What to Include and What to Leave Out of your CV
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Finding the right balance when curating your CV can be tricky. Given that it is the main way that you can sell yourself when you are applying for a job, it can seem like a great idea to pack your CV with as much information as possible. The issue with that, however, is that the more information you try to pack in, the harder it can be to sift through to the important and relevant things that interviewers are looking for.
There is a common understanding that the ideal length of a CV is two pages (or one double-sided) page, with a maximum length of three pages. So if you have a long work history, or a lot of experience to highlight, then you are going to want to be selective with what you do and do not include in your CV.
If you are auditing your CV so that you are putting the best forward when you apply for roles, then this list may help you to be clear about some of the things that you should include and what you should leave out. Once you’ve done that, you can upload your CV to Resumeble for a free review of your resume!
So without any more preamble, here is a quick list of things that you should include and leave out of your CV.
Include: At least two contact details
You should aim to include two possible ways to contact you. In the days of landlines in every home, traditionally you would include a landline number and an additional phone number as a way of making contact with you. Now that it is unlikely that you will have access to more than one phone, you should definitely include your cellphone number as one of your primary contact details.
The next is to include an email address as your second primary contact detail. It is becoming more common for workplaces to send information to an email address if you have been shortlisted. This may be a confirmation email about an interview time, or a preparation email that includes information about things you need to be aware of or that you have to bring with you to an interview. This way there is a record for you to refer to.
Leave out: your address
There is no reason to include your physical or postal address in a CV when you are applying for a job. It is non-essential. If this information is required by a prospective employer, they will ask for it explicitly. One of the reasons you shouldn’t include your address is that it may disadvantage you if you are applying for a job outside of your city or town. When an employer sees an out-of-town address, they may have to consider if there is going to be a cost associated with hiring you if you need to relocate. This may mean that you are not given the chance to interview in the first place because you are already a “cost” to them.
That being said, when you add information about your previous workplaces, assumptions can be made on your location, but it is less obvious than if you were to include a mailing or physical address.
Leave out: your age
Your age is non-essential information when it comes to your CV. There is no reason to give your age or include your date of birth in your CV. Though you will not find recruiters who will admit this, including your age in your CV may cause an unintended bias against your candidacy. This is particularly when you are applying for roles that require a specific number of years of experience for you to be comfortable and confident in the role.
There is no reason why your age should be a factor when recruiters are shortlisting for a role, and although we don’t want to admit it, we are sometimes overcome by our assumptions about a person’s age. It may be that knowing somebody’s age we may think that they are not comfortable with certain technologies, or that they do not have enough experience in a space to be able to do a job that they are in fact perfectly qualified for.
Your age can also be assumed from the information that you include about your qualifications if you include the year that they were awarded.
Include: your qualifications and the year you got them
Be sure to include all of your qualifications, diplomas, awards that you have, and the year you received them. This is relevant information because it can help to bolster the information that you’ve got in your CV about the experience you have in your field.
Leave out: the length of time you worked toward your qualifications
Recruiters can make assumptions based on whatever your qualification as to the length of time you took to complete it, as well as things like your age, so there is no reason to include this information. If it is significant enough for a recruiter to know, they will ask for you to clarify it in an interview. The only time where this information is relevant or necessary in your CV is if there is specific work experience that you would like to list on your CV, like an internship or job related to a course that you were doing at the time.
Include: previous job titles, a one-line description of the role, and how long you were in the role
Including your job title is one of those obvious things when you are curating the work history in your CV. These titles don’t necessarily do much aside from label what you “were” to your previous workplace, so it is important to include a one-line description or a one-sentence description of what your role actually was. The reason that you need to do this is that some keywords used in job titles can be very ambiguous, or sound very different than what the role actually was. The description outlines the specifics of your role and can give recruiters a clearer idea of what your role was, and how that experience is relevant to what they are looking for.
Lastly, include the length of time you were in the role – this can be the month and year i.e. June 2020-June 2021, or it can be a definitive time i.e. 11 months or 1 year.
Leave out: exact dates
Recruiters don’t want to be calculating the exact time that you spent in a role. If you include exact dates, they are less likely to take it all in, because no recruiter wants to be spending time calculating information that should be available at a glance. Remember, your CV is only an overview of your experience.
When including information about your time in a workplace, stick to easily digestible information like month + year, or the number of months/years in the role (see above).
Include: specific measurable outcomes or achievements in your role
When giving some more information about what you did at your job, or the experience you gained, you should include specific information about what it was that you did or achieved in the time that you were there. This is the information that you can then refer to later, or that recruiters can refer to when they make contact with your referees. It also offers you a chance to build on that information in an interview, by giving you an experience that you can explain in more depth during an interview.
Leave out: vague or generic job duties that can be assumed from your role description
You want your CV to tell a potential employer about what you brought to the role, not what your role’s description was when you signed your previous contract. The more specific the information you give about your time in a job, the better. You want your prospective employer to get as clear a picture of you as you can manage when they look at your CV. The information you include should be relevant to your suitability as a candidate, and that is easiest done when you are specific.
Include: an overview list of specific skills that you have
Keep this list specific with the skills that you have acquired both in and outside of the workplace. You will want to make sure that you include both technical skills as well as transferable/soft skills. By having an independent list of your skills somewhere on your CV, you are giving your prospective employer a quick list they can refer to at a glance during shortlisting, and interviewing. It also means that nobody has to sift through your work experience to find what skills it is that you have.
Leave out: a Personal Statement
A personal or professional statement in a CV is essentially the place where you are explaining why you are a good potential candidate. This is a non-essential part of your CV, and unless you are applying for a job that only asks for a CV, you don’t need a personal statement. Your cover letter takes care of any of the things that you would put into a personal statement.
Include: Personal Interests and Hobbies
This helps to “round you out” as a candidate. It is one of the essential things that you should include in your CV. There are a lot of skills and experiences that you gain outside of a workplace that are extremely beneficial in a workplace. If you consider the discipline that is associated with your hobbies, interests and activities outside of the workplace, there are a lot of interpersonal skills that you develop in those spaces that help you in a workplace.
Leave out: specific course modules or papers that you completed
Unless you are pulling together an academic CV or the course information is directly relevant to what you are applying for, then you should leave it out of your CV. Any courses, modules, or papers that you completed can be assumed from the qualifications that you have included. It is also information that will be requested if your recruiter thinks that it is relevant.
Include: Work References
You should include at least two references from your work history, the role they had and a number to contact them on. It is safe to include one reference from your most recent two roles, if you have had more than one job in the two-five years prior to your current application. Otherwise if you have been with the same employer for the two-five years prior to your application, include two references from that workplace who are familiar with your work ethic and your achievements in that role. If you are going to include personal references, or references that have not worked with you, you should try to find somebody that knows about the skills and experiences that you bring with you: e.g. if you play sports with somebody who can talk to your interpersonal skills or your discipline in your sport then that would be the person to include as a non-work reference.
Optional to include: Reason for Leaving
If you feel like it is relevant to your work history, you can include your reason for leaving (in a single sentence). Doing this doesn’t necessarily elevate your CV, however, it can help explain any gaps in your resumé or work history, as well as make it clear as to the length of time you were in a particular role.
Whew! We’ve done it, we’ve made it to the end of the post!
Now is the time to pull up your CV and give it an audit! Remember to be really critical of the information you include. Your CV is just an overview, so be sharp and to-the-point, bringing your best forward. This is what will hook recruiters, and you can use your interview to pad out everything you’ve put into your CV.