The Five Must Have CV Inclusions

Five Must Have CV Inclusions

This is an avatar image of the blog author Tanya Dunbabin

People often ask the question ‘What do you look for in a CV?’ The answer is simple, but quite hard to explain. 

Employers are seeking the full package - intelligent, hardworking, committed, dedicated, innovative, commercially savvy, and ambitious.  The interesting thing is that you need how to show all this, plus more in your CV to get through the door.  

This Linkedin article surprised but reminded me how recruiters screen CVs.  Recruiters were monitored over a 10 week period with eye tracking technology to see where in a CV they looked and spent time.  The conclusion was that recruiters spent only 6 seconds reading a CV!  Now that is not true, as I certainly used to spend longer than that, however it isn’t too much longer than a couple of minutes.  

Remember as a recruiter, the job is to read CVs all day.  You get very good at pulling out the information you are seeking.  As the job applicant, you just need to know what that is and how to provide it.    

More often than not recruiters have a checklist they are measuring you against.  The easier you lay out the information they are seeking to check off the checklist, the easier your CV is to read.  It is as simple as that, obviously together with formatting in a simplistic manner.  

Firstly the biggest surprise is that there is a whole tonne of stuff that doesn’t even get read.  I know you have put a lot of work into your CV, and expressed the skills you have obtained in each and every job.  However, go on too long and you have lost your reader entirely.  People don’t think to write CVs from their audience’s perspective, they write it from their own.  That there is the very first mistake.  If you picked up your CV and thought, ‘if this sat in a pile of 30, 50 or even 1,000 CVs, how would my CV read?’ you would be much better equipped to make it through the selection process to an interview. 

So what does the checklist consist of?  Every firm is different, so my disclosure up front is that this is a very broad description but is applicable for most roles: 

  1. Name, Address, Phone Number, Email 

    All right up front of the document, possibly even as a header, easy to decipher and locate should the employer need to call or email you.  Don’t make the recruiter search for your phone number/email address. Date of birth, marriage status or photo is not required.

  2. Education

    List this in chronological order (most current qualification first), dates, degree name and university.  Note your GPA whatever it is as recruiters will find it whether you make it hard to find or not, so make it easy.  Date of graduation or expected graduation, awards and exchanges. 

  3. Work Experience/History

    Again, list this in chronological order (current job or most recent job first). Left align dates - months and year of employment (eg. Mar 17 - Dec 17), and then tab across to note job title, company name and location (just city). These items can be bolded as they are key information a recruiter is seeking - dates of employment, what your job was and who were you working for.  The 2-4 bullet points below each role can detail your role and responsibilities, but to be honest, this will often be skimmed across by a recruiter. 

  4. Extra-Curricular Activities

    This is section can be used to record leadership roles, community and charity involvement, sporting/musical lead roles, competition involvement and anything else extracurricular.  Adopt the formatting of the Work Experience section for consistency and ease - bolding month and year, title, organisation name, location.  Use bullet points to explain the role. 

  5. Interests, Languages, Referees

    I am really keen on interests in a CV, but know that some firms are not.  So this is a judgement call for you.  I always like to see the holistic nature of someone - what do they enjoy outside of work.  A CV is an your introduction on a page, so in an introduction I want to know what you will talk about in the kitchen, over a coffee or over a champagne at Friday night drinks.  It also acts as a great talking point in interviews, particularly if they are interesting interests. 

    If you have other language capabilities definitely note this.  This is becoming more and more important in the global world we live, so if you have this attribute that would be valued in the role you are going for, be sure to note it. 

    Finally Referees.  Only note professional referees in this section - employers are only interested in a professional reference on you, not what your friend or Aunt has to say about you.  If you have two professional referees who have supervised your work (not work colleagues) that you have asked and they have said they would be happy to provide a reference for you, then feel free to note their names.  If you would rather say ‘available upon request’ you can do that also.  If you do opt to note your referees’ names be sure to note name, job title, employer, where you worked with them and phone number (or email if they are overseas).  Be sure you have asked your referees before noting them on your CV.  


So it may seem that I have listed out an entire CV here, but don’t be fooled.  It is in fact within these sections that most recruiters’ checklist exist so if you can showcase the information directly, without the recruiter having to dig for it, aligned in the order of their own checklist, your CV becomes a whole lot easier to read.  

I encourage you to take the time to look at your CV through a recruiter’s eyes and see what you see.  Would love to hear what you find.