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What to Put in a CV (and What to Leave Out)

Written by Andrew Arkley


Your CV has one aim: to get you an interview. 

When deciding what to put in a CV, you should keep this aim in mind. What’s going to convince the hiring manager to see you? How can you show that you meet the company’s needs? Think strategically, and try to see your CV from the hiring manager’s perspective. 

To give you a hand, here are our top tips on how to decide what to put in a CV. 

Gather information

Before you begin, gather as much information as you can about the job you’re applying for and the company.

Scour the job description and pick out important keywords that show what skills, qualities and experience the company is looking for. Research the company thoroughly, as well as the wider sector, to work out what their values are and what challenges they’re facing.

This information should be the foundation you build your CV on. When deciding whether to include something, think about it from the company’s perspective: how well does it demonstrate that you’re the ideal candidate?

Tailor your employment history

There’s no need to include every job you’ve ever done. For the most impact, only include relevant work experience.

Refer to your research when deciding whether each previous job is relevant. Did you use skills specified in the job description? Did you have similar responsibilities? Even if it’s a different type of role or in a different sector, there may still be some crossover.

Highlight responsibilities and achievements

For each job you include on your CV, pick out a few key responsibilities or achievements that demonstrate how you’re a good match for the role.

Use the skills and requirements you identified from the job description during your research. For example, if the job ad says the ideal candidate should have strong communication skills, highlight something you did in your previous role that shows you’re a great communicator.

The more relevant the job, the more detail you should include. Aim for three or four examples for the most relevant roles, and use bullet points to make them clearer.

Use important keywords

Remember those keywords you picked out from the job description at the beginning? Well now it’s time to put them to work.

Sprinkle them throughout your CV in prominent places, like in the responsibilities and achievements listed in your employment history, and in your personal statement.

Having said that, don’t go overboard - hiring managers will smell a rat if you use the phrase ‘excellent organisational skills’ eight times. 

Leave out the fluff

There’s some information that really has no place on a CV. Leave out irrelevant personal details, like your age, marital status or religion. As well as being useless, it’s also illegal for employers to ask for this information. 

Skip the hobbies and interests. You may be dying to tell hiring managers about your love of retro video games, but chances are they don’t care. 

Again, put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. For each piece of information you consider including, ask yourself whether it demonstrates your value to the employer. If the answer is no, leave it out.

Avoid jargon and buzzwords

Companies often have their own internal terms for processes and technologies that aren’t used elsewhere. If you use this sort of jargon when talking about previous roles it’s highly unlikely the hiring manager will know what you’re talking about - so leave it out.

Steer clear of the meaningless buzzwords and clichés that lots of CVs suffer from. Phrases like ‘hard-working’, ‘good team player’ and ‘highly motivated’ are overused and don’t add anything. Instead, demonstrate you have those qualities with concrete examples. 

Get your presentation right

Don’t include too much text. Long paragraphs and tiny margins are likely to turn hiring managers off before they’ve even skimmed your CV. Lots of white space, short, snappy paragraphs and bullet points are the order of the day.

Avoid fancy fonts. Something simple, sleek and easy-to-read, like Arial, is the best option. Headers, footers, images or complicated formatting should also be avoided. All your presentation decisions should be driven by clarity - do whatever will make your CV easiest to read at a glance. 

What to put in a CV: a summary

We hope our guide has helped you get your CV looking its best. The key is to think about things from the hiring manager’s perspective - there may be a detail you’re dying to share, but if it doesn’t show the hiring manager how you can help them, they’re not going to want to know.

Still wondering what to put in a CV? Let us do the hard work for you. Check out our bespoke CV writing service.

If you’re thinking about using job boards to help with your search, we’ve shared our insights on how to stand out from the crowd.

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