Whether you’re taking your first steps into the world of work, or you’re a senior executive well into your career, you need to decide which salient points from your life to pick out for your CV.
You’ll have done a lot over the years, whatever stage you’re at, so CV Knowhow has put together a summary of which bits you should include on your CV and which you should most definitely not.
When deciding whether to include or omit information, ask yourself: what does this add to my application and does it sell me to the reader?
What should I include?
The basic elements that form the structure of any CV are the Professional Profile, the Career History and the Qualifications sections. Generally, the last 10 years are considered the most relevant, so these are the years where you want to focus the detail.
More than the minimum
While the sections above give you a basic structure, consider other elements of your life that could emphasise your skills and give you an edge over other candidates. Voluntary work? Languages? Publications? What can you do that the person sitting next to you can’t?
You’d be amazed at the number of CVs we see with zero contact details on! A bare minimum is a phone number and ideally an email address too. Consider also a Skype ID if you have one. Make it easy for the recruiter to invite you to interview.
Instead of simply stating your responsibilities in each role, tell the recruiter what you achieved. Even better, quantify these achievements. It will make your CV significantly stronger!
Long paragraphs are difficult to read on a screen and make it tricky for a recruiter to pick out the vital information. Instead, write in bullet points. As well as making life easier for the reader, it also forces you to be more succinct and focused with what you’re writing.
What should I omit?
The general rule is: if it doesn’t prove that you’d be an asset to an organisation, you can probably ditch it.
Excessive personal details
At CV Knowhow, we’ve seen too many CVs detailing marital status, children’s names, passport number, height, shoe size (well, maybe not shoe size).
The point is, not only is this information entirely irrelevant to how well you can do a job, it also increases the risk of identity fraud if you then make your CV available online for the world to see. Even your full address isn’t necessary these days – just a town and postcode are all that’s required.
A photo is unnecessary for job applications in Ireland. They may be expected in other countries, but there is anti-discrimination legislation that prevents employers judging you on your looks (which can include colour, age, gender and so on).
Unless you’re aiming for a career where appearances matter, such as the performing arts, just leave it off. Technically an employer should ignore it anyway.
Excessive historical detail
You’ll also want to omit excessive detail. Does it matter that you were a member of the school debating team in 1980 if you’re now delivering influential presentations as the CEO of a global corporation?
Your aim should be to keep the CV concise, not to bog the reader down in every detail of your life. If you really want them to know, tell them in the interview.
Hobbies and interests are no longer a requirement on your CV. They rarely add anything to show how well you can do a job.
That is, unless you have a very unique and memorable hobby, in which case you might consider including it as an ice-breaker for interviews or as a point of interest to show the sort of person you are away from the office.
But every day pastimes such as socialising, watching films and playing football are just not original enough to justify inclusion.
Please, please, please avoid the CV cliché. Applicants at the start of their career are most guilty of this, but they appear even on senior CVs too.
I’m talking about the “reliable, hardworking team players” who can “work well individually and communicate effectively”.
Such sweeping, over-used statements tell the recruiter nothing about you. If you want them to know you’re a team player or an effective communicator, prove it with an example instead of using bland, empty statements.
It isn’t necessary to include the names and contact details of your referees on a CV. If an employer wants them they’ll ask anyway, but it’s unlikely to be until further down in the recruitment process.
In the meantime, you’ve saved your referees from being bothered unnecessarily and maintained the confidentiality of their personal details.
Understand what (and what not) to include on your CV?
So now you know what to include and omit! You should be able to craft a concise, focused CV, which really shows an employer what you can bring to their organisation. If you’d like one of our team to cast their expert eye over your draft, send it to us at CV Knowhow for a FREE review!
About the author: Jen David has been a CV Consultant since 2010 and currently works for CV Knowhow, the UK’s leading career and CV writing consultancy. She has written CVs for thousands of job seekers from all industries and at all stages in their career, from students to senior executives. Jen aims to add value to CVs, enabling her customers to increase their chances of securing an interview and progress in their chosen career.