5. Structural layout of the CV

5.1 - Personal Details


It is crucial that a recruiter can easily find out how to get in touch with you and this should be laid out very clearly at the top of your CV. Your name should only include first and last name (not middle names) and should be the name you wished to be called. Sometimes, people find it easier to change their name if, for example, it is difficult to pronounce or spell - this is acceptable as long as you inform the prospective employer of your official name for the legal employment contracts that would follow upon acceptance of a job.


This is followed by your address on the next line which should be written in full so that the recruiter can see where you live. Although some people will travel a long distance to reach their workplace, it should be a reasonable distance unless you are obviously stating that you would relocate for the role. Even the most willing may get despondent for a 2-hour one-way journey on a minimum wage and recruiters know that those who say they will travel any distance are unlikely to be long-term employees if they believe they live too far away.


The next line should state your telephone details with international dialling codes if you are based in another country (mobile and landline if you wish to use both but note that if there is a possibility of someone else picking up your landline phone in a less than professional manner, you may want to steer clear of this option!) Equally, it is not advisable to use a work phone number unless your current employer is aware that you are looking for work and makes allowances for this (in the case of redundancies whereby the company actively help and encourage you to find other employment). If this is the case, this should be made clear to the recruiter as you do not want to start off on the wrong footing and appear to be less than professional by using your working hours to find another job.


Most people will have an email address, but in case you do not have one, now is the time to set it up as employers will expect those job-hunting to be reachable this way. Do note that some email addresses are best kept for personal use and should never be sent to a prospective employer - the message this gives is that you are unprofessional and less likely to be taken seriously which is not a good start at such an early stage in the recruitment process! It would be in your interest to create a suitable email account purely for job-hunting purposes. As with giving out your work telephone number, you should consider carefully before giving out your work email address as to whether it is appropriate.

Irrelevant Information

Date of Birth

Whilst it used to be commonplace to expect to see individuals' date of birth, the implementation of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (it is now superseded by the Equality Act 2010) now means that it is no longer required, although it is not too difficult to work out if dates are given against the Education and Qualifications section. The purpose of the legal act is to prohibit employers unreasonably discriminating against employees on grounds of age.

There is also an added security risk of identify fraud in revealing such confidential information alongside other personal details and it is too easy for such information to be misused, particularly in the current technological age whereby thousands of CVs are uploaded daily on to job websites.

Marital Status/Children/Nationality

As with the above, this information is irrelevant and is absolutely not required when applying for jobs. Do you really want a potential employer to know that you have two children if it may raise their concerns that you are less likely to be prepared to work long hours or be "one of the team" and become a regular fixture on the Friday night drinking circuit?! Even if you think it best to write "single" against marital status because you feel it could benefit you based on the culture of the organisation, always omit this information as again, it gives way to potential discrimination and is a further risk for identify fraud.

5.2 - Professional Profile

Starting your CV with a punchy, descriptive synopsis of yourself is a good way to catch the attention of a recruiter. Even though you might feel it can come across as sounding self-centred and "full of yourself", it really is worth doing - your CV is, after all, your sales tool.

Once you have established what to write in this section, it can be useful material in preparation for the common opening question during interviews, “Tell me about yourself”, which is actually the spoken version of your professional profile (it is not about what you enjoy getting up to at the weekend!) This process allows you to focus on career highlights, specific achievements and experience that you have acquired throughout your career.

As with your cover letter, your professional profile should be tailored to the particular role you are applying for so that you are highlighting relevant key skills and strengths. The difference between your profile and cover letter is that your profile should only be one paragraph, approximately 5-8 lines in total so it needs to be concise and to the point. It does not require bullet points but rather a series of statements joined together as a block of prose.

Your professional profile is best written in third person without pronouns (as if someone else is talking about you) which reads much better and comes across as less boastful (see CV examples). It may take some time to get it just right and is often best left to write once you have completed the rest of your CV. The reason for this is because you will have had to give a lot of thought to the skills and experience you have acquired throughout your career so by the time you are summarising yourself in your profile, you should have a clear picture of what your main strengths are that you want to convey.

To help the recruiter to ascertain the type of role you are now looking for, you can add an extra sentence at the end of your profile which explains your current motivations and future job aspirations. This would be particularly useful if you wish to have a career change and want to make very clear that your objective now is to work in a different industry.

Another option could be to create a heading above your personal profile stating your job title or starting with "Seeking………" and a few key words about your industry experience/or quotes that have been said about you. It is purely another way to make your CV stand out and personal choice about whether this style suits you.

As with any major piece of writing, it is best to write a first draft and make it as long as you need to as you can then edit and re-edit to shorten it and fine-tune the detail. If you feel you do not have a natural flair for writing, get some help with the composition from someone who has a good command of the English language or simply some feedback on how it reads. There is nothing wrong in getting advice about your CV to give yourself the best possible chance of securing an interview as long as you are comfortable with what is written and you can talk freely about it as it will be you in the interview seat and not your co-writer!

Below are some ideas of phrases you might want to incorporate into your profile:

  • Decisive and determined; uses initiative to develop effective solutions to problems
  • Entrepreneurial and driven with a keen business mind
  • Meticulous organisational and planning skills
  • Identifies and develops opportunities; innovates and makes things happen
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills; naturally builds productive internal and external relationships
  • Talented and skillful negotiator with an exceptional track record in developing new business
  • Self-starter; proactive in seeking new openings and opportunities
  • Results-orientated; applies a creative and innovative approach to problem-solving
  • Attentive to detail; applies a methodical approach to achieving tasks and objectives
  • A strategic thinker; able to inspire and influence others
  • Excellent time-management skills; clearly priorities and multi-tasks
  • Conscientious and diligent with a high level of integrity
  • Flexible and adaptable team player; pro-active member of teams
  • Proven track record in developing and managing successful teams
  • Thrives in pressurised environments and delivers under pressure to schedule
  • Critical thinker with strong analytical skills
  • Financially astute with strong understanding of accounting systems
  • Empathic listener; adopts a caring and compassionate approach
  • Consistently strives for quality; reliable and dependable
  • Leads by example; motivates and encourages others to achieve success
  • Effective communicator and creative networking skills; able to develop mutually beneficial partnerships
  • Emotionally mature and understanding; calming and positive temperament
  • Tenacious and persistent; able to meet and exceed demanding sales targets

Example of a weak Personal Profile:

I am a recent Masters graduate with excellent finance skills and am very good at making important decisions as I have experience of trading to supplement my degree. I also feel I am a skilled communicator and effective organiser and work well in a team as well as working on my own initiative. I am punctual and reliable and am always willing to support my team members. I speak French, German and Spanish to a high level. I am now looking for a challenging role with a reputable bank to utilise my skills and progress my career.

Example of a good Personal Profile:

Ambitious finance professional and recent graduate, with an MSc Finance and Investment (Distinction) from Southampton University, and a BSc Economics from the University of Milan (scholarship). A self-starter with entrepreneurial determination; achieved financial success through self-learning on the trading market whilst studying. Quick and keen to learn, works well on own initiative and thrives in pressurised environments. International finance experience and strong client-facing skills. Tri-lingual with cross-cultural expertise. Now seeking a front-office role in a top-tier investment bank.

5.3 - Areas of Expertise/Key Skills/Core Strengths

Whilst this is the most important aspect of a functional and combined CV, it does not need to be as detailed for a chronological CV as the key skills should be identifiable in the achievements relating to each role.

The most effective way of bringing immediate attention to your skills for a chronological CV is to create a bullet-point list of short statements or words which summarise your experience and expertise. Exactly how you lay it out comes down to personal choice and it can take up extra valuable space, so it would depend on how much space you have available as to whether you choose to include it as you may feel there is sufficient information in the Personal Profile.

However, for the purposes of the functional CV, you would need to create a Key Skills section that is tailored to the job role which would demonstrate how you meet their criteria. Ideally, you should mention approximately 4-6 skills to make it comprehensive and fill most, if not all, of the page. The following are some commonly used subject headings:

  • Administration
  • Account Management
  • Analysis
  • Communication skills
  • Consulting/Counselling
  • Customer Service
  • Designing
  • Editing
  • Event Management
  • Financial planning
  • IT skills
  • Languages
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Negotiation skills
  • Organisation
  • Planning
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Procurement
  • Project Management
  • Public Relations
  • Recruitment
  • Research
  • Sales
  • Secretarial
  • Strategy & Development
  • Training
  • Technical skills
  • Writing

For example, if you were applying for a job in retail, some of the key skills would likely include:

  • Customer Service
  • Sales
  • Communication skills
  • Supervisory/management experience
  • Artistic flair (if applying for fashion retail)
It would be best to use bullet points to highlight key achievements under each skill so that each point stands out. For example, under the subject heading of "Sales", it might look like this:
  • Consistently met and exceeded monthly sales figures by an average of 30% in current role achieving personal and team bonuses
  • Pro-actively contributed to merchandising ideas at team sale meetings and praised for innovation and using initiative
  • Highest achiever in team for in-house training course "Retail Selling Principles" whilst working at Passion for Fashion
  • Organised sponsorship for charity event whilst at Dress Me which raised brand profile and led to a sharp increase in sales over the next few months


5.4 - Career History

This is the most important section of your CV and should be listed in reverse chronological order (most recent job first). If the title does not suit because you are a graduate or have minimal work history, you could head this up as Work Experience which may be more appropriate but it should still include the responsibilities, skills and achievements you have achieved through temporary/part-time roles.

Firstly, it should be very clear as to the company name including location (but not full address), your job title, employment dates and a short description of the organisation (if you feel it helps to explain the type/scale of the company).

Your job title and dates of employment need to be accurate as this can easily be checked up on. Even if your job title does not reflect the tasks you were undertaking in your role, you cannot make up a more appropriate job title for yourself but what you can do, is emphasise those more challenging tasks you were responsible for stating clear achievements that you can then expand upon in the interview.

In the main, an employer will be concentrating on your last couple of roles, so you should elaborate in some depth on your responsibilities and achievements and then summarise more on previous roles. Try to draw out the skills and qualities that are listed in the job specification and tailor your CV to ensure that you can demonstrate how you meet their criteria, bearing in mind the level of importance of a particular skill. For example, if the advertised role was an Events Co-ordinator, they will most certainly request excellent organisational skills as one of the main key requirements. Therefore, you need to emphasise your successes in the events you have organised, explaining what they were, the size of the event, etc.

This is the main reason as to why you should never send out the same standard CV to every role you apply for as each may have a different emphasis and therefore, you need to think about selling your experience as closely as possible to the job being advertised.

Do also include relevant voluntary work/short term roles that may further enhance your CV, particularly if you have gaps which you can fill in e.g. by undertaking voluntary, part-time office work for a charity after being made redundant demonstrates that you are being productive and keeping your skills updated whilst potentially developing them further in other areas.

5.5 - Achievements

Many people have not given sufficient thought to their achievements or don"t feel comfortable in boldly stating them in black-and-white for fear of appearing too boastful. Ultimately, they are failing to sell their successes in the best possible way. Whilst of course, listing responsibilities is important to understand the day-to-day tasks that someone does, it is the results that they can fundamentally produce that is of greater interest to the recruiter. In their mind, they are asking the question, "How will you be able to benefit my business?" The recruiter is looking for real, tangible evidence that can be quantified in terms of the value you have brought to previous employers.

The simplest way to integrate this in the career history is to bullet-point your achievements so that they clearly stand out. In order to save space and to create a great a strong, visual impact, it can look effective to write your responsibilities as a block of text using a semi-colon between each point and only use bullet points to list your achievements.

However, the above may not work well if you do not have many key achievements to list and you would prefer to highlight your responsibilities using bullet points and a short "Achievement" section detailing significant results that you have accomplished across your career. Some roles will be easier to write using the former approach and should most definitely be applied for any intermediate/senior level role but with some creative writing, there is not any reason why all CVs cannot be written this way.

Example 1:

Provided management and support to sales team to achieve team targets
Led team of six to meet and exceed sales targets with 25% increase in sales turnover in the first year

Example 2:

Played a key role in organising the office filing system
Devised and implemented a streamlined filing system for the office; praised by colleagues and manager for reducing hours of wasted manpower

How to write an Achievement

You should aim to use a variety of action verbs to make your CV sound interesting. Do try to be a little adventurous in attempting to use a new word that you might not have used before so that you avoid repetition of the same words and keep the reader's interest.

Do ensure that you keep it succinct; a bullet point does not warrant a paragraph of prose - it should simply summarise your achievement by stating the contribution you made by offering substantiating evidence. It is perfectly acceptable to mention joint achievements that you have accomplished through working with others, e.g.

  • Played a pivotal role in the team towards developing and implementing new design network
You should think about the qualities listed in the job specification and the types of achievements that would appeal to that employer e.g. a banking environment will be interested in hearing about how you will have increased turnover, reduced wastage whilst a teaching environment would be more interested in how you improved pass rates, organised end-of-year events.


The following is an example of how a specific job role could be expressed which includes both career history and achievements:

Finance Officer

Richards own a hotel group, a vast property portfolio and major leisure complexes with annual revenues of £35m.

Meticulously prepared P&L for overall business, presenting financials to company director. Day-to-day responsibilities included: full accountability for preparing management accounts for multiple sites, accounts payable, budgeting and payroll, identification and resolution of errors on daily reconciliations, including income, expenses and insurance, processing VAT returns, accruals, prepayments and sales/purchase orders.

Key Achievements

  • Reduced expenditure by £3,000 per month through introducing property management strategy firm; personally managed relationships with insurance brokers, suppliers and all major stakeholders of company
  • Consolidated vendor services across leisure complexes; led negotiations with all contractors and agreed one fixed price contract; reduced 60 invoices per month across multiple vendors to one invoice per month for 20 vendors, freeing up time across the team and reducing procurement costs by 17%
  • Streamlined accounts payable and receivable; persuaded management of the benefits of direct debits/ standing orders; created timely payments and property management bills reduced by 12%
  • Minimised overheads by restructuring staff hours without any impact to business operational objectives; achieved by utilising time management skills to monitor work chain processes, gather and analyse data and identified peak / low trading hours of business; reduced labour costs by 15%
  • Increased regular quarterly audit controls nationally, exposing fraudulent conduct and reducing risk
  • Awarded top employee prize for innovation and commitment and invited to speak at annual corporate conference
  • Completed the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting within first six months in post

5.6 - Education

The positioning of this section should be based upon whether you are a graduate and/or have little work experience in which case this section should be very prominent at the top of the page. If that is not the case, then it should be listed after your career history, bearing in mind that a recruiter would be more interested in understanding the roles you have carried out before being able to identify your degree subject and grade.

For this section of your CV, you should be discriminatory about what to include and any irrelevant information should be omitted. Realistically, what use is it to an employer to know the name and address of your secondary school and what your "O" level grades were 20 years ago?! As space is a premium, you should aim to summarise your qualifications and all the necessary detail should only take up a few lines. For example, rather than listing individual GCSE subjects and grades, it could be written as "10 GCSEs including Maths and English."

Your education details should be listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first stating the full accurate name of the qualification, university institutions and dates (you don"t need to mention the date if the qualification was a considerable time ago). Grades are usually not important unless they are a major selling point and you are using your CV to apply for a further course or graduate training programme. If you have a degree, it is not necessary to list all your "A" level results unless they were outstanding and you are aiming to impress with your academic achievements (see earlier information about mentioning degree qualifications).

It is not necessary to list names of all the schools, colleges you attended for further courses unless it is a renowned institution as this superfluous information to an employer. The exception would be for a recent school/college leaver but certainly do not go as far as to list your primary school!

A key point with CV writing is to avoid volunteering negative information that will not "sell" you to a prospective employer; for example, listing courses/qualifications that you failed to complete or pass unless it leaves a big gap in your CV such as dropping out of a university course. This would only really be an issue if you have little work experience following this (in which case you would want to produce a strong functional CV outlining your strengths and qualities). However, if this occurred over ten years ago, you could probably get away with not mentioning it at all and keeping a strong focus on your career history and achievements.

5.7 - Professional Training/Further Skills

Most employers will acknowledge the importance of on-going professional development whilst in a role as it adds to the individual"s skill set and any formal additional training is of great benefit if you are planning a career move where such skills would be a distinct advantage so they should be clearly listed in this section.

If you have attended a number of one-day courses, it may be too many to list so keep the focus on those that have resulted in a gaining a qualification or you feel are more interesting to a potential employer e.g. if you are applying for a Project Manager role and you have qualifications in the subject besides other relevant courses attended, then you should simply list them as follows:

  • Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner
  • APMP Certificate
  • Finance for Non-Financial Managers
  • Managing Teams

5.8 - Other Details

This section is to allow you to add any further information which may be of interest to the employer. Its purpose is to generally include information that does not belong anywhere else but there is not a hard-and-fast rule for what you should write. You should consider the relevancy of the skill to the job you are applying for e.g. an employer who requires someone who is bi-lingual would certainly be interested in seeing any qualifications/courses you have attended in the relevant language and this should be apparent in the Further Skills/Training section but would be sufficient in this category if a language skill is not a pre-requisite for the role.

Typical examples include:-
Languages - good conversational French, basic Spanish
IT skills - Advanced Excel, Word, PowerPoint
Driving Licence - full, clean
Qualified First Aider

Languages - These can be an important skill to an employer, especially if the employer has stated that knowledge of a particular language would be useful. You should express your competency as basic, intermediate/conversational or fluent/native speaker and whether you can read, write or speak the language. Do be honest with your level as they could test you in your interview, particularly if it is required in the role!

Computing skills - If you are mentioning your ability of a particular package, then you should at least do yourself justice by ensuring that you get the names, spacing and capitalisation correct for IT packages e.g. PowerPoint, QuarkXpress. It can be an easy mistake to misspell such names but it can fail to demonstrate attention to detail, so check if unsure. If you are an IT specialist, then you should most certainly know how to accurately write the names of packages but you also may want to consider breaking down your knowledge and experience into specialisms. If this were the case, your IT skills should really be listed under the Further Skills section because of its relevancy to the job role.

Driving - Unless your job involves the need to drive, it"s probably not worth mentioning but of course, if you are applying to be a travelling sales person, this would be essential information for the employer. If you have a European licence or are qualified to drive large vehicles such as a HGV, you may want to list this under Further Skills if it is more appropriate for the job role.

Professional Memberships - If you are a member of a professional institution, you should state this along with your current status, e.g. Associate Member, Chartered Fellow.

5.9 - References

Most employers perfectly accept "References available on request" written at the end of your CV unless you are applying for a role in a profession where it is expected to see referees listed e.g. within the medical profession. In the main, most recruiters would only take up references once someone has been offered the job so by that stage, it is your responsibility to have contacted your referees to ensure they would be available by phone/email to respond to the new employer.

Although you may not need to include references on your CV, if you are looking for temporary roles with recruitment agencies, many would need references from you before they send you out on any assignment, albeit if only a one-day contract, as the company would have expected the agency to have checked out a candidate before placing them in employment - after all, that is what they get paid for! If this is the case, you might want to be a little discriminatory as to which agencies may serve you best, otherwise you might find that your referees may not be too happy to be repeatedly requested to give the same information about you.

References for difficult circumstances

As mentioned previously, there may have been an incident in your career which meant that you did not leave the company in the ideal way. If this is the case, it is worth noting that some employers can create a formal agreement with you which merely states the period of time you have worked for them but does not declare that you were dismissed. Equally, if you have resigned from a company pending a grievance against you, unless the above arrangement is in place, the company have a right to tell a future employer this information. In summary, if you did leave an employer under difficult circumstances and you need to use them as a reference, you do need to be aware of information that your previous employer has a right to declare so it would be best to check with HR as to what will be agreed in a reference.

5.10 - Interests/Hobbies

It remains debateable as to whether this section is absolutely necessary on a CV. Fundamentally, it comes down to personal choice and also whether you are either trying to save space or fill up a second page.

It will not make a difference generally as to whether you clinch the job or not but may have an advantage in making your CV stand out just a little bit more than others by mentioning a couple of interesting hobbies. It allows you to create a slightly more personal touch and says something about you as an individual and if the recruiter also has a similar hobby or finds your hobby intriguing, this may initiate a conversation around it at the interview stage which could help in building rapport.

However, it is important to be honest about your interests and hobbies and if you really do not have time to pursue other activities besides work or regard "socialising/eating-out/shopping" as your hobbies, then do leave out this section as most people enjoy these activities and there is nothing particularly interesting about them. As with any details you give on your CV, be prepared to answer questions about them so do not attempt to create a made-up hobby because you think it will make you appear a more interesting person, e.g. if the last time you were in a school play was a few years ago and you mention "Amateur Dramatics" as your hobby, do you really want to get caught out by being asked what role you have played in a recent production?!

To make for more interesting reading, try to be specific about your hobby. For example, rather than just mentioning "reading" you could state "reading political autobiographies" or "travel" being a very popular hobby would be more interesting if you state where you like to travel e.g. "exploring European cities."

Conversely, you may have a unique hobby but it may not do you any favours to mention it e.g. "participating in bull-fighting" which some people may find offensive. It will certainly make you memorable and may provoke a few curious questions but doubtfully, will achieve the desired effect of winning over your prospective employer! Equally, this section is not the place to introduce humour and attempt to be funny by stating that your hobby is "sleeping" or that you were the "Entertainment Officer of the University Drinking Society!"

Any outside interests or personal achievements which enhance your transferable skill set can certainly add value e.g. team sports (particularly captaincy which demonstrates leadership skills), helping out with your community's annual street party, forming an after-school football team for local youngsters, raising money for charity by running marathons. For recent school leavers and graduates, your interests and hobbies are of more importance and generally you can expect to be asked a question about them at interview stage, so do bear in mind that it could be beneficial to get involved in worthwhile activities to create an interesting discussion point. Not only does it help to build the picture of a well-rounded individual but it also demonstrates that you have good time-management skills to be able to fit in some regular activities outside of work/study.