What to Include in a CV (11+ Essential Sections)

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Deciding which sections to incorporate into your CV is the initial and crucial step in crafting an effective resume. However, this task can be quite challenging, often raising questions about what to include and where to place it. Here, we will provide comprehensive guidance on what sections to feature in your CV. As you read further, you will gain insights into the following aspects:

  1. Determining the Appropriate Sections for Your CV: We will assist you in identifying the key sections that should be a part of your CV.

  2. Structuring Your CV: You will learn about the optimal structure and sequence for arranging these sections within your CV.

  3. Formatting Your CV Contents: We will delve into the best practices for formatting the contents of each section, ensuring your CV is visually appealing and easy to read.

  4. Excluding Unnecessary Elements: Lastly, we will highlight nine items that you should avoid including in your CV, helping you maintain a focused and effective resume.

What to Include in a CV

In a traditional CV, it is essential to include the following sections in the specified order:

  1. Contact Information: Begin your CV with your contact details, including your full name, phone number, email address, and location. Ensure that this information is accurate and up-to-date.

  2. Resume Summary or Resume Objective: Provide a brief summary or objective statement that highlights your career goals and what you can bring to the table as a candidate. This section serves as an introduction to your CV.

  3. Work Experience: Detail your professional work history, starting with your most recent or current position and working backward. Include the name of the company, your job title, dates of employment, and a concise description of your key responsibilities and achievements.

  4. Skills: Enumerate your relevant skills, both hard and soft, that are pertinent to the job you’re applying for. These may include technical skills, language proficiency, and interpersonal abilities.

  5. Education: Outline your educational background, listing your degrees, institutions, graduation dates, and any relevant academic achievements or honors.

Once you have incorporated these essential sections into your CV, you may consider adding optional sections to enhance your CV’s content:

  • Hobbies & Interests: Share your personal interests and hobbies, which can provide insights into your character and compatibility with company culture.

  • Languages: Specify your proficiency in languages other than your native tongue, which can be particularly valuable for international roles or positions requiring language skills.

  • Certifications: Include any relevant certifications or professional qualifications you have obtained.

  • Publications: If you are a writer or academic, list any publications or articles you have authored or contributed to.

  • Training: Mention any specialized training programs or courses you have completed that are relevant to the job.

  • Awards: Highlight any awards or recognitions you have received for your work or achievements.

  • Volunteering Experience: Showcase your volunteer work, demonstrating your commitment to community involvement.

  • Projects: Describe significant projects you have worked on, whether academically or professionally, emphasizing your contributions and outcomes.

  • Extracurricular Activities: Detail any extracurricular involvement, such as club memberships, sports, or organizations, to illustrate your well-roundedness and teamwork skills.

These optional sections can be particularly beneficial if you are a recent graduate with limited work experience, as they allow you to showcase relevant skills and experiences beyond your professional background.

How to Structure Your CV

The structure of your CV can vary depending on your unique circumstances and career goals. Here are three common CV structures:

Standard CV Structure:

  1. Contact Information: Start with your contact details, including your name, phone number, email address, and location.

  2. Resume Summary or Objective: Provide a brief summary or objective statement highlighting your career aspirations and what you bring to the table as a candidate. This section serves as an introduction to your CV.

  3. Work Experience: Detail your professional work history, beginning with your most recent or current position and working backward. Include the company name, job title, dates of employment, and concise descriptions of your responsibilities and achievements.

  4. Education: Outline your educational background, listing your degrees, institutions, graduation dates, and any relevant academic accomplishments or honors.

  5. Skills: Enumerate your relevant skills, both hard and soft, that are pertinent to the job you’re applying for.

  6. Optional Sections: Consider adding optional sections, such as Hobbies & Interests, Languages, Certifications, Publications, Training, Awards, Volunteering Experience, Projects, or Extracurricular Activities, if they enhance your CV.

CV Structure for Recent Graduates with Limited Work Experience:

  1. Contact Information: Begin with your contact details.

  2. Resume Summary or Objective: Provide a brief introduction highlighting your career goals and what you can offer as a recent graduate.

  3. Education: Detail your educational background, including degrees, institutions, graduation dates, and any academic achievements.

  4. Skills: Highlight your relevant skills, both hard and soft, which may include technical skills, language proficiency, and interpersonal abilities.

  5. Optional Sections: If needed, add optional sections like Work Experience (if applicable), Extracurricular Activities, Projects, or Volunteering Experience to showcase relevant experiences beyond your limited work history.

CV Structure for Career Changers:

  1. Contact Information: Start with your contact information.

  2. Resume Summary or Objective: Provide an introduction that explains your career change and highlights transferable skills and qualifications.

  3. Skill Summary: Emphasize a skills section early on to showcase your capabilities and how they align with the new career path.

  4. Work Experience: Detail your work history, emphasizing experiences and skills that are relevant to the new career, even if they are from a different field.

  5. Skills: Enumerate your transferable skills and any new skills acquired through training or education.

  6. Optional Sections: Add optional sections that strengthen your CV, such as Certifications, Training, Publications, or Awards.

The choice of structure should align with your specific situation and emphasize the aspects of your background that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking.

What to Include in A CV – FAQ

Here are answers to some common questions about what to include in your CV:

Should I include my hobbies & interests?

Including a Hobbies and Interests section is optional and depends on your preference. Some HR professionals appreciate this section as it provides insight into your personality, while others prefer to learn about you during the interview. Here’s our take:

  • Include a Hobbies and Interests section if you have space to fill, as it can help establish rapport with the interviewer.
  • If your CV is already comprehensive and you lack space, you can skip listing your hobbies & interests, as other sections, such as work experience, hold more importance.

Should I put references on my CV?

No, it’s not necessary to include references on your CV. References can be provided upon request, so dedicating space to them is not typically required. Only include references if the job description explicitly asks for them. Otherwise, assume that references are available and provide them when requested by the recruiter.

Which resume format should I pick?

In most cases, the reverse-chronological resume format is recommended. Here’s why:

  • It’s widely used and familiar to recruiters.
  • It’s ATS-friendly, meaning applicant tracking systems can easily process and read this format.

Should I use a CV template?

Yes, using a CV template can simplify the process of creating your CV, making it quicker and more efficient. Templates save you from spending excessive time on manual formatting. You can select a template that aligns with your style and preferences, then customize it with your information. This approach streamlines the CV creation process and ensures a polished and professional appearance.

How to Format Your CV Contents

Now that we’ve discussed what sections to include in your CV and how to structure it, let’s delve into formatting your CV entries for each section:

1. Contact Information

Place your contact information at the top of your CV and include:

  • Full Name
  • Job Title
  • Email Address
  • Location (City only)
  • Phone Number
  • (Optional) Social Media Profiles (relevant ones like LinkedIn, Behance, GitHub)
  • (Optional) Personal Website

Use a professional email address, such as [Name] + [Last Name] @gmail.com (e.g., [email protected]). Avoid using your work email address.

Note: In the US, UK, and Ireland, it’s generally recommended not to include a photo in your CV to avoid potential discrimination issues. However, for some countries, including a photo may be appropriate.

2. CV Summary or CV Objective

Position the CV summary or objective just below the contact information. These serve as introductions to your CV and should be concise:

CV Summary: A 3-4 sentence summary of your work history, including your professional title, years of experience, top achievements, and relevant skills.

Example: Project manager with 10+ years of experience using agile and waterfall methodologies to manage IT projects from start to finish. Achieved over 20% improvement in department KPIs. Proficient in programming languages including React, C++, NodeJS, and Java.

CV Objective: Use this if you’re a student or changing careers. State your current situation, desired role, relevant educational background, and skills.

Example: Recent Communications graduate seeking a secretary role at XYZ Inc. Strong time-management, writing, and multitasking skills. Led teams in university projects organizing events.

3. Work Experience

Structure the Work Experience section with the following format:

  • Position Name
  • Company Name
  • Dates
  • Location
  • Responsibility & Achievement Bullets (6-8 max)

Emphasize achievements over responsibilities and use data and metrics whenever possible to quantify your accomplishments.

Good Example: Achieved over 20% improvement in department KPIs for the year 2019.

Bad Example: Managed sales at Company X.

Include specific achievements that highlight your impact and abilities.

4. Education

Format your Education section as follows:

  • Type of Degree & Name
  • University Name
  • Dates
  • Optional: GPA, Honors, Top Academic Achievements, Courses Taken

Include additional details only if your academic achievements are highly relevant to the position.

Example: B.A. in Computer Science from the University of Copenhagen, 2016 – 2020. GPA: 3.9/4.0. Courses taken: Discrete Structures, Cybersecurity, Computer Forensics 101.

5. Skills

List your skills and provide a proficiency level for each one. Match your skills to those mentioned in the job description.

Be honest about your skill level, as exaggeration can lead to uncomfortable situations during the interview.

Tip: Focus more on hard skills, as soft skills are typically assessed during interviews.

6. Optional Sections

Format optional sections such as Hobbies & Interests, Languages, Certifications, Publications (if applicable), Training, Awards, Volunteering Experience, Projects, and Extracurricular Activities like you would your work experience. Include relevant details for each entry within these sections.

8 Things Not To Include In Your CV

Here are the DON’Ts of creating your CV:

1. Exact Address: Omit your exact address. The recruiter doesn’t need to know your precise location, and it’s unnecessary information.

2. Date of Birth: Avoid including your date of birth, as it can potentially lead to age-related discrimination.

3. Irrelevant Social Media Profiles: Exclude irrelevant social media profiles. For instance, if you’re applying for a job as an accountant, there’s no need to mention your Behance profile, which is primarily for graphic designers.

4. Short-Term Jobs: Don’t include extremely short-term jobs (less than 1-2 months) unless they were temporary positions. Short stints can create the impression of job-hopping or termination.

5. Irrelevant Skills or Experiences: Focus on skills and experiences directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Avoid listing unrelated abilities or experiences that won’t contribute to your suitability for the role.

6. Fluff: Steer clear of vague or generic statements like “I’m a great critical thinker” or “I have good teamwork skills.” Back up your claims with specific examples and achievements.

7. Images, Graphs, or Pie Charts: Don’t include images, graphs, or pie charts on your CV. Applicant tracking systems can’t interpret these visuals, potentially causing your CV to be discarded.

8. Too Much Work History: Limit your work history to the last 10 years. Extensive details about jobs from more than a decade ago are generally not relevant and can clutter your CV.

Key Takeaways

Now, let’s do a quick recap of the most important things we’ve mentioned in this article.

In your CV, make sure to include:

  • The essentials. This includes contact information, resume summary or objective, work experience, education, and skills.
  • The optional sections, including extracurricular activities, projects, awards, training, certifications, hobbies and interests, volunteering experience, and others.
  • Relevant information. Only mention the skills and experiences that allow you to excel at the job you’re applying for.
  • Numbers and metrics. By backing up your experiences with data, you’re more likely to stand out from your competition.