Structure of a CV Structure of a CV helps
How you present your CV and what information you have on it is up to you but there are some standard sections you should include. These are as follows:

  • Personal Details
  • Personal Profile
  • Skills
  • Achievements
  • Education & Qualifications
  • Work History
  • Hobbies & Interests
  • References

Personal Details:

You should include your name, address, telephone number and email address. It’s entirely up to you whether you want to include your age, marital status and nationality. However, new laws on age discrimination means that you do not need to put your age or date of birth on your CV. I know I’m stating the obvious here but don’t put down an email or telephone number which you don’t check or can’t be reached at easily. The last thing employers want to do is chase you for an interview. Also, use a sensible email such as, or Avoid using unsuitable emails such or . For example:

Joe Bloggs

20 Tenby Road
B6 7RF 
T: 0121 000 8886 
M: 0087 000 9999

Joe Bloggs
20, Tenby Road, Birmingham, West Midlands, B6 7RF
Tel: 0121 – 000 1111                 email:

Personal Profile:

Personal profiles are optional and you won’t be penalised if you don’t have one. If you do have one make sure it’s succinct and to the point. The good thing about including a personal profile is that it gives you the opportunity to convince the employer that the rest of your CV is worth reading. It should be between 5-7 lines and contain a sentence about your skills and qualities which make you suitable for the role you are applying for.

You can also add a sentence about your work history, achievements and career aims. Profiles should be short and positive and placed at the beginning of the CV. Be brief, as you can highlight examples of your skills in later sections. For example, if your current job role involves working with people, you could say the following:

“A kind, caring and compassionate person who has previously worked in a nursing home with elderly people”

The short description above is also a good way to start your profile because it draws the employer’s attention immediately to your skills and experiences. The best piece of advice I can give you at this point is to get the pitch right. To do that you need to avoid using meaningless clichés that are not backed up by any concrete evidence. Possessing excellent communication skills and having the ability to work in a team are perfect examples and more often than not these vague statements put employers to sleep.

If you’re struggling to find the right words to describe your strengths and personal attributes use a dictionary, or a thesaurus for inspiration. Brighten up the content by using powerful action words and power phrases. If structured correctly with 50-60 very hardworking words, your profile should sell your key skills, experiences and interests even to a time-pressed employer. Consider the profile below:

“An ambitious and hardworking recent graduate with excellent IT skills. Successful completion of my dissertation and work placements has allowed me to gain valuable research and practical skills and the ability to communicate with members of the public. My academic achievements thus so far are a testament to my commitment, hard work and ability. I also see myself as an enthusiastic and reliable team player who can handle multiple tasks competently, working well under pressure”

The candidate above is not only ambitious and hardworking but has excellent research and presentation skills which would be invaluable to any company. His academic achievements and various work placements further prove his worth and dedication to both work and employer. The fact that he can manage several tasks and work under pressure illustrates that he is a high-flier who can handle multiple tasks in demanding situations. It’s a very persuasive pitch because the candidate has got around the so called cliché statements by linking what he has done with plenty of evidence to support his case. This candidate has not only got the pitch right but he has also managed to keep it short and succinct making the rest of his CV worth reading.

Sample profiles

The candidate has also avoided making customary mistakes such as starting every sentence with “I”. I understand it’s difficult to avoid using “I” when you are writing a paragraph about yourself but the best way to avoid this is by carefully changing & restructuring each sentence over and over again until you get it right. This brings me nicely to my second point. Edit your profile ruthlessly and cut out as many unnecessary words as you possibly can. Read it again and again until you’re convinced that it will have the maximum impact you intended it to have.

Thirdly, avoid using buzz words, let’s be honest, we’ve all used them at one time or another without even realizing. Buzz words can make you sound like a plastic candidate that has no real skills or personality. Remember, employers aren’t looking to hire a robot; they want someone who they can work with and who will be a good addition to their work force. Don’t give them any reason to think that you are just another characterless person who sits in front of a computer all day and cuts and pastes from other people’s CVs.

Finally, another way to entice a potential employer to read the rest of your CV is to end your profile with a powerful statement, something short and snappy. The aim of this is to leave an enduring impression on the employer so that your CV is impossible to ignore. You could end your profile with either a statement about your career aim/objective/goal or a short sentence about the type of company you want to work for, for example:

“Keen to find a challenging position with a successful and ambitious company that offers opportunity for career development and progression”

“Currently looking for a suitable warehouse position with an ambitious and rewarding company that offers excellent opportunities for development and career progression”

“I am presently looking for work in the IT industry; I am familiar with most aspects of IT and have used computers both on a personal and business level for many years”


The fundamental aim of your CV is to get you an interview-to get your foot through the door. So in order to achieve this you must ensure that every section of your CV contains information of value, and relevance to the advertised position or the career you want to pursue. And, your ‘Skills’ section is arguably the most important part of your CV to employers, particularly if you are creating a Skill based CV.

When employers are looking to recruit potential candidates they want to know one thing and that is “what’s in it for them”. What will you bring to their company? They want to see evidence that you have the motivation for the role, the ability to adapt and share the companies’ vision and ethos and most importantly the key skills and personal attributes related to the position. Therefore, you need to sell yourself, demonstrate your skills and show them that you are going to be a positive addition to their workforce. Don’t worry if you haven’t got all the relevant experience and qualifications for the role. The successful candidate is the one who demonstrates motivation for the job and the personal and transferable skills needed to succeed.

Examples of key skills
Examples of skill headings


Achievements are a great way of showing potential employers that not only do you have the skills to do a certain role, but you can actually implement your skills into practice. There’s no doubt that employers will be interested in your skills for the job but they will also look at the achievements you have acquired during the course of your academic, work and personal life. The simple reason behind this is so that they can determine whether you have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the position that they have on offer.

I’ve always held the notion that a CV looks that much better if it includes a set of impressive achievements that have been acquired from either your academic, personal or work life. The stage of your life where you acquire these impressive achievements depends very much on your age and at what point of your life you’re creating your CV. These achievements should highlight your capabilities and should relate to whatever the employer is looking for, and ultimately what the job role requires.

Examples of achievements

Education & Qualifications:

Start with your most recent qualifications first and work back to ones you got at school. You can use bullet points or a table. Include the following:

  • The university, college or school you went to
  • The dates the qualifications were awarded and grades
  • Any work related courses if they’re relevant i.e. IT, language and secretarial skills

Avoid listing all the in-house training courses that you have ever attended (unless it’s relevant). Mention grades only if they’re good. If they’re poor don’t bother. For example:

Bournemouth University 2007-2010
BSc (Hons) Accounting and Financial Management Studies (2:1)

Coventry County College 2005-2007
A’ Levels:
Maths A
English B
Commerce A

Ashton Secondary School 2000-2005
GSCEs: Maths (A) English (B) Technology (B) Science (C) Geography (B)

Work History :

This section should come before the education and qualifications section-an exception would be for a recent graduate or a school leaver with less work experience, who might prefer to start off with education & qualifications. The key is to list your most recent or current role first, and go back chronologically i.e.

Home visiting volunteer, Meals on Wheels (2008 – Current)
Sales assistant, Shoe Express (2001 – 2008)

Barnwell Construction Ltd, Machine Operator and Bricklayer (2007 – 2012)
Barnwell Wholesalers, Warehouse Assistant (2006 – 2007)

Employers are most interested in what you are doing at the moment, and less so in a weekend job you did 20 years ago (although this might be important if you’re a recent school leaver). Try to relate your skills and experiences to the job description or what you think the employer is looking for. A receptionist job would involve IT and communication skills so focus on these. Include any relevant temporary work or voluntary work experience i.e.

Voluntary Work Experience
Elderly (2002)
Through the local Community Centre I arranged regular visits to residents in sheltered housing. Helped with household tasks, shopping and provided companionship.

No one expects you to remember exact dates, but you should give the month and year. Check the dates are accurate otherwise you’re going to look silly when the dates don’t tally up. If you have a long list of previous jobs/roles, save space by compressing the earlier roles into shorter descriptions, or just include the job titles, date and company name i.e.

2006 (Feb – Aug) Ted Harris Ltd (USA) Audit Assistant

2005 (Jan – Dec) Aston Holidays and Flights Ltd (West Midlands) Financial Assistant

Make sure you prioritise the more recent experiences. Using short sentences, describe the main responsibilities of your job, any special projects or achievements and important facts and figures. Most jobs can be condensed to between two and six areas. Be as concrete as possible and avoid vague clichés. Use bullet points as this saves space and looks professional i.e.

Duties included:

  • Serving customers at cash registers
  • Stocking shelves with goods
  • Providing advice and explaining different features of products to customers
  • Dealing with customer complaints when product returned
  • Processing payments of various kinds, including cash, cheques and credit cards

Instead of using vague descriptions and clichés to describe your responsibilities and achievements use action words such as increased, organized and operated to describe what you did in your last job and what you achieved. For example:

“Increased regional sales by 15% in a one year period” sounds better than “whilst I was at ABS Bank I improved sales performance over a twelve month period”

“Organised and operated incentive schemes to keep sales staff motivated” sounds better than “As a team leader for ABS Bank I had the responsibility of motivating people in the sales department”

By simply adding a few relevant and impressive action words, you are able change the whole meaning of the sentence and what it says about you. Remember to focus on outputs and end results, use positive language and be concise. There is no need to write too much about what your company does or your reasons’ for leaving-these can be explored at the interview.

You can include achievements, important facts and figures amongst your main responsibilities. For example:

  • Worked in a small team of 5 at a local mini market taking on a variety of roles.
  • Overseeing the recruitment of new sales and retail staff.
  • Built team spirit as a supervisor by ensuring that staff were supported to meet testing team sales targets.
  • Responsible for training and induction programmes for new staff members.
  • Implemented changes that increased customer retention by 19 %.
  • Helped push the business forward to achieve significant turnover and profitability in 6 different mini markets.

Alternatively, you can put them under your main duties as a separate entity altogether. For example:

Trainee Sales Supervisor

  • Dealing with complaints, helping customers with any problems they have with defected items, merchandising, cashing up, banking, stock taking, ordering stock, overseeing the smooth running of the store on a day to day basis.


  • Managed a small team of 6 which achieved the highest sales total 2 years running.
  • Employee of the Year (2010 and 2012).

Avoid unexplained gaps in your employment history. If you had time off raising a family, travelling, volunteering, self-employment, caring for a sick relative or simply not being able to find the right job, include this along with details of what you learned. It is important to try and include some explanation for these gaps otherwise potential employers could make assumptions of their own and completely disregard your CV. Sometimes, it is difficult to account for these gaps; particularly if they are for potentially negative reasons. However, this is not an excuse for you to be dishonest and gloss over the holes by leaving them out. Moreover, it is an opportunity for you to be positive and make sure that you come across as enthusiastic and ready for work.

Hobbies & Interests:

Although, it is not essential to have a hobbies and interest section in your CV, it can sometimes be a useful way of explaining to the employer a little bit more about you as a person. When you present your CV to an employer, it is likely that they will have no other insight in to your skills, experiences and personal attributes then what is laid out before them. It is therefore important that you create a picture of what kind of person you are and the value you would be to a prospective employer.

The V in the CV stands for vitae-Latin for life and the interest part of your application is the ideal opportunity for you to prove that you have a life. Unfortunately, this is not a cue for you to write your life story from A-Z. It is an opportunity for you to list a few important activities that tells the employer that you do have a life outside work and that you are a safe bet for the job on offer.

The idea is to keep this section short and sweet. A couple of well written and structured sentences should be sufficient. Alternatively, bullet points can be used to separate interests into different types; Computers, Voluntary Work etc. For example:

Computers: Designing websites for family and friends. Currently I am a deputy leader of a Computer Club.
Voluntary Work: Enjoy raising funds for the local hospice through sponsored walks and swims.
Rock Climbing: Hold leadership and supervisory qualifications in mountaineering and rock climbing. Walked and climbed Mount Snowdon and Ben-Nevis


Many CV’s don’t include referees’ details, simply stating “References available on request”. It’s unlikely anyone will want to take up your references before a job offer has been made. However, sometimes employers like to see that you have included the details of two referees’ even if they don’t contact them.

If that’s the case and you decide to include two referees’ then make sure one referee is work related and the other academic. Alternatively, if you have not worked for a while, you could use another responsible person who has known you for some time. You should include the following details of each referee; their name, address, contact number, email (if they have one) and relationship to you. For example:

Mr. Darren Reynolds
Head of PE
Aston Arts & Technology School
West Midlands
B6 4XX
Tel no: 000 000 0000


Mr. P Jones, Store Manager, Jacobs Hardware Store, Birmingham, B4 XXX, Tel: 0121 000 0000