What not to include in a CV

It helps enormously to keep a CV focused and on-point.

Don’t include the following in a CV:

Photographs: you might find it odd, in the age of the selfie, but it’s not yet a cultural norm to include a photograph of yourself in a CV in the majority of industries.

Qualifications: leave out any that are not relevant or out of date.

Outdated experience: unless highly relevant to the application don’t go further back than ten years.

Curriculum Vitae: Don’t need to include the words Curriculum Vitae — everyone knows it’s a CV.

The obvious: The phrase: “Reference available on request.” This is taken for granted.

Date of birth: it’s not relevant.

A summary or profile: there is a fashion to head a CV with a career summary of one or two sentences about how you fit, professionally, in the world.

A summary is optional and not including one is far far better than writing a bad one. My personal advice would be to skip the summary and use the time and space saved to really get your employment history right.

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Tailoring a CV

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If we had all the time in the world we’d write a CV for each vacancy we apply for. In practice we have many demands on our time. Editing a CV to a deadline increases the chances of errors creeping in too. Proofreading is a skill and it requires the proofer to have distance from the CV so it’s probably wiser to restrict your editing to a one or two sections of your CV.

Tailor your achievements at your current or last job is a good place to highlight why you are so suited to a specific job.

Step through the job advert and look for the skills and abilities the hiring company is seeking. Edit those terms, where applicable, into your employment history.

CV Length

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You’ll find plenty of advice for keeping CVs to one or two pages. Short CVs work well for many intermediaries who have large volumes of applications to get through and who may be keyword hunters.

But hiring managers and their teams need more detail to decide who to invite for interviews. So, structure a CV to cater to both needs.

Make your first page keyword focused. A second page can list previous employment. If this will be your first job then include examples of volunteer work you have done and skills gained from education and hobbies.

A third page can work for those you’d potentially be working with. Here, you can include narratives: projects you’ve worked on, problems you met and overcame. Don’t include esoteric details — these stories are only meant to give a taste of your experience. The key is to engage the reader in wanting to meet you and finding out more.

And, in the age of the web, detail any blogs, GitHub projects and other sites that you have created or contributed to that will support your application.

 

Formatting

A simple layout for CVs is preferred by the majority of users as it makes them quick to scan making the life of recruiters easier.

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Top tips:

  • Use MS Word format — it’s still the standard across recruiters and companies

  • Bulleted lists covering skills and experience

  • Reverse chronological order for employment history — it’s the expected format

  • Conciseness — repeatedly go thru and remove superfluous words

  • One font is all you (almost) need. Sans-serif is easier to scan/read.

    • For email address & telephone number use a fixed-width font for legibility

Page 2+

Page two covers your less recent career history. I’ll skip through the general items that you can include.

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Previous employment
Follow the same format for each position as you use on page one but, generally, include fewer bullet points when covering responsibilities and achievements. There is still reason to focus on using keywords that match you to job ads.

Education
Include the highest-level qualification — there is no need to include the path that you took. Include the name of the institution. There is no need to include the date of the qualification unless you have recently graduated.

Interests
It’s entirely optional to include a section listing any interests or hobbies. In my experience it doesn’t make a difference between getting an interview or not. Increasing the length of a CV without a clear goal may also cause a CV search database to rank a CV lower in the results.

If, however, a hobby or interest is industry-relevant, then list examples of achievements rather than just listing the interest.

Page 3

If you've gained experience through projects or problem-solving the typical CV format of bulleted lists isn't ideal for getting that across. Instead, consider relating such experiences in prose on a third page. Don't dream up content just so you can include a third page.

When writing up an experience, follow these guidelines:

  • Be concise
  • Make sure you clearly state the problem or the project's aim
  • Be clear about your contributions
  • Skip esoteric details
  • Leave out some details leaving a reader wanting to know more