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A Guide to Writing a Basic CV

Written by Vikas Kumar

A CV is a window into your professional experience, and the way it is presented is an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd. Job advertisements often yield very high volumes of applications, so recruiters screen for key requirements. It is therefore imperative that a complete cross-section of experience and skills are included so relevant information isn’t omitted. Here is a quick checklist of the basics. 

  • Use a clear and easy to read font 
  • Keep the document to 2 pages
  • Space paragraphs and bullet points out so it is easy to read and is indefinable sections
  • Double-check all spelling and ensure the grammar is correct
  • Update all contact information
  • Update regularly as you gain new skills or your information changes so it is ready should an opportunity arise
  • Be honest, all organisations fact check so do not misrepresent yourself in any way 

 

What to Include

 
Contact Information

A CV starts with the basics, and where to contact you is the best place to start. Your name, address, telephone numbers and email address are the most important as these are how you will be contacted for interviews. You can choose to include a link to your LinkedIn profile or personal website, only if they will enhance your application and not detract from the relevant information in the CV 

A Personal Statement 

A personal statement is a popular way to start a CV. Keep it short, and use the space to put forward, using positive language, an overview of your core competencies and an idea of your career goals. Anything here must be substantiated further down, so if you say you are a team player, you need to include the evidence. 

Career History

Start with your current role, and work backwards chronologically. This is the most important section of your CV and you should dedicate time to getting it right. Concentrate on the most recent positions you have held, giving fuller descriptions as they are most likely to be relevant to your current job search. Focus on achievements and word them to demonstrate the impact of your actions, not just the fundamentals of your responsibilities. For example: 

Responsible for a team of five executives, driving sales, setting targets and presenting results to the Board. 

Reads better as: 

Personally hired a successful team of individuals that delivered a year on year increase of 25% on like for like sales, and increased the visibility of the team with senior management. 

Use the opportunity to demonstrate how your acquired skills continually added value to your employers and exceeded the basics of your job requirements. It is also important to include a line on the company and/or department to contextualize your role. 

Education 

This section starts with the highest level achieved and works back chronologically. Keep the information short, as you progress through your career it is unlikely the topic of your degree dissertation is likely to be of interest. If you have a recognised professional qualification it will also appear here, however, if you have attended short courses that are relevant but are not a formal qualification, they will be better in a separate section. 

Training, Awards and Honours 

If you have a number of accolades, awards and have completed courses to improve your skills or have a membership to industry associations, keep them in a separate section from your qualifications. You can elaborate on anything relevant, but simply list those that indicate an achievement but are not directly related to a role you may be applying for. 

Interests & Hobbies. 

Your interests and hobbies are not the most important details to be included, especially if you are short on space. The exception is if you have outstanding achievements to include that demonstrate strength of character, for example, if you have run a marathon, become a chess grandmaster, climbed a mountain or raised a lot of money for charity. 

References 

Your CV should include 2 professional referees, ideally one from your most recent role. It is acceptable to state “references available upon request” but you should always have them prepared. 

Also, read our guide to graduate CVs if you have recently finished in education and are looking to take your first step into the working world.