where you sit within the business, and what the overall goal of your role is.
Bullet point your responsibilities to detail exactly what you do within your role, who you liaise with, and the skills and knowledge you apply.
To prove the impact you make in the workplace, it’s important to list some achievements you have made that have had a positive effect on your employers. Where possible, try to quantify these achievements with numbers so that readers can really understand the difference you make.
These are some good examples of achievements…
- “Implemented new admin process which saved the company 3 hours of resource time per week”
- “Won 3 new clients which generated £300k for the business”
- "Resolved 90% of customer complaints within recommended time of 24 hours"
- "Saved customers an average of £300 per year by advising on new products"
Your education & qualifications
Whilst you should mention your most important qualifications at the top of your CV in your profile and core skills – the detailed listing of your education should be saved for the bottom of your CV.
The level of detail you include in your education will depend on your level of experience.
If you are a junior candidate with little or no experience, then you will need to include plenty of detail in your education section.
Listing all of your qualifications from high school to University – and even detailing modules and projects undertaken where they are relevant to the jobs you are applying to.
Junior education example
This will compensate for your lack of work experience, and give you a chance to demonstrate more of the skills you possess.
If you have lots of experience, employers will not be too interested in your education, so don’t take up much space with it.
Simply list your highest education (such as your degree) along with industry specific qualifications that you may have picked up during your career.
Senior education example
Maybe your hobbies & interests
Interests are a totally optional section, and usually don’t have much impact on hiring decisions.
However there are some instances where your hobbies might help you get hired.
If you have no work experience at all, you might want to include some of your hobbies to demonstrate workplace skills. For example, you might captain a sports team which shows leadership, people skills and motivation.
If you have a hobby that is highly related to the roles you are applying for, then it could certainly be worth mentioning it. For example if you are applying for a web developer role, and you make personal websites in your spare time, this could really impress a hiring manager.
Do not include common interests such as going to the cinema or socialising with friends – everybody does these things and they won’t make you stand out.
Recap with the Infographic - 6 essential elements for your CV
What not to include in your CV
Now that you know what goes into your CV, it’s important to understand what you should leave out.
Do not waste space on your CV with the following items.
The purpose of your CV is to win interviews by selling your skills and experience to readers. At this stage of the recruitment process, nobody needs to know who your references are – and you certainly shouldn’t include another person’s contact details on a document which you are distributing online.
An employer can only ask to contact your references once they have made you a written offer, so be weary of anybody who asks for them earlier.
When writing your CV, it’s a good idea to start thinking about who you would like to use as a reference, and maybe even asking for their permission.
But never put reference names and contact details on your CV.
Unless you are an actor/actress or model, you don’t need to include a photograph on your CV.
Employers and recruiters make hiring decisions based on skills, knowledge and ability – they don’t hire staff based on what they look like.
Photographs waste valuable space on your CV, that would be better utilised with compelling content that will persuade people to hire you.
Skills graphs like the ones below may look fancy, but they don’t provide any real scale of your abilities to readers.
Instead of using skills graphs – use numbers facts and figures to quantify your points – e.g. 3 years design experience.
Don’t be tempted to lie on your CV.
Sometimes people may get away with it, but it's really not worth the risk.
Diligent recruiters will fact check your claims, and if you get caught out lying, you will ruin your reputation, and they won’t be considering you for any future roles.
So stick to the truth in your CV.
If you have gaps in your employment, don’t try to hide them in your CV
Be up front and explain your career breaks in a positive fashion
Maybe you’ve had time out travelling, completing a personal project, or caring for a family member. Write a brief explanation of your break, and try to show some of the skills you’ve used and experience gained through it.
And don’t be embarrassed about having time out through illness – employers should not discriminate against you for it.
What to include in your CV - Conclusion
When writing your CV, be sure to open up with a persuasive introductory profile to grab the attention of recruiters and quickly demonstrate you have the skills they are looking for. Follow up with a core skills section to create a snapshot of your abilities, before detailing your work and impact in your roles.
Round up with your education, and only include hobbies if they are relevant to the roles you are applying for.
You can also download a CV template or use a CV builder from one of our partners shown on this page.
Good luck with the job search!