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What to include on your CV (and what to leave out)

Whether you're staring at a blank screen or trying to cut down a three-page monster, you need to know what belongs on your CV and what doesn't...

Do include...
Contact details

Employers haven't yet developed the ability to offer you a job psychically, so you need to make sure they can reach you by more conventional means. Make sure your up-to-date contact details are on your CV somewhere easy to find.

Don't assume that it's enough to include details in a cover letter or email: you never know how your application will be dealt with once it arrives. If your CV gets separated out, you still want the employer to be able to reach you.

Relevant qualifications

Your qualifications are one of the most important parts of your CV, but some qualifications are more important than others, depending on the job you're doing. For example, when listing your GCSEs, its enough to give an overview of your grades and then pick out particularly relevant ones - for example, "9 GCSEs at A*-C, including English and Mathematics".

Remember that you don't have to have got a qualification for the sake of your career for it to be relevant: for example, a full driving licence is useful in many jobs and should be included on your CV.

Relevant experience

The other main part of your CV is your work experience. You don't have to list every job you've ever had: if you're pressed for space, it's more important to describe relevant jobs thoroughly than to fit in every job you've ever had.

Remember that relevance is as much about the tasks you do as the sector you work in. For example, work in a restaurant could show your ability to work under pressure even if you're applying for a job in a software company. Go through the job advert carefully and think about what parts of your experience fit each point.

Achievements

Throughout your CV, you should think about specific acheivements you can refer to. This could be:
  • A particularly good result in a subject or piece of coursework
  • A work project that involved extra responsibility or went particularly well
  • Something you did in your own time that shows skill and commitment, like getting a large number of readers on a blog
This can be a good way to identify which hobbies to include on your CV: if you've acheived something impressive, then consider including it. If it's just a pastime, leave it out.
Don’t include...
A photo

There’s no need to include a photo on a CV when you’re applying for a job in the UK, and doing so might create a bad first impression with employers. There's also a chance that, however unfair and illegal it might be, your appearance might lead to discrimination.

Too much personal information

You don’t need to include things like:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Family circumstances
  • Disabilities
Not only are these irrelevant, employers aren't allowed to decide who to hire based on them, so they prefer not to see them in the first place. And however illegal it might be, you're still opening yourself up to the risk of discrimination.

Lies

When you put together your CV, you're going to make it sound as impressive as you can - but it all needs to be true. That doesn't just mean avoiding big lies, like made-up jobs or fake qualifications: small lies and half-truths can ruin your chances too. Temptations to avoid include:
  • Tweaking employment dates to fit experience requirements
  • Altering job titles to make them look more senior
  • Saying you completed a course that you only studied part of
  • Saying you got a higher grade than you did
Apart from the ethical problems, a lie on your CV can cause you serious problems. Even if you make it through the interview without being found out - which might be harder than you think - your references might be asked to confirm the information you provided. And even a job offer won't mean you've got away with it: if you're found out later, you can expect to be fired.
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