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What Are The Most Important Things to Include in Your CV and Why?

Your CV is your marketing document, it tells the recruiter how good you are at what you do and why they should get excited about interviewing you.  It’s your one chance to impress and so often we see people who’ve missed that opportunity.


That’s why we’ve put together a few quick tips to help you make your CV shine bright like a diamond and not be a diamond in the rough.


The Basics


Contact details, before you think I am teaching you to suck eggs, I do still see some CVs that are missing the all important e-mail address and phone number.  Also avoid putting these details in your header as they only show up when someone prints your CV or goes to print preview.    


If you have more than one phone number or e-mail address, don't list them all. It can look desperate and is confusing for the recruiter, just pick one of each.  Your job is to make the recruiters job so simple, there’s no reason they can’t get in touch with you.


Whilst we’re on the subject of e-mail addresses make sure whatever it is, it's professional.  partygirl123@ or bigjohnbear@ are creating an impression and unless you’ve applied for a party organiser or a walk-on part in a movie as a bear named John, I am not sure it’s the one you want to make.  Set up a free email with one of the many providers that uses your name just for your job search.


The Introduction


The all important first paragraph.  Most recruiters scan read a CV for 10 - 15 seconds before making a decision to sift you in or out.  For this reason you want something short and sweet so they can get to your experience and achievements quickly.  So cut the four paragraphs down to one.


Cover off what sectors you’ve worked in, your key areas of expertise, a few key skills and all importantly end it with what you can deliver.


If you put a brief skills section at the top of your CV you quickly and easily show the recruiter you’ve got what they need.  Hopefully by this point they are starting to get excited that they might have a great candidate on their hands.


Pick approximately nine key skills that are detailed in the advert or job description that you can demonstrate further in your experience section.




Making this section clear and easy to understand is vital.  Don’t have overlapping dates or a confused timeline, if you make it difficult to quickly see your job titles, dates of employment and companies you’ve worked in the recruiter will potentially give up, after all they’ve probably got another 30+ candidates to choose from.


If you can include some stats or results in what you list here this will set you apart from the other candidates. 


Compare the two statements below. Which one would you interview?


  1. Managed various large scale projects to a tight timeline and budget.

  2. Managed an IT implementation project, rolling out a new system to 300 employees within a tight 8 month deadline.


The second one hands down, they’ve given an idea of the type of project they’re good at managing, given it some size and scale and shown the timeline they were working to.


Another common mistake is including your whole work history right back to when you were at school.  Now for some people where that was only 5 - 10 years ago that’s not a problem, but if that means your CV goes back to the 1990s or beyond there’s a few issues.


  1. It’s likely to make your CV longer than 2-3 pages and there’s few recruiters who will read past page 3.

  2. You’re showing your age and it’s better to keep the recruiter guessing.

  3. I know recruiters who say that if your experience of something is over 5 years old it’s irrelevant.  I know it’s short sighted, but it means you can safely crop your CV.


Education / Training


Put your qualifications first, before the date and the University.  A recruiter wants to know what your degree is in and they’re less interested in where you got it from.


You don't need to include dates - it can help you create a more timeless CV and avoid age discrimination.


You can also include relevant on the job training, so be choosy in what you pick.  Make sure you’ve included what is most important to the job you’re applying for now.  That old course you did on Core Text Processing Skills (touch typing for those who haven’t experienced life before a PC) isn’t relevant anymore and most people unless they’re of a certain age they won’t even know what it means.



It isn’t necessary to include references in your CV.  At this stage the recruiter just wants to know if you match what they need.  If the organisation wants to get references they will only do this once they’ve offered you the job.  Use the space for putting in an extra achievement statement.




It’s not all work, work, work.  Our advice here is if you have space include them but if you don’t focus on what will show you’re a great candidate for the job.  If you do include them, keep it short and sweet. You'll have a chance to discuss further when you’re having your interview.

The other thing to consider is what do the interest say about you? If they are all high adrenalin sports, the recruiter may make assumptions about you breaking limbs and taking time off work. If you put going to the pub with friends, does that mean they will call in sick with a hangover on a Monday? It sounds crazy to make this type of assumption, but I have heard recruiting managers say this kind of thing, so choose carefully.


What Else?


Make sure that your achievement statements are one to two lines maximum.  The recruiter won’t want to read war and peace and the more detail you put in, the less easy it is to see the great result you achieved.


It needs to sound like you and show off your unique skills, so pinching some statements from the internet or getting ChatGPT to write your CV won’t work.  You’ll end up with something bland, with all the buzz words and you want something that tells your story and zings.


Keep it simple, select a font like arial or calibri and stick to it.  Don’t use funky bullet points, shading or include a photo.  If you want to find out more about why not to include a photo we’ve got another blog on that.  By keeping it simple, there’s no distractions and it’s easy for the recruiter to quickly scan read.


If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll have included all the relevant information, but if you’re still struggling to write some great achievements that really reflect how good you are at what you do, that’s where we can add further impact and increase your chances of getting that all important interview.  

If reading this blog has made you realise there's a lot of work to do on your CV and you don't want to add the task to your never ending to do list click contact us to book an initial call.



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