Parts of a CV

Find out about the sections that make up a CV and what information to include in each of them.

What your CV should include

Typically a CV contains several of the sections listed below:

  • Name and contact details
  • Personal statement (or profile)
  • Skills
  • Work history
  • Achievements
  • Education
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Referees.

The sections you choose to include in your CV depends on the job you are applying for, and your circumstances and work history. Your choice in what sections to include can also change what your CV emphasises.

Some sections of a CV are usually more important than others. For example:

  • name and contact details are essential
  • a personal statement or profile is optional
  • including both a skills section and a work history section is recommended. If you are unable to include both, choosing one or the other is acceptable
  • listing your education is often essential
  • the achievements section and interests and hobbies section are optional
  • you must either include referees in your CV or note that referees are available on request.

The way you order these sections is usually as listed above. However, you can emphasise your skills (in a skills-focused CV) or your work history (in a work-focused CV) by placing either of these sections at the top of your CV, after your contact details, and developing that section more than the other.

Name and contact details

Include:

  • first and last name (this should be in a large bolded font)
  • phone number (preferably a landline and cellphone)
  • email address
  • physical postal address, including area code.

If you have an online work profile, such as LinkedIn, put it here as well.

Make sure your:

  • email address is appropriate for job application purposes
  • recorded phone voicemail message is simple, identifies you correctly and will not offend an employer.

Personal statement or profile

A personal statement or profile is an optional paragraph or two about yourself that comes directly after your contact details. Include one when it enables you to emphasise something relevant to the job application that is not shown in other sections.

A personal statement gives the employer a little insight into who you are. It typically includes information such as:

  • what you are currently doing for employment or education
  • what it is about the job you are applying for that attracted you to it 
  • your reason for wanting to change jobs
  • your career aspirations.

It is important to tailor your CV for each job you apply for so check that the personal statement will help with your application.

The personal statement is usually an employer's first impression of who you are, so don't be shy – sell yourself. Keep it concise – three or four sentences will usually do – and avoid using statements copied from other sources. It should represent you.

Skills

If you're creating a skills-focused CV, listing your skills is essential. If you decide a work-focused CV better highlights your strengths, you might keep the skills section to a minimum, or incorporate comments about skills within your work history.

You can create a list of specific skills. For example:

  • customer service
  • sales and marketing
  • machine operation.

Alternatively, you can list important skills as subheadings in the skills section, with examples underneath. The subheadings can include transferable skills and skills specific to the job you're applying for. For example:

Interpersonal

  • leadership
  • teamwork
  • customer service.

Providing an account of how you have demonstrated your skills can be useful, especially if not covered in your work history. For example:

Confident and able communicator

Work history

Work history is usually given chronologically, which means you list your most recent job first and work back. Start by stating:

  • when you held the position
  • the job title/position
  • the name of the employer
  • where the job was located.

Beneath this, list the tasks you performed. You can also list any notable achievements.

If you have worked in a variety of roles or have gaps in your work history, you can group jobs under different subheadings, putting the subheading most relevant to the application at the top. The chronology (or dates) are sometimes left out when this is done.

How much information you include about each job you list may depend on what type of CV you have chosen.

Skills-focused CV work history example

If you have chosen a skills-focused CV, with a separate skills section, include just a few bullet points briefly stating what is required of the role. For example:

July 2015-August 2016
Counter assistant, Benny's Bakery, Auckland

  • customer service
  • replenishing stock
  • coffee-making
  • cash-handling.

Work-focused CV example

However, if you have chosen a work-focused CV you might want to provide more detail. You can include an introductory sentence giving a brief description of the role, followed by more detailed bullet points outlining your responsibilities and achievements. For example:

January 2015-July 2016
Sale assistant, FonesRus, Wellington 

A customer-focused role, including stock-purchasing responsibilities, with an independent mobile phone retailer specialising in budget smartphones.

  • excellent customer service skills
  • keeping up to date with the latest in mobile phone technology
  • overseeing a major contract to supply mobile phones to a large nationwide media company
  • negotiating with Fujimatrix for FonesRus to be the official Wellington distributors of their products.

Education

It's important to include your education and qualifications in your CV. This information should be listed after your work history or skills, depending on the style of CV and what you want to emphasise.

If you have no formal qualifications, you can list the school/schools attended and informal or on-the-job training.

Start with your most recent qualification, and work back, or you can start with the qualification most relevant to the job. Include:

  • the name of the course or qualification you completed
  • the training institute you attended and the city it is located in
  • the start and finish date of your training or study, or the year you graduated.

You can also include:

  • a brief description of the qualification and any projects, thesis or dissertation work involved. This is important if related to the job you are applying for or if it demonstrates important skills
  • the subjects you took and the grades you achieved, if you are a recent school leaver
  • professional development courses you have undertaken, including conferences and workshops, if you feel they add to your job application.

Achievements

Include an achievements section in your CV if you feel that you have important achievements that are not covered in the skills or work history sections.

You can include things such as:

  • awards
  • successfully completed projects
  • commendations
  • examples of how you helped a former employer meet their targets
  • important contributions to the community
  • personal achievements such as raising a family.

For each example, note what the achievement was, and when and where you achieved it.

Interests and hobbies

The information you include in this section is usually kept to just a few sentences.

It's best to include interests that demonstrate skills or abilities that an employer may be looking for in an employee. For example, including coaching sports shows leadership qualities, and being involved in a kapa haka group shows you can work as part of a team.

Avoid noting generic or passive interests like reading, going out with friends or watching TV, unless there is something significant involved. For example, you read in several languages or read technical material related to the job. Otherwise, your interests add little to the picture you are creating for an employer.

It's OK to add some individuality, but keep in mind CVs are formal documents.

Referees

Referees provide an employer with further insight into your skills, work history and personality. A referee can be a former employer, coach, teacher, a respected community leader, or any credible person who will support your job application. Family members and friends do not make the best referees, as employers may question their impartiality.

Referee contact details should include their:

  • first and last names
  • position
  • relationship to you (for example, high school teacher, former employer)
  • contact details (phone number and email address are usually enough).

It's important to contact each referee to let them know they are appearing on your CV and may be called on to supply a reference, and to check they are prepared to do so. Provide your referees with some context about the job you're going for – to give them some background information. Also provide them with a copy of the job advertisement and a copy of your CV for their reference. Remember that your referees are your allies in your job search and may be able to provide you with useful feedback on your CV.

If you do not want to add referees to your CV, include the line "Referees available on request" at the end of your CV. This does not mean you can do without them altogether – referees are important and it is likely employers will want to contact them.

Next steps once you've created your CV

1. Do a spell check

If you have created your CV using Careers New Zealand's CV Builder, click on the "Save to my computer" link on the "Save and preview" page to save your CV as a Word document. You can then make any additional formatting changes, and check your spelling.

2. Get someone to check your CV

Having someone else proofread your CV is important. It's easy to miss errors in a document you created yourself.

3. Write your cover letter 

You should always include a CV and cover letter as part of a job application.

4. Send your CV to potential employers

There's no point creating a CV if no one reads it. Stay motivated about searching for job vacancies and preparing for job interviews.

Updated 13 May 2016