What to put in a CV to get your dream job

Updated: Jan 16

Pssst....Wanna know a secret. There is a recipe for CV success. People look for certain information on a CV. You just need to make sure they can find it quickly and easily. Here's what you need to include and why.




What should I include in my CV?

  • Name and contact details

  • Personal Statement / About Me

  • Optional: Professional Achievements

  • Employment History

  • Educational Achievements

  • Professional Skills / Training

  • IT Skills

  • References


Name and contact details


These should be at the top of the first page of your CV only.


Don't take up too much space. Try to keep them all on a couple of lines.


If you have an email address, make sure it is appropriate for a job application. Hint: BootyLover69@hotmail.com is not.


Personal Statement / About Me


This is your first chance to make a great impression.


This paragraph should include three things:

  1. A sentence or two that sums you up – eg, I am an experienced project manager who specialises in Higher and Further Education. My qualifications include PRINCE2 and a Bachelor’s degree in Events Management.

  2. A sentence about the skills you have to offer – eg, I can offer [company name] a broad range of professional skills including event management, operations management and staff supervision.

  3. A sentence about what you’re looking for (this should match the job on offer) – Available from [month], I am looking for a new role using my expertise to deliver high-quality events in the education sector.

Pack it full of words that convey quality such as ‘experienced’, ‘specialises’, ‘professional’ and ‘expertise’.


Your aim is to make the reader think 'wow, they sound great and we're exactly what they're looking for'.

Optional: Professional Achievements


This is a nice section to include if you’ve got some great achievements to shout about.


  • Did you smash the sales target for your team?

  • Did you win an award for best marketing campaign?

  • Did you double the number of attendees at a conference?


If so, this is the place to highlight it. Only add this section if you have some really strong achievements to share.


The best sort are measurable (like achieving a certain figure) or have external proof (like an award).


Employment History


Call this section ‘Work History’ or ‘Employment History’.

This should be a list of all the jobs you’ve had, starting with the most recent / current job.

Each job should include:


  • Job title

  • Employer name

  • Dates from and to

  • An overview sentence that describes the job and employer

  • A brief description of duties

A good example looks like this:


Events Officer, Buckingham School for Boarders

Dec 2017 – present

Organising open days and parents’ events at a well-respected private school.

  • Events management – planning and organising events, promoting them to parents, managing them on the day

  • Marketing - promotion through social media, web and printed materials

  • Finance – planning budget, monitoring expenditure

When you write your CV, if you’re applying for a specific job, refer to the ‘job description’ and ‘person specification’ documents. These will include the skills they’re looking for.


Try to identify those skills in your past employment and highlight them in your bullet points.


Educational Achievements


Call this section ‘Education’. Or ‘Educational Achievements’ if you’re feeling fancy.


Provide a list of your qualifications, starting with you most recent, and working backwards.


If you have professional training, include it here. Or have a separate section called ‘Professional Training’.


But don't go on forever. Some people collect qualifications like a granny collects ceramic owls. If you have a whole shelf of certificates, pick your best five. Whatever is most relevant to the role.


Professional Skills


This section is your chance to highlight the skills in the job advert or person specification.


The important word here is ‘professional’. Don’t list every skill you’ve got.


List professional skills and any qualifications that back up your claim. For example:


  • Events management

  • Marketing strategy (CIM qualified 2017)

  • Finance management

  • Staff management

  • Fire safety (fire warden training completed 2019)

Don’t include things that aren’t important to the job. No-one needs to know you can juggle or have your cycling proficiency test (unless you’re applying to teach circus skills).


IT skills


IT skills are so important that they can need their own section. If you are applying for a job that requires specialist computing skills, make them stand out by listing them separately. Don’t forget to include your proficiency / level.


A typical IT skills section might look like this:


  • Microsoft Word (intermediate)

  • Microsoft Powerpoint (advanced)

  • Adobe CS (beginners)

  • WordPress (intermediate)


If you don't have a lot of IT skills to talk about - or if the job doesn't need a lot of IT skills - just pop what you've got in the main 'Professional Skills' section.


References


If you don’t have much space, it is fine to just say ‘Excellent references available on request’.


If you have space to fill, or if the employer has asked them, you should include the contact details for two referees. Ask their permission first! Include:

  • their name

  • how they know you (eg previous line manager, former employer)

  • address (preferably work address)

  • email address

  • phone number


If you have been in work, these should be your current and past employer.


If you haven’t been in work, you can ask someone who knows you well. This could be a headteacher or a doctor, for example. It should never be family.


How do you structure a CV?


Order


Use the order above.


Sometimes people put education above work experience. Feel free to do this if you don’t have much work experience yet (eg are a school leaver or new graduate).


Or if your education is highly relevant to the role (eg a vocational qualification like a PGCE).


Length


Your CV should be no more than two sides of A4 paper. Your aim is to communicate enough to get an interview without overwhelming the reader.


Don't send them to sleep by going on and on and on.


And don’t cheat by cramming those pages full of size 9 type. Size 11 is the smallest you should go, you sneaky devil.


Old info


If you have a lot of experience, you might have a lot of former jobs to include. And that could push you up to over two pages.


If your work experience takes up too much space, miss out the older roles. Include the last ten years and then simply list anything else: ‘Former roles include xxx, yyy and zzz. Please ask if you need further details’.


What not to include in a CV


Hobbies


You don’t have to include hobbies on your CV. But if you have space to fill, feel free to add a few. Try to choose hobbies that are relevant to the role. For example:


  • a sport that demonstrates team spirit

  • crafts that show creativity

  • volunteering that shows your values


Photo


Unless you’re applying to be a model, you don’t need to include a photo.


Infrequently, some job adverts ask you to include a photo, so feel free if that's what you want to do. But be aware, these are usually roles where outdated managers think having a pretty young thing is good for business.


It’s weird and you probably don’t want to work for people like that anyway.


Curriculum Vitae


Don’t waste space writing Curriculum Vitae at the top of the page. People know what it is.


Your name and contact details should be at the top, like the star you are!


Check out more tips in my How to write a CV post.


Looking for a job in Newcastle or the North East of England? Check out my top six job sites for Geordie job hunters.

About the author

Libby is a freelance copywriter and content marketer from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She worked in marketing and communications for 18 years before turning freelance in 2019. She's written for big brands and boutique businesses, crafting customer-friendly marketing content for print and online. She also writes outstanding CVs under the name Standout CVs. Find out more at www.facebook.com/standoutcvs

Get In Touch

 

Want to know more? Get in touch for a free, no obligation chat today.

© 2020. Design and text by Libby at Write on Tyne. Yup, I design stuff too.