What should a CV look like? Its contents are as individual as you are but there are some rules everyone needs to follow for professional results. Here they are.
Though thousands of people do it, not everyone knows how to write a CV.
What does that mean?
Piles of CVs that sound and look exactly the same.
And yours is someone in the middle, waiting for a short glare from a frustrated recruiter who will trash it in as much time it takes to pronounce your name.
How do you stand out? What makes a good CV?
Breathe easy, here are 11 things your CV needs to be great.
Want to save time and have your CV ready in 5 minutes? Try our CV 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.
Interested in the ins and outs of writing a CV? Try our guide: Making a CV for a Job: Full Guide
What Makes a Good CV Example
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Meticulous cleaning supervisor with 6+ years experience managing cleaning teams in commercial office environments. Highly skilled in producing sparkling results using environmentally friendly methods. Fully conversant with safe chemical handling procedures and the appropriate use of PPE. Seeking to join Perfectly Polished Cleaning Services as cleaning team leader and help maintain its reputation for excellence.
Cranberry Commercial Services, Liverpool
- Led a team of seven cleaning staff providing comprehensive cleaning services to commercial premises in the Liverpool metropolitan area.
- Negotiated bulk orders with suppliers, creating annual cost savings of 25%.
- Achieved customer satisfaction scores of 96% plus, exceeding company target of 90%.
- Planned schedule for periodic deep cleaning of various premises, taking into account size of premises, facilities present and requirements of clients.
- Monitored the use of correct PPE and led by example, ensuring safe working practices were adhered to at all times.
- Received 12 official written compliments from clients regarding the quality and professionalism of work carried out by the team.
Liverpool Museum and Art Gallery
August 2012–July 2014
- Efficiently carried out after hours cleaning of museum facilities including bathrooms and public viewing areas.
- Utilised a low chemical use method to protect sensitive artworks and exhibits, winning praise for delicate, light touch approach.
- Maintained a perfect record for completing timesheets and submitting written cleaning reports.
- Completed regular supply inventory to ensure adequate stocks were maintained and to achieve cost-effective ordering of supplies.
A-levels: Art & Design, Drama, Film Studies. September 2011–June 2013
Birch Tree College, Liverpool
- Leadership. Managed a team of cleaners, providing training and carrying out performance assessments.
- Communication. Compiled written reports for senior management and clients.
- Supplier management. Sourced environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals and supplies.
- Health and safety awareness. Used appropriate PPE at all times and followed regulations for handling and disposal of cleaning chemicals.
- Equipment operation. Skilled in the use of cleaning equipment including dry and wet vacs, carpet cleaners and floor buffers.
- British Safety Council Certificate in COSHH Risk Assessment
- British Safety Certificate in Environmental Sustainability
1. The Right CV Format
There are a few CV styles to choose from and picking the wrong one can have a very negative effect on your CV. So guess what picking the right one can do!
Here are the standard CV formats you can choose from:
- Reverse-chronological format. The most well-known and recognized CV format by far. Best choice for most experienced employees.
- Functional format. A good choice for entry-level candidates or those with very little work experience.
- Combination format. Relatively uncommon, but still a good format for career changers as it highlights their transferable skills.
To learn more about CV formats, check out this handy guide: Different CV Formats
2. A Professional, Up-to-Date CV Contact Information
Don’t you hate it when you want to call up an old friend and hear ‘the number you have dialled is not in service?’
Yes, well, so do recruiters. Keep your contact information relevant and current.
To make a great CV header, you need to include your:
- Full name (no nicknames)
- Current address (optional)
- Phone number
- Professional email address that you check regularly
- LinkedIn profile or online portfolio if relevant
Do not add your age, marital status, race, religion, or photos to your CV. These can lead to grounds for discrimination.
For more on what to put in your CV contact information, check out this helpful guide: How to Include Your CV Personal Details
3. An Impactful CV Profile
This is the first section the recruiter will really read and if it doesn’t get them hooked then the rest of your CV doesn’t really make much difference. It’s also known as a CV summary.
It should be a short paragraph that introduces you as a candidate and depending on your experience there are two approaches to follow.
In both cases you're aiming to answer these questions:
- Who are you?
- What can you offer to the employer?
- What are your career goals?
Then if you’re an experienced candidate, do this:
- Make a list of your professional strengths, considering all of the experience and skills you have that make you good at your job/
- Then check out the job advert and match 3–4 points from your own list to what’s set out in the job requirements.
- Use these matching points to write a CV summary targeted to the job you’re applying for.
And if you’re just starting out in your career and not yet experienced, use this approach.
- List any experience and skills you already have, focussing on your education and any practical experience you’ve already gained from other jobs.
- Then combine this existing experience and skill set with passion for the job, and knowledge of the prospective employer to show you’re a good fit.
Read more: How to Write a CV Profile: Examples and Tips
4. Relevant Work Experience
This is not the section where you list everything you ever did in your life. This isn’t an encyclopedia.
If you want to make a great CV, your work experience section needs to be perfect, so it shows you can do the job. Here’s how to do that:
- List the most current date and then go back in time with your experience.
- Include your current professional job title/position.
- Include the company name and location.
- List key responsibilities in bullet points. Use no more than 6 for your current position, fewer as you go back in time. Remain concise.
- Add key achievements if applicable. You shouldn’t have more than 1-3 so choose impressive ones.
- Use action verbs to really demonstrate your involvement in your job.
- Highlight promotions and group multiple positions in the same company.
Unless you’re applying for a highly specialized position or managerial role, there’s no need to go back further than 15 years in your job history.
Remember that it’s always easier to read numbers.
Compare ‘created plan that led to doubling of sales’ with ‘created plan that led to 85% increase in sales’. They say the same, but they don’t have the same impact, do they?
For more information on listing your work experience on your CV, take a look at this guide: How to Add Working Experience to a CV
5. Correct Education
Your education section will probably be the shortest and easiest to write. But that doesn’t mean you can just breeze right through.
Just like with every other part, a good education section makes a good CV.
The education section should include:
- University name and location
- Completion date or expected graduation date
If you have a lot of work experience, only list your last degree.
If you’re just starting your career, you can add a few details to demonstrate your professional worth.
If you want to hit the books on adding education to your CV, read this guide: What to Include in Your CV Education Section
6. Applicable Skills
Unfortunately, lots of candidates believe that a long list of every skill invented makes for a great CV.
That’s just not the case.
Skills need to be relevant in order to have meaning. Otherwise your CV will just look like a dictionary exploded all over it.
Here’s how to include your skills in your CV:
- Remember to add both hard skills and soft skills. They’re equally important.
- Search the job ad for the professional skills the recruiter is looking for.
- Include those skills in the skills section of your CV. Don’t lie about having a particular skill though!
- Be specific. CVs are often scanned by an ATS system that picks up on CV keywords. If it’s looking for ‘Microsoft Word’ and you just put in ‘Office’, then guess who’s going to be overlooked and rejected. Yes, you.
Check out this guide for more about skills on your CV: How to List Your Skill Set on Your CV
7. Additional, Important CV Sections
This section is probably the most confusing for job seekers since it’s a little more free-form than the rest of the CV sections. But it’s not that hard!
A great additional section can be just what you need to take your CV to the next level and noticeably above the rest.
Here are some great areas to include:
Hobbies and Interests
No, not ‘cats, travelling, films’. Add relatively specific CV hobbies and interests that relate to the job you’re applying for. While ‘sports’ is something you’ll see everywhere, a martial arts recruiter will be more interested in ‘muay thay, judo, and jujitsu’
This is also a great moment for candidates with no work experience to prove that they truly have an interest and passion for the industry they’re applying to.
Certificates and Licences
This is the perfect place to mention applicable course, certificates, or awards. These can set you apart from other candidates in the job race.
Simply list the name or title of the certificate, course or award, and the year in which you received it.
Volunteer experience is often overlooked by candidates both with and without experience. That’s a shame.
Volunteer work shows recruiters that you are passionate enough about a certain thing that you will spend your spare time doing it for free.
This is an especially helpful section for those writing a CV with no job experience since volunteer work can demonstrate different skills, professionalism, and maturity.
List your volunteering almost like you would list your professional work experience. Include the name of the institution/organization, dates, and a couple of concise bullet points on what you specifically did as a volunteer.
Remember to only include it if it’s relevant to the role!
There are lots of positions on the job market where knowledge of a foreign language will put you ahead.
Listing languages is simple—add the language and the level of your knowledge next to it. Depending on where you are and where you’re applying to, find the best proficiency scale with which to judge your proficiency.
When making a CV in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your CV here.
When you’re done, Zety’s CV builder will score your CV and tell you exactly how to make it better.
8. A Cover Letter
But wait, this is about how to make a good CV!
I know, but rest assured writing a great CV means writing a great cover letter to go along with it.
Submit a cover letter to go into more in depth examples of your work history, qualifications, and professional expertise and really demonstrate that you’re the best candidate for the role.
For tips and tricks on how to write a great cover letter, take a look at this guide: How to Write a Cover Letter
9. Editing and Proofreading
There is probably nothing that a recruiter hates more than a promising CV filled with typos and bad formatting.
If you can’t even spell check, why would anyone think you would be able to do a job?
Always proofread your CV before sending it out. Here are a few tips to help you out:
- Use a tool like Grammarly or embedded spell checkers to check your CV.
- Read your CV slowly and out loud to catch errors.
- Give your CV to someone qualified to have it proofread.
Read more: Proper CV Layout
10. The Truth
This shouldn’t be on the list, but it is since candidates still like to doctor up their CVs here and there (and sometimes everywhere).
There’s no point lying on your CV. Recruiters will verify your claims through interviews, references, and background checks.
Stick to the truth.
11. A Certain Kind of Pretty
You can have the best CV on the planet, but if it’s written in Comic Sans, no one is going to take you seriously.
Here are some aesthetic tips to make your CV not only great:
- CV margins: 1” margin on all sides.
- CV font: use professional fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Georgia, New Times Roman, etc).
- Font Size: Use 14-16 pt for CV section headers and 12 pt for the rest of the text.
- Font formats: Use bold sparingly to emphasize key points. You can underline your section headers to make for a clearer break between sections. Use italics for text that doesn’t need to be at the forefront (e.g. locations).
- CV length: Keep to 1 page; 2 pages are OK for very experienced or senior level candidates.
Read more: 20+ Expert CV Writing Tips and Advice
It may sometimes seem that making a good CV is next to impossible. But now you can see that it’s not all that hard!
Just remember what makes a good CV:
- Choose the right CV format for you.
- Include up-to-date, relevant information, experience, skills, and examples in all of your CV sections.
- Attach a meaningful cover letter that will sweep the recruiter off their feet.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread.
- Stick to the truth.
- Make sure your CV is aesthetically pleasing.
That’s it! Now go create the perfect CV and land that interview!
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your CV 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:
Have any questions? Share them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you in a flash!