CV Structure and Format

Failure to present your CV in a clear, logical and structured format will ensure no potential employer will read the content. Your CV needs to draw the reader and, once you have their attention, the detail needs to have a natural flow that employers can easily follow.

General Presentation:

DOs:

  • Use a clear, easily legible font with a minimum size of 12 points (on white background/ paper)
  • Keep plenty of space in the CV – avoid cluttering or over-crowding between headings etc.
  • Use bullet points for each action/ duty/ achievement in your career history – keep them concise.
  • Ensure you check all spelling and grammar for mistakes – a typo is the best way of blowing your interview chances.
  • Avoid jargon, slang and internal terminology – this will either make you look unprofessional or won’t be understood.
  • Keep your CV to a length where people will be interested in reading to the end.
    Approximate guide:
Annual Earnings (£) CV length max. (A4 pages)
< 40,000 2 Pages
40,000 – 70,000 3 Pages
>70,000 4 Pages

 

DON’Ts:

  • Start every bullet with ‘I’ – instead, use action words that describe your involvement (implemented, processed, assisted, managed etc.)
  • Use decoration, fancy borders or photos
  • Leave unexplained gaps in your employment dates
  • Lie – you will be found out
  • Feel obliged to put lots of personal information about you/ your children’s ages, marital status, religion etc.) – this is a business document

Structure:

Title the document with your name in the centre of the page (in the same font as the rest of the CV but in slightly larger size).

Personal Statement:

  • A short summary of what you have to offer a potential employer
  • No more than 4-8 lines long and should be a summation of your skills, characteristics, personality and ambitions. See this as your chance to sell yourself – but don’t use corny clichés.
  • This may be tailored when applying for different types of jobs – see optimising your interview chances

Personal details:

  • This only needs your address, contact numbers and email address stated at the beginning of the CV.
  • State contact details on which you are easily contactable and avoid work numbers unless they are strictly for your use only.

Personal Qualifications:

  • If applicable, list all professional qualifications with the most recently achieved at the top, working your way through to the oldest (reverse chronological order). These should show the full name and date completed,
    e.g. Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Qualified 2008.
  • Also show any highlights of the qualification, e.g. 1st time passes or prize winner for a particular achievement.

Education:

  • This is an overview of your educational background in short.
  • The earlier you are in career, the more detail is needed to be shown on the CV,

e.g. a recent graduate, with little or no work experience, will need to show secondary school, college and university (if appropriate) with all exams and courses that were taken with all the grades/ results.

An experienced company director with multiple professional qualifications, would only state the names of the educational institutions (and may even amalgamate the education and professional qualifications sections into one to minimise space and place emphasis on the more recent qualifications.)

Additional Skills:

  • List the training courses, foreign languages, and different computer packages you have used (but don’t list every MS office package if you use other more specific packages – keep the relevance to your skill sets).

Employment History:

  • Your career history to date should start with your current/ most recent job and work backwards in order (reverse chronological order).
  • Do not leave unexplained gaps between jobs as many employers will think the worst or use it as an opportunity to question/ pressurise you at interview.
  • The most recent role should, ideally, be the most detailed as these skills/ achievements are more current and hopefully most relevant to the role you are applying for.
  • The format for each job should follow a specific pattern:

Name of employer:
Job Title:
Nature of Business:
Dates:
Reason for Leaving:
Followed by 1-2 lines in italics describing your division of the company, its size, turnover and your reporting lines

  • Finally, list your skills and duties in a bullet point format under a ‘Duties and Responsibilities’ header. Then list your headline achievements (in bullet point format) under an ‘Achievements’ header. These are very different points – see our  CV content advice.

At the end of your CV, references can be listed but this is not obligatory as they can be obtained at a later date (and you run the risk of these being contacted before you wish).

Layout:

Should you wish to use a template for a CV, please click here and see our version of the perfect CV structure (as explained above).

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