How to structure your CV
The purpose of a CV is to communicate your skills and experience to your recruiter to help you secure an interview. So it makes sense why many applicants spend so much time perfecting their CV.
However, structuring a CV does not have to be a complicated task – follow these 9 steps to create the perfect CV!
1. Only include FULL pages
Whilst it may be more acceptable for senior roles, as a graduate/intern, your CV should be no more than 2 pages.
Whether you opt for 1 or 2 pages will depend on how much detail and experience you add to your CV. Make sure to check your industry standards as some are known for strictly requiring a 1 page CV.
Your CV should be either 1 or 2 FULL pages, there should not be any half-written pages. If you are struggling to fill a page, add more white space in between any paragraphs or decrease the margins, or you could reduce it to 1 page.
Including half-written pages in your CV will make your CV look incomplete, unpolished and weak. It can signal to your recruiter that you have nothing further to say.
2. Include a header
A header is a strip of information included at the top of your CV. It includes your name, contact number, address and email.
It is a great idea to include your LinkedIn URL (you can shorten the URL on LinkedIn) or any other websites where your work is featured, such as a portfolio, in your header. This allows the recruiter to view your work and experience in further detail, especially if you can’t include everything on your CV.
Do NOT include a photo of yourself on your CV unless it is stated for a position such as modelling. Your CV should focus on your skills, not how you look.
Other things to avoid adding include your National Insurance number or any identification details such as your driving license number. Adding such information can result in identity fraud.
Make sure to design your header to look bold and stand out. There are many examples available on Google.
Tip: add the same header to your cover letter for consistency!
3. Personal Profile
A personal profile is a paragraph written in the third person about you. It is a summary of your experience and expertise.
A personal profile can be a great way to highlight any impressive details about the work you have done – for example, receiving an award or being fluent in several languages. Include any figures here, such as the highest number of sales or any large presentations you have done in front of X number of people.
It is important to steer clear of any cliches such as “a great team worker”, instead demonstrate it by mentioning an experience.
However, if you are limited on space, a personal profile is not compulsory and can be removed.
The objective is a line written about what you are searching for in an organisation. This shows the organisation you have tailored your CV.
An objective is not mandatory to include in a CV and it is easy to make the mistake of using cliches. I only recommend including an objective if you are struggling to fill a complete page.
This section should include any education undertaken from high school onwards – in the UK this means including qualifications such as your GCSEs, BTECs, A-Levels and degrees. Be sure to include the school name, the years attended and the grades.
For GCSEs, you are not required to list every GCSE but a simple statement such as “10 A*-C GCSEs including Maths: B and English: B” is sufficient. Make sure to include your Maths and English grades as some roles require certain grades.
For degrees, you do not need to list every module and grade, however, some applicants may want to include a short list of relevant modules to the role. You do not need to list every grade but this is a personal choice, some applicants may want to, especially if they have limited work experience or extracurricular activities.
This section should be written in reverse chronological order, so your degree is at the top and your GCSEs are at the bottom.
6. Relevant experience or work experience
This section should highlight any work or relevant experience you have had. If you do not have any “employed” work experience, then naming this section as relevant experience can help.
For my CV, I prefer to have 2 sections – 1 called “relevant experience” where I list any projects I have completed through either university or extracurricular activities.
Then the next section is “work experience” where I speak about all the work I have done whilst employed in tech and also less relevant roles such as retail. Do not be afraid of including roles which aren’t directly relevant to the role as they can demonstrate other skills you have.
Separating my sections like this allows me to include relevant university/school assignments, projects and leadership roles in my relevant section. Not all experience in your CV has to be undertaken from employment (check this post on how to gain experience without a job). Whilst, also including my complete employment history in the work experience section to highlight non-tech skills too.
This is completely up to you how you structure this section. What may work for one person, may not work for you.
Remember to list your experiences in reverse chronological order, with the most recent experience at the top. Be consistent in how you structure this list – include the organisation name, the dates completed and the role. Avoid writing more than a few bullet points for each role.
Depending on the industry you are applying for, having a skills section can be beneficial. You can list any skills you have such as any languages known, any software you can use or any courses (such as LinkedIn learning) you have completed.
Be wary of including generic soft skills in this section such as “good communication skills” – any claims you make must be backed by evidence otherwise it may come across as waffle.
It is much better to demonstrate such soft skills through your work experience, for example, “worked in a team of 10 at a retail store where I developed strong communication and sales skills by interacting with customers”. This statement states the skill you possess alongside evidence, which backs your claim.
Therefore, it’s wise to keep your skills section purely for physical skills. A skills section is not compulsory but depending on the job role, it is wise to add.
This section is for including any experiences which may not fit elsewhere. You can include experiences such as any sports you participate in, any societies/clubs or courses such as the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award or the National Citizen Service (NCS).
You may have come across CVs where “references available upon request” is written at the bottom. There is no need to include this in your CV as your recruiter will directly get in touch for any references anyway. Save this space to extend the other sections discussed.
Remember to upload or send your CV as a pdf format rather than a doc. This enables your document to preserve its formatting and look exactly how you intended it to look.
As you progress in your career, your CV will evolve – do not be afraid to revisit your CV and change it!
Your CV is the first impression your recruiter will have about you. It is worth spending time perfecting your CV to leave a lasting first impression.