Structure and Design of a CV
Generally speaking, your CV should include the following elements – note that we will go through each of them separately in this post to give you some information about their content.
- Your name
- Personal/contact information
- Optional: objective statement
- Skill summary
- Work experience
- Optional: achievements, interests, references, etc.
- Keep in mind that a recruiter’s attention will go directly to the upper left corner of your CV (as shown by various heat map studies such as this one) and that they are likely to dedicate no longer than 6 seconds to deciding whether you seem fit or not for the position. Therefore, make sure you include the most important information in that area of your CV!
- Your CV should be easy to read and its structure needs to be as clear as possible. All of the information should be displayed in a way that makes it easy to understand and remember. If you are good at graphic design, feel free to incorporate creative visual elements, all while remembering to keep things simple.
- Use space effectively and make sure that you have a well-balanced CV. This means you should avoid placing most of the text on the left half of the page, for example.
- It is best to use a sans-serif font such as Arial, because these types of fonts are easier to read on a computer screen and it is very likely that your resume will only be printed if you make it to the interview phase. Serif fonts are, on the other hand, easier to read on hard copies of texts, so they would be an option to consider if you have to apply by mail.
- Start with your name, which should preferably be written using a larger font size than the size used for the rest of your CV.
- You also want to mention your email address as well as your phone number. Other information to consider adding include your address, links to professional social media profiles such as LinkedIn, and a link to your professional portfolio (if applicable).
- The objective statement is a short text (1-3 sentences) which should explain where you are career-wise, why you are applying for the position and why your application should be considered. In essence, it is a mini version of your cover letter.
- Alternatively, you can use that space to include a resume summary statement which highlights your key skills and tells more about your professional self.
- Some people think that objective statements are old-fashioned, so make sure yours truly brings value – if not, just leave it out.
- This section is dedicated to highlighting all of your relevant skills and should include around 4-8 bullet points. You can create subcategories if you have several skills that are related to a similar topic or area.
- Be relevant: If you are applying for jobs in finance, your potential employers might not be that interested in the fact that you know how to use Adobe Illustrator, so leave it out – especially if you are short on space.
- Be specific: When mentioning a skill, always include your level of experience and try to include metrics. There is a huge gap between somebody who knows how to slightly edit a webpage’s source code and someone who is able to code an entire website, so don’t let them do the guessing and be straightforward about your abilities. Similarly, mention your level of proficiency in foreign languages, for example, or the number of people in your previous team if you are applying for a manager position.
- The first thing to know is that you don’t have to include each and every job experience. Do tweak your CV depending on the kind of job you are applying for and feel free to select only your most relevant experiences. If you are still at the beginning of your career, you may include all of your previous jobs, but don’t elaborate too much on the positions that are completely outside of the field you are targeting.
- For each relevant job experience, include your job title, the name of the company as well as its city and, if applicable, country. Ideally you should include the starting and finishing months, and not only the year.
- Add some concrete information regarding your tasks and achievements for each relevant position. Use the past tense to describe your former jobs and the present to elaborate on your current one.
- Volunteering and unpaid experiences should be included if you feel like they are relevant to the position you are applying to, especially if you do not have a lot of actual work experience. Such experiences can also tell a lot about your engagement and personality so it would be a shame to leave them out!
- This section should include the name(s) of the school(s) you have attended as well as the name of each degree, including starting and finishing dates and locations.
- You can stick to including only your most recent degree, especially if you have left university several years ago. No need to mention all the schools you have attended and please, please leave out your elementary school!
- If you have attended courses which you feel are relevant for the job, do mention them under the name of the corresponding degree.
Achievements, own interests, references
- Ideally, you should try to include special achievements (awards, promotions, involvement in clubs or organizations…) within another section depending on their type (usually, these should fall under the “education” or “work experience” category). However, you can add a dedicated category to your CV if you feel like it would make more sense.
- Hobbies and personal interests: choose whether you want to include them or not. Anyway, make sure they are relevant and interesting and try to be specific: mentioning that you enjoy “listening to music” does not say anything interesting about you, whereas the fact that you attend classical music concerts several times a month does). If you are short on space, don’t worry if you do not include them.
- References: make sure the persons you wish to list as references have agreed to be listed. You can include them on your CV, especially if the job description specifically asks for references.
Key differences between the US and the UK
Now that you know all about preparing a great CV as far as content and general layout are concerned, don’t forget that there are several small things to consider depending on whether you are planning to work in the US or the UK.
First and foremost, you should obviously make sure to use American English spelling if you are applying for jobs in the US and British English if you are looking to find a position in the UK. For example, realize is spelled realise in the UK. Oh, and spelled is often spelled spelt outside of the US, but we don’t mean to confuse you! Nevertheless your best bet would be to ask a native speaker to proofread and edit your CV if you have any doubts.
In the US, do not include your date of birth as it goes against current laws regarding age discrimination. In the UK, it is also encouraged to omit it for the same reasons. The same goes for adding a picture. Unless you are applying to become a model or actor/actress, it is better to avoid putting one on your resume.
All in all, British and American CVs are not that different, so avoid mentioning too much personal information, watch your spelling and you should be fine!
To help you make your resume truly perfect, here are 4 interesting links that you should take a look at before sending away your first applications!