The complete CV format guide: examples and tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 25 October 2022 | Published 25 August 2020

Updated 25 October 2022

Published 25 August 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you apply for a job, you need to showcase the qualifications you have that make you a high-quality candidate for the role. Having an up-to-date and well-written CV can help you better demonstrate your qualifications and highlight the most important aspects of your background so that recruiters can see the most relevant details at a glance.

In this article, we demonstrate how to carefully plan your CV and provide some CV examples to help you create the perfect document.

What is a CV?

A CV is a job application document that outlines your education, experience, skills, training, achievements and other professional qualifications you have. Short for curriculum vitae, which is a Latin term that means 'course of life', a CV also includes contact details so that prospective employers know how to reach you.

In many cases, a CV should only be one or two pages, depending on the amount of relevant experience you have. For example:

  • If you are an entry-level candidate or recent graduate, you may have a shorter CV that highlights education, training and volunteer experience over limited professional experience.

  • As an experienced candidate, you may use two pages to clearly outline all of your relevant professional experience, skills, certifications and achievements with brief mentions of your education.

  • In an academic role, you may have a CV that is more than two pages long, depending on the relevant experience, education, publications and achievements you have in your field.

Having a well-crafted CV is important because it:

  • Introduces you to prospective employers

  • Encourages employers to invite you for an interview

  • Quickly summarizes your strengths and how you can succeed in a role

Related: How to Write a CV Employers Will Notice

What to include in your CV

There are many required and optional elements you can include in a CV. Here are the main aspects to consider including:

Required sections for your CV

To start, your CV should always include the following information:

  • Contact information: Provide a phone number and email address. You can also include links to your social media profiles but only accounts that are relevant to your professional life, such as a professional networking profile.

  • Employment history: Provide the company name, job title, start date and end date for each position, along with a brief description of your responsibilities. Your employment history should cover up to ten years of your professional life, with no unexplained gaps between jobs.

  • Education history: Detail your highest level of education, such as a diploma or degree. You can include GCSE, A levels and equivalents if you've left school recently.

  • Skills and competencies: If you don't have a detailed employment history, you might choose to include a separate section for your skills and competencies. Remember to include evidence to support the skills and competencies you claim.

  • Professional qualifications: Outline any relevant professional qualifications, especially anything that is recognised by an official body, such as certifications or licences.

Related: How to create an effective CV layout

Optional sections for your CV

You may also include these additional items if you have limited critical information, if you feel it will help your application, or if you have extra space to fill:

  • Personal statement: This is a one- or two-line summary of your skills, talents and career goals as they relate to the specific role you're applying for. Typically, you'd place this statement at the top of your CV.

  • Explanation of employment history gaps: If you have a gap in your employment history, you can add a brief note to explain what you were doing in that time, such as job-hunting, childminding, caring for a relative, travelling, etc.

  • Hobbies and interests: In this section, you can talk about what you do outside of work, especially if you're involved in sports, technology or volunteer work. Include any that are directly relevant to your career, the skills needed on the job or leadership abilities.

  • Publications and achievements: Include relevant industry publications, like articles or research studies, to establish yourself as an expert or thought leader in your field. You can also highlight any awards or special recognitions, like employee-of-the-month or industry-specific awards.

Related: How to write a CV summary for a career change

Standard CV format examples

There are several common layouts for CVs. Choose the one that best suits your employment background.

Chronological CV

This layout involves listing your professional history in reverse chronological order, from the present day to your earliest role. Many established professionals who want to emphasize their career progression benefit from this structure. Here's an example:

Nigel Kanu

+44 (0)7912 445470 | n.kanu@email.co.uk

Self-motivated salesman with a background in IT who loves talking tech with people and forming close relationships with clients. Looking for a position that rewards initiative and allows me to represent a product I believe in.

Employment History

Sales Consultant, Tech2U, Oxford Street

April 2017 - present

  • Exceeding monthly sales targets by up to 125%

  • Building customer relationships, with quarterly reviews for upselling opportunities

  • Assisting leadership to develop sales strategy

Telemarketer, dogandbone.com, Reading

June 2015 - March 2017

  • Made up to 100 outbound calls per day

  • Guided customers through relevant offers and helping them with decisions

  • Compiled call reports and analysing data

Education

University of Manchester (2011 - 2015)

  • BA (Hons) English, 2:2

Salford Comprehensive (2011)

  • A-levels: Maths, English

  • 9 GCSEs including maths and IT

Qualifications

CompTIA A+

Functional CV

A functional CV focuses on the skills and competencies that you possess, so this option may be best for those with limited employment history, such as recent graduates. You'll need to offer proof that you possess each of the skills listed. Ideally, these should be examples drawn from your academic and professional life. You can, however, draw on other parts of your life, including volunteer activities, sports or organisations you're part of.

Use this example to guide you:

Piers Shah

+44 (0)7987 673322 | pshah@mymail.co.uk

Recent graduate with a bachelor's with honours in economics seeking a research position that supports policymaking. Highly skilled in data analysis, reporting and time management but interested in building my skills.

Skills

  • Leadership: I was captain of my school rugby team. Under my captaincy, we won the U16 county title.

  • Trustworthiness: I was treasurer of my school photography club. This position saw me entrusted with hundreds of pounds of camera equipment, as well as cash during club fundraisers.

  • Time management: I consistently met grading deadlines as a Teaching Assistant and turned in assignments before the due date.

Education

Kings College London (2017 - 2020)

  • BA (Hons) in Economics

Cheshire Comprehensive (2016)

  • A-levels: History

  • 9 GCSEs, including geography and English

Experience

Teaching Assistant, Kings College London Economics Department

September 2019 - June 2020

  • Led small group sessions to answer student questions about lectures

  • Assigned and graded short essays on economic principles discussed in class

  • Assisted professor with creating presentation materials for lectures

Hybrid CVs

The hybrid CV is a mix of the chronological and the functional. You can arrange the sections any way you like, as long as you emphasise the details that are most likely to earn you the job. Here's an example of how the two formats look when combined:

Meg Hopkins

+44 (0)1419 898541 | meg.hop@web.co.uk

Creative, customer-focused marketing consultant currently in the process of returning to a marketing career after taking a career break to raise my children. Up to date with developments in digital marketing, and eager to apply that knowledge to an exciting new campaign.

Skills

  • Social media marketing

  • Content marketing

  • Blogging

  • Social analytics

  • Copywriting

Experience

Founder, The Sensible Mummy blog, Remote

March 2013 - Present

  • Write fun and informative blogs on all things motherhood, averaging 10K+ hits per month

  • Manage content calendar for blogs, guest appearances and social media posts

  • Monitor site performance and troubleshoot usability through WordPress

Digital Coordinator, Edinburgh Youth Programming, Edinburgh

July 2015 - September 2018

  • Managed the group's social media outreach on multiple platforms

  • Used targeted digital marketing strategies to grow membership and assist with fundraising

  • Increased online engagement by 65% in the first six months

Account Manager, Maddison Partners, Edinburgh

April 2008 - January 2012

  • Launched print and digital campaigns that helped clients grow their business by up to 250% in one year

  • Worked with clients and creatives to create campaigns that expressed brand values

  • Analysed campaign data and created reports for clients

Education

University of Edinburgh (2011 - 2015)

  • BA (Hons) Marketing, 2:1

Tips for effectively creating a CV

Here are some common formatting rules to help you effectively create your CV:

  • Choose a reliable, readable font: Times New Roman or Arial in 10 to 12 point is standard. Bold your name and make it a few points larger to help it stand out. Be consistent with the same bolding, italics and underlining for each element of each section, such as underlining and bolding the section titles.

  • Create generous spacing: Make sure that all text is aligned and evenly spaced. Use 2.5cm margins all around the document.

  • Use strong, active verbs: When you're writing about your previous jobs, try to use powerful action verbs. Words like 'leading,' 'managing,' 'delivering' and 'helping' give the hiring manager a clear idea of your responsibilities.

  • Include statistics: Wherever possible, include figures to quantify your contributions. Use sales data, customer satisfaction numbers or documented increases in productivity.

  • Tailor each submission: Have a standard CV you can easily adjust the phrasing of to better reflect the keywords used in the job posting. This is to ensure your qualifications clearly align with the employer's expectations.

  • Proofread: Spellcheck everything, and ask a colleague to proofread it before sending.

Related: How to research a company for an interview

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

Related:

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  • Problem-solving Skills for CVs: Importance and How To Include

  • 7 best CV writing services to consider (with key benefits)

  • A guide to writing an excellent CV using a CV checklist

  • How to be objective in writing (and a list of its uses)


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