A resume is a CV... except when it isn't. Find out what the difference between a curriculum vitae and a resume is to maximize your chances of landing the job in any industry, not just academia.
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Writing a CV in 2021 is hard—
What to include? What to leave off? What sections do employers expect to see? In what order?
To land the job you’ll need to go the extra mile to stand out from 250 other candidates. But—you also need to play by some standard CV writing rules.
And you came to the right place to learn how to do both on your Curriculum Vitae.
This guide will show you:
- What sections to include in a CV in 2021 and what order to follow.
- What information exactly to put in each CV section.
- Tips on achievements and keywords to use on a CV and land more job interviews.
- Things to leave off your CV so you don’t bomb your own job search efforts.
Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.
Sample CV made with our builder—See more templates and create your CV here.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with a handy checklist of sections, good keywords, and other items to put on a CV. If you’re more interested in how to write each CV section, see: How to Write a CV for a Job: Examples and Writing Guide
Also, note that this guide covers what to write on a CV you’d use to apply for jobs in UK and other European countries. If you want to learn about what to put on an American academic CV, switch over to: Academic Curriculum Vitae: Template and Samples
Unsure what the difference is? Go here: The Difference Between a CV and a Resume Explained (Definitions and Samples)
List of Must-Have (and Nice-to-Have) CV Sections in 2021
A standard CV written in accordance with the modern-day hiring standards has to include the following sections:
A CV must include:
- Contact information
- Personal Statement (Personal Profile)
- Work Experience
These are the basics. However if you want to outperform other candidates, your CV will benefit from some extra sections. If you can showcase any of the following, make sure to include them:
A CV could also include:
- Professional Certifications
- Professional Associations
- Additional Training and Courses
- Conference Participation
- Blogging and Influencing
- Volunteer Experience
Two CV sections that seem to confuse candidates most are: Hobbies and Interests and References.
Here’s all you should know about these two potentially tricky parts of your CV:
Should You Include Hobbies and Interests in a CV?
Long story short:
“Reading, Sports, Films,” is a no-no.
“Harlem Renaissance Poetry, Vittorio De Sica’s Films, Table Tennis”—that’s more like it.
To learn more, see: Hobbies and Interests for a CV/Resume: Good and Bad Examples
Should You Put References on a CV?
Learn more: How and When to Put References on a Resume or CV
We’ll break down what information exactly you should include in every CV section, but before we get to that, consider one thing—
The order of sections and the structure of your CV will depend on the stage of your career you’re currently at.
And it matters a lot.
In a recent reed survey, over half of recruiters selected “a logical order for presentation” as the most important thing to consider on a CV.
And here’s the order of CV sections you should follow to create a professional CV in three different scenarios:
Order of Sections for a Standard CV
- Contact information
- Personal Statement (Personal Profile)
- Work Experience
- Associations and Certifications (Optional)
- Extra Sections
Order of Sections for a CV with Little or No Experience
- Contact Information
- Personal Statement (Career Objective)
- Work Experience (Including Internship and Volunteer Experience)
- Extra Sections
Order of Sections for a Career-Change CV
- Contact Information
- Personal Statement
- Relevant Experience
- Additional Experience (Optional)
- Extra Sections
All of the above is applicable to traditional, reverse-chronological CVs only. If you choose to write a skills-based CV, you’ll need a slightly different section setup. You can learn all about it here: Skills Based CV: When and How to Write It (Examples)
Before we move on and discuss every section to put on a well-written CV, have a look at some sample CVs which include everything a good CV should. We created them in our builder (notice how well all key items are organized).
If you like what you see, you can have an equally well-structured CV of your own. Use our builder, find a template you like, and have a ready CV in minutes.
Sample CV Templates with All the Necessary Sections
First on our list, a CV made with the Nanica template. Contact information, experience, and education sections stand out thanks to legible section headings. Skill ratings grab attention and let recruiters grasp your value in a flash.
The timeline in this template makes it very easy for recruiters to navigate through your work and education history. Icons next to section headings highlight what matters most and help find key information quickly and easily.
With the Cubic template, you can include more details on a single page. Two colums help you save space without having to skip or omit anything. Plus, it's arguably the prettiest and most creative design out of all we have on offer.
Diamond has been a favourite for our customers working in business and finance. The template lets you easily incorporate everything you need to and brings attention to what matters most: experience, education, and skills. A great CV template for experienced candidates.
Last but not least—Newcast. A CV template with all the necessary sections that proves simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Nothing flashy, just black ink on white background, tons of white space, and an overall touch of class and elegance. See also our other CV examples.
Now, let's go through every key section a good CV has to include:
In the contact information section, at the very top of your CV, include:
- Your full name
- Your job title
- Phone number
- Personal email address
- LinkedIn profile
- (Optionally) Professional website
- (Optionally) Other social media handles.
Do not include:
- Physical address
- Date of birth
- Your work email address or any other current business-contact info
- Your photo (unless asked for in the job ad)
- Irrelevant social media URLs.
As for the last point, don’t get me wrong—
If you use Twitter to exclusively discuss things related to your industry, it’s okay to include the handle. But if you only retweet football talk or post “Cool People Don’t Date Tottenham Fans” (they don’t) memes, leave it off.
Also, make sure your email address is elegant. If you still use that “CuteChickAngela@hotmail.com” email you thought funny in high school, get a new one.
See examples and get more information here: Contact Information Section for a Modern-Day CV or Resume
CV Personal Statement/Profile
A CV personal statement (also called a CV personal profile or a CV profile) is a short, 2- to 4-sentence paragraph at the top of your CV. Its purpose is to give a synopsis of your career, list your top skills and achievements and show what you can do for your future employer.
Here’s what to include in a CV personal statement:
- Who you are
- 2–3 skills
- 2–3 achievements
- The name of your target company
- What you hope to do for your new employer.
And here’s what to leave off:
- Salary requirements
- Reasons for leaving your past company
- An explanation of why you want the job
- An old-school CV objective a.k.a. “What I want out of the job.”
See this example for reference:
CV Personal Statement Sample
Inquisitive computer science specialist with 8+ years of experience. Looking to leverage strong programming skills as a developer for Acme. Led a team of 11 coders at Halcyon-Berth Systems. Delivered projects an average of 10% before deadline, with 15% less errors than other teams. Trained 25 programmers in cloud computing skills.
Or learn how to craft an outstanding CV personal statement from our handy guide: CV Personal Statement/CV Profile: Samples and Writing Guide
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building professional resume template here for free.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
Arguably, the most crucial section of your whole job application. According to a Jobvite report, 67% of recruiters consider relevant work experience the most important thing they look for on a CV.
In the CV work experience section, include up to 15 years of relevant job experience. List jobs in reverse-chronological order. In each entry, include:
- Position name
- Dates worked
- Up to 6 bullet points outlining your achievements and responsibilities
- Numbers and metrics to back up your achievements
- (Optionally) A “key achievement” subsection at the bottom.
Do not include:
- Short-term employment (unless you have less than 2 years of experience in total)
- Present tense for a past job
- Explanation of employment gaps of time-off
- Tables, images or charts.
CV Work Experience Section Example
Black Knight Financial Services, Glasgow, Scotland
- Designed and developed up to 10 applications projects per year.
- Designed project requirements in cooperation with data analysis teams.
- Participated in project meetings, with technical staff members, business analysts, and external stakeholders.
- Trained and mentored over 15 junior programmers and developers.
Key achievement: Developed a test automation tool that reduced testing time by 55%.
Find out how to max out your work history section to impress every recruiter: How to Describe Work History on a CV/Resume to Land More Jobs
What you need to put on a CV in this section depend on your experience.
If you have more than 2 years of relevant job experience, in your education section, include all postsecondary degrees. Enter:
- Graduation date
- Your degree
- The name of the institution.
And nothing else.
Like in this example:
2015 M.A. in Comparative Literature
King’s College, London
2014 B.A. in French
University of Southampton
For entry-level CVs with little work history, place your education section above your work experience. You can add:
- Your honours
- Your dissertation title
- Relevant coursework
- Your best achievements
- Extracurricular academic activities.
2018 B.A. in Psychology
Relevant Coursework: Business Communication, Social Psychology, English Language Studies, Grammar and Editing
Extracurricular Activities: Captain of the Rugby Team
To find out more about putting education on a CV, see: Education Section for a CV/Resume: Best Tips
And now for the final mandatory section of a CV: skills.
Here’s what to list:
- 4–8 skills relevant to the job
- Soft skills and job-specific hard skills
- Indication of your proficiency level (Basic, Advanced, Expert)
- (Optionally) Examples of how you used your abilities.
And here’s what best to keep to yourself:
- Skills unrelated to the position
- Lengthy, unspecific descriptions.
Imagine the job description requires skills in: SEO, CRO, Data Analysis.
See this sample skills list:
(grew organic traffic by 78% in 12 months)
- CRO and A/B Testing—Advanced
(optimized sign-up rates by 37%)
- HubSpot, Kissmetrics, Google Analytics—Advanced
Good skills to include on a CV vary most across positions, industries, and individual sets of qualities. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula.
That’s why why have over 10 dedicated guides on various skills sets and how to use them in your job search. Give them a read if you want to learn more about particular skills:
Now you know everything about what items to include in each of the standard CV sections. But there’s a bit more to a well-crafted CV.
A Few More Good Things to Put on a Job-Winning CV
Here are a few extra tips for what to put on a run-of-the-mill CV to turn it into a fab one.
CV power words
Also known as CV action words or action verbs. These are the words you use to introduce your achievements, instead of just listing responsibilities.
With CV action words:
- Responsible for becomes Improved...
- Worked with becomes Collaborated on a team that...
- In Charge Of becomes Directed 20 employees to…
Here are some sample action words to put on a CV:
For 226 more, see: 240 Most Powerful Action Words for a CV/Resume
Good CV fonts
Use standard, elegant, and legible fonts such as Calibri, Cambria, Open Sans, Helvetica, Georgia, or Bookman Old Style.
Don’t pick outdated fonts such as Times New Roman. Don’t ever think of using a “fancy” curly-tailed font. Instead of adding a touch of class it will make your CV a nightmare to read.
See more: The Best CV Fonts in 2021
Keywords from the job description
Sending one generic CV to all prospective employers won’t do. Especially in the era of Applicant Tracking Software, you need to tailor each curriculum vitae you send to match the job on offer.
Read the description of the position carefully. Jot down all important responsibilities and required skills. Then, use those keywords on your CV.
Here’s how to do it to pain-free: How to Tailor Your CV to Match the Job Ad
Good CV Layout
- Lots of white space
- Uniform formatting
- Big section headings
And, for the final word…
What’s the one thing you should never, EVER include on a CV?
You might feel tempted to exaggerate the importance of your past positions. Embellish your achievements. Overestimate your language skills. All that just to get a shot at the interview which otherwise seems impossible to get.
First of all—recruiters are trained to spot liars. And once they find out you lied, there will be no second chance.
And, perhaps paradoxically—
Employers are much more forgiving than you’d think. A recent survey found that 42% of employers would consider a candidate who met only 60 percent of key qualifications for a specific role.
Unconvinced? See: Can You Lie on a Resume and Why You Cannot
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
Here’s what to include in a CV:
- Every CV should include the following sections: Contact Information, CV Profile, Work Experience, Education, Skills.
- Good additional sections to put on a CV are: Certifications, Associations, Languages, Extra Training and Courses, Conferences, Publications, or Awards.
- Things not ever to include in a CV are: date of birth, photo, salary requirements, irrelevant social media links, more than 15 years of work experience, tables, images and, obviously, lies.
If you have any questions or need further assistance about what to include in a CV and what to leave off, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll do my best to straighten out your queries. Thanks for reading!