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How to structure your CV - An in-depth review

How to structure your CV - An in-depth review

24 Jul 07:00 by James Walton

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Writing your CV is probably the most difficult part of finding a job today. Although most of us may have taken our job search online, we haven’t yet found a high-tech and more effective solution than the CV. There aren’t many jobs out there that you can get without a CV in your hand. It’s your foot in the door that will hopefully get you noticed and score you some face time with the person in charge of hiring.

So, how exactly should you go about writing the most important document of your career? Here are our essential tips on how to structure your CV.

profile

The basics

To start with, you need to include some basic information. At the top of your CV, you should include your name and contact details. Including your address is helpful as it can show an employer that you live close by, however, you can just include a city and a postcode if you don’t want to let them know where you live.

If you have a website, you should include it, but only if it’s up-to-date and an accurate reflection of your most recent work. Leave social media profiles out of your CV unless it makes sense to include them for the job you are applying for. Even if you don’t share your social media profiles, you can pretty much guarantee the hiring manager will go looking for them, so make sure you remove anything that casts you in a less than ideal light. Some people like to include a link to their LinkedIn profile as this can often be highly complementary to your CV.

You don’t have to include a photograph on your CV unless the job description requires one, but this is unlikely as employers aren't allowed to hire people based on looks. You can also remove your age or date of birth, as employers aren’t allowed to make hiring decisions based on age.

Many people prefer to leave referee contact details off their CV as it takes up too much precious space. 

If an employer is close to hiring you, then calling referees will be the last step on the list so you can provide contact details later in the process.

Your education history

This isn’t just a case of listing your GCSEs, A Levels and maybe even your degree. The education history section is a powerful part of your CV that is often underused. If you were part of any university groups or teams, make sure these are listed. You should also make sure you include any further education, such as industry-specific training. If you’re certified to use certain programmes or systems, make sure you mention all of this.

If your education history is highly relevant to the job you are applying for, then it may be worth going into detail about the subjects that you have studied and match these up with the job description.

work history

Your work history

There are two main reasons that people struggle with listing their work history. The first is that they are new to the workforce and can’t find a way to make a part-time bar job stretch for more than a few lines. The second is that they have moved jobs every few years and didn’t know how to fit 8+ companies and roles onto two sides of A4.

If you fall into the first category, then you’re going to need to get creative with how to describe the jobs you have held. If you’re fresh out of university, consider adding internships and part-time weekend work to your CV. Don’t just say you worked in the local H&M on weekends, but show how this required good time management skills to ensure it didn’t impact on your studies.

If you’re in the second category, then one popular tactic is to focus on highlighting your skills and responsibilities for your latest role. After all, this should be the highest ranking role you have held. Be detailed and specific about your latest role and show how all the roles before this one have been building you up to this stage. You can then afford to include the bare details of all previous roles.

You should make sure you include the company name, the location, your job title and the dates that you worked for the company. The month and year are often sufficient so don’t worry about finding out what exact day you left that one company five years ago.

The details

Expressing yourself on a CV is difficult, likely because talking about yourself in any way is difficult. When asked to describe your job, you probably undersell your skills because everything seems so mundane. Imagine you are going to be out of work for a month and think about the tasks you would need someone else to do. Imagine the training they would need to do your job to the same standard. This will help you to get closer to an accurate overview of your role.

Don’t fall back on vague details about your “communication” or “teamwork” skills as these don’t really mean anything. Instead, look at the job description as a problem that needs to be solved. Through your work history, show the hiring manager how you would solve this problem with your skills. Don’t be afraid to make use of bold formatting to highlight key bits of information. Your CV will be scanned rather than read like a book, so do the hiring manager a favour by making it easy to scan over to find the right information. Bullet points are also an effective way to highlight your key skills.

Technology is a key part of many hiring processes today, so ensure you offer a detailed overview of the systems and programmes you use on a daily basis. 

Be sure to explain how proficient you are with each one. Teaching new hires how to use computer programmes is often a huge drain on resources, so if you already have the skills they are looking for you’ll be a much more attractive hire.

The personal profile

Perhaps the most overlooked part of the CV is the personal profile. Sometimes referred to as a personal statement, this short paragraph can often make or break your CV. It should be succinct and powerful, free from hyperbole and industry buzzwords. It should be at once concise and detailed. It also needs to be customised to each role you apply for. So, how exactly does one go about crafting this elaborate piece of prose?

The first step is to look at the job description of the role you are applying for. As mentioned above, you need to present yourself as a problem solver. Approach the job as a problem that needs to be solved. Use your personal profile to show how you would put your skills and experience to use in a new role. 

Remember that it isn’t one-sided, you want a job but they also need to fill a role.

Ask a friend

If you cringe at the thought of writing positive things about yourself, then asking for help from a friend can help you to hone in on your skills. Find a colleague you can trust to not let on that you’re looking for opportunities elsewhere and ask them to look over your CV. There are often aspects of your role that you forget and personal skills that you aren’t even aware you exhibit. Who better to point out that you are a highly supportive team player than someone on your actual team?

If you don’t have anyone that you work with who can help, then speaking to a recruitment company might help you to ensure your CV is headed in the right direction. They will see hundreds of CVs every day, and they’ll know what hiring managers respond to. Find an industry-specific recruitment company like Live Recruitment to help you.

They will be able to offer industry insight into what works and what doesn’t work. They might even have specific knowledge of the company you are applying to and the types of candidates they have hired in the past. 

At the end of the day, asking for a second opinion on your final CV is always a good idea.

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Don’t forget to proofread

There’s nothing that will put a hiring manager off more than a spelling or grammatical error in your CV. Proofreading your CV is an essential final step that will show you care about the details. If the role you are applying for requires any kind of written communication, many hiring managers will discard your CV at first sight of a serious error. As your CV grows and develops with each new role, make sure you are always bringing it up to date, getting a second opinion and then triple checking it for errors. 

There’s nothing worse than sending your CV out to a list of potential employers and then noticing that you spelt your job title wrong.