Writing a professional CV must first start with the foundations. It has to contain all the relevant sections, and maybe an unexpected one to create a unique application. Only then can you begin to write a CV that is worthy of a job interview.
To help ensure you use the right structure and format for your CV, here’s our essential guide – with a few tips too!
The first thing the employer should see is your name – big, bright and bold right at the top of the page. Some opt for the centre of the page, but to the left or right hand side is acceptable too. Your name should be in a larger font and can also be bold so it stands out. You need to make sure the manager remembers your name, and can identify your credentials.
Underneath your name should be your contact info. This would typically be your email address and mobile number. Always use a professional email address, and don’t go for something quirky. Your name is usually the best option, and we would also advise creating a new email address which isn’t already inundated with spam.
The employer may contact you via your mobile number. So either make sure you can hear it and answer it quickly, or record a professional voice message. You do not want to keep the employer waiting, and they would expect a quick response.
A great way to introduce your self is to write a personal statement. It does not have to be long, and should only be around 4-6 sentences explaining the following:
- Who you are
- How you can help the company (relevant skills, qualifications and experience)
- Your goals for the future
The ‘who you are’ part is basically an introduction. So you could start with, ‘A passionate Chemistry teacher and mentor, offering over 20 years experience in overseeing projects, assignments, and initiatives to promote student success.’
You would then go on to write how your skills would benefit the role, and make a direct connection to help the hiring manager. Finally, try to align your goals for the future with the company’s.
Use a bullet pointed list of all the relevant skills you have to offer. This section needs to be tailored to the role and closely match the job description.
This section can also be called ‘Key skills’ or ‘Core skills’, and should grab the reader’s attention. Be specific with your skills and narrow them all down to what would benefit the role. The hiring manager should quickly be able to identify and understand each and every skill you state on your CV.
Here, you can decide to list as many qualifications as you like. However, we would advise to keep everything as relevant as possible. For instance, your GCSE or A-level results may not be of interest to the employer if you took those 20 years ago. Since then you may have built up a nice list of qualifications relevant and focused on your career. This would more likely to be of interest, and would save a lot of space.
If however you are quite early in your career and you want to showcase your school and college achievements, then go ahead. If you lack work experience you may also want to go into more detail on certain projects and assignments.
University degrees are often listed on the CV, and you can also go into more detail if you wish. Employers sometimes like to read about what you did and maybe even see your dissertation. Again, this would be really valuable to a CV that lacks in work experience.
Your list of qualifications and education should be in reverse chronological order. Use bullet points whenever possible so it is easier to read and sits well on the page.
This section should include your entire work history, but with an emphasis on the most recent and relevant roles. The employer will not be too concerned with anything over a decade ago, unless it was vitally important to them. List your tasks and daily responsibilities using bullet points, and keep lesser important roles down to a brief description.
Each role should clearly state the name of the company, your job title, and a brief description of what you did. You may also want to include a sentence or two about what the company did if this is not obvious to the employer. Again, keep as much information as relevant as possible.
Your timeline should be in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent role at the start. Don’t forget that part time roles and voluntary work should also go in this section. Training courses and anything else you attended during an employment gap should also go here.
Performance is also a key factor when the hiring manager decides who to call back for an interview. Your long list of tasks and excellent work experience will not provide this. So make sure you give examples of your past performances so the employer can envisage how you will function for them.
Don’t be afraid to provide actual numbers if that is relevant for your chosen career. As a salesperson you should focus upon your sales achievements – what targets have been met, how consistently, revenue, profit, and so on. If the employer can see actual numbers or even written examples of your performance, they are more likely to give you an interview – fact!
Hobbies and interests
This section is not mandatory and greatly depends on what your hobbies are. The most favourable interests to read from the employer’s perspective are creative, charitable and sporty.
Try to avoid writing the usual generic hobbies – reading, cinema, walking the dog, family time, hanging out with friends, and so on. These are of little interest to the employer and don’t add any value to your skills. However, there are certain hobbies that do add value.
Sporty hobbies can show the following:
- Team work
- Hard work
- Leadership (Captain of the team)
Creative hobbies can of course align with a creative role. But can also provide an insight into your personality. Here are a few examples of creative hobbies:
- Playing in a band
- Arts and crafts
- Website creation
Charitable hobbies are a great way of showing how selfless you are. An employer may want you to work extra hours and go above and beyond for the company. If you are willing and enjoy giving up your free time to help out a local charity, then clearly you show these excellent and valuable traits.
Your references should be carefully chosen and not just picked at random. You may not have a lot of choice, but if you do you should try to pick someone who is relevant to your career. Someone who can provide a reference within the same industry is more valuable to the new employer.
You should also contact your reference before you put them on your CV and ask them for permission. This will help them to prepare in advance and not get caught off guard.
Listing references on a CV is not always required, and some job seekers opt to state, ‘References on request’. This is perfectly acceptable and will save you space on your CV.