While every CV is unique and should ideally be tailored to the job description, there are certain guidelines that can be applied to all CVs. For example, every CV will generally contain work experience, education and skills sections, but may not need to include hobbies and interests or extracurricular activities sections, depending on your career history and the position you’re applying for.
The following is a summary of the sections that belong in a CV and those that are optional:
The personal details section, which sits at the top of your CV, lets employers know who you are and how you can be contacted. Therefore, this section should not only include your name and current address, but also a phone number and an email address, where you can be contacted.
If you have your own website or a LinkedIn profile, it’s also a good idea to include this information, to provide employers with more information about you. If relevant to the job, you can refer to your driving licence or lack thereof.
For the most part, you won’t need to mention information such as your nationality, date of birth, gender, marital status or religious beliefs as anti-discrimination laws in many countries prohibit the selection of employees on these grounds.
CV objective or personal statement
Sitting at the top of your CV after your contact details, your CV objective or personal statement is a short introduction that provides busy recruiters with a quick overview of your work experience, skills and qualifications.
With recruiters spending only seconds scanning CVs, a compelling CV objective or personal statement can be an invaluable opportunity to make your application stand out and convince recruiters to keep reading the rest of your CV.
The work experience section of your CV will form the core of your CV, as this is where recruiters and prospective employers can see whether you have the required experience for the job. This is also where you highlight relevant skills and accomplishments in each position you’ve held.
While it’s not necessary to list your entire career history, gaps in your CV could be a red flag to potential employers and therefore should be minimised or explained.
The education section of your CV provides employers with an overview of your training and qualifications. Depending on the stage of your career, this section may be given lesser or greater weight by recruiters and hiring managers.
For instance, experienced professionals will typically give greater emphasis to career history and place this section after the work experience section. On the other hand, if you’re a recent graduate or someone in the early stages of your career, it makes sense to highlight your education as evidence you have the required knowledge for the job and place this section earlier in your CV.
Core competencies are skills and qualifications you can add to your CV to demonstrate your suitability for the position you’re applying for. While skills are specific abilities acquired through education, further training or work experience, core competencies are, broadly speaking, the skills, knowledge and personal traits that allow you to perform well in a job.
Core competencies are usually found in job descriptions and person specifications. As employers often use these to sort through candidates, including core competencies increases the likelihood of your CV being scanned by ATS.
One of the most important sections of your CV, this section provides an opportunity to highlight special knowledge and skills relevant to the position you are applying for, which are not mentioned under the education or work experience headings.
This can include language skills, IT skills or core competencies such as critical thinking, leadership and the ability to learn new things quickly. If you have volunteer work experience, you can also list skills that you have acquired in connection with this activity.
In today’s international environment, having language skills can bring professional opportunities and give you a distinct edge over similarly qualified candidates. The reason is that many businesses are now multinational and language skills enable you to work with people across borders and from different cultures.
Even in companies that don’t have an international base, the chances are, you’ll be working with and serving people whose native language is different to your own. By mentioning language skills in your CV, you demonstrate cultural awareness, adaptability and your ability to learn new skills.
In today’s competitive job market, listing internships on your CV can help boost your application and make you stand out from other candidates.
With many employers preferring to hire candidates with relevant work experience, including internship experience on your CV can demonstrate that you have the necessary skills to perform in the job, especially if you’re a student or a recent graduate or have limited work experience.
It’s important to note, however, that internships should be relevant for the industry, field or position you’re applying for and highlight meaningful responsibilities, such as running social media accounts, coordinating events, drafting reports, etc.
Courses and Qualifications
This section includes all further education that has been completed outside of regular school/university or vocational training, whether that’s job-related training or language stays abroad.
While listing your professional qualifications and courses can demonstrate a willingness to develop yourself further as well as an ability to learn, whether you include this section in your CV will depend on the work experience you have and the amount of space left on your CV.
Where possible, any further training you list on your CV should be evidenced by certificates or diplomas for credibility.
Volunteer Work Experience
If you have limited work experience or gaps in your career history, including volunteer work experience on your CV can be an invaluable accompaniment to your application.
Not only do you demonstrate to employers that you have real-world experience and transferable skills, but you also give them a glimpse of your personality and the causes you’re passionate about.
In fact, research shows that employers tend to favour candidates with volunteer work experience as it shows that you are purpose-driven and that you have a growth mindset.
If you’ve just left school or university, rounding out your CV with extracurricular activities could make up for your lack of work experience. Pursued with the purpose of developing skills for the job market, extracurricular activities serve as proof of practical skills and demonstrate favourable qualities such as self-motivation, teamwork, communication and leadership.
Which extracurricular activities you include in your CV will depend on the role you’re applying for, so it’s a good idea to study the job description carefully to note the role’s requirements.
Hobbies and Interests
Including your hobbies and interests on your CV can give a human touch to your CV as well as add individuality to your application. In addition, hobbies can indicate specialist knowledge or skills. For example, if you blog in your spare time, this demonstrates creativity and communication skills.
Nevertheless, the hobbies and interests section is an optional section of your CV and should only be included if it adds value to your application and aligns with the professional image you’re trying to convey to prospective employers.
When written well, references can form an important part of your job application as they provide recruiters and employers proof of your character, skills and work history. Adding references to your CV can lend more weight and credibility to your application; employers see that there are people who can vouch for your suitability for the role.
With this in mind, however, including references in your CV is no longer common practice, unless an employer specifically requests them.