CV template | What to include and avoid

By Hannah Kingston

Wednesday September 16, 2020

cv templates

Looking through yet another CV template but not finding the answers you need to what should and shouldn’t be included? 

The purpose of a CV is to highlight your strengths. A great CV will open doors for you and help you progress in your career, so what should you include and not include within your CV to stand out? 

It’s always a good idea to have a CV template on file to personalize as it relates to the role, industry and organization you are applying to. Creating the bones of a CV will make it easier for you to apply when the right opportunity comes along.

Here’s what you should include on your CV template:

A professional summary 

Your professional summary should highlight who you are and what drives you, most importantly it should showcase why you are the person for this particular role. It is important to include a succint and well thought out personal summary in your CV along with your cover letter.

Career history 

Your CV template should include your career history, but, you should make tweaks and personalise to fit the organisation your applying to as much as possible. This means clearly showcasing your achievements within a particular role as they apply to the role you are currently applying for. You do not need to outline and describe every role you ever had, the most recent and relevant ones should be included.

Education

You should outline your education but you should not include poor grades. A lot can happen in a number of years, you may no longer be the student version of yourself!

Key traits and skills 

Include key traits but avoid using cliches like “hard-working” or “motivated”. Instead, include key traits and skills that apply to the role you are applying for. For instance, if you were going for a position in the Not-For-Profit space, you should include that you are driven by social justice issues, then include the name of an organization you have volunteered with in the past.

Interests 

Interests can be a tricky one, because you have limited space on a CV. You may feel stuck between the battle of showing off your personality and not wanting to take up too much air time with interests. A good rule of thumb to work with is including 3-4 interests as they relate back to the role you are applying for (i.e. stick with relevant interests.)

Here’s what you shouldn’t include on your CV template:

Long descriptions

Avoid long descriptions of your roles and responsibilities. It is a sure way to invite a hiring manager to tune out. Keep your sentences short.

“Old” or unrelated work experience 

There is no need to include internships or part-time work during your uni years if those stints are more than ten years old. Keep it focused, remember you do not want to go over 2-3 pages.

Acronyms

While space is important, you shouldn’t assume that employers will recognize an abbreviated version of your old company name. Avoid using acronyms where possible.

Repetitive use of personal pronouns

Try to cut down on the “I”s and “My”s as it can get repetitive and take up space. Read and re-read your work, there is always a way to shorten it down.

The date you wrote you wrote the CV

The date on which your wrote your CV is not relevant to the hiring manager and will only take up extra space.

Spelling and grammatical errors

Proof read and proof read again! Spelling and grammatical errors are one of the most common CV mistakes but can easily be remedied by being thorough when you review your CV.

Exaggerations or mistruths

It will not serve you to pretend you have extensive knowledge in a certain tool, or more years of experience than you do. If you do end up getting the job following exaggerations and mistruths, the onboarding process will be much more stressful as you grapple with things you have no background in. Pretend you are hooked up to a lie detector while compiling your CV. If there is a platform, software or hardware that you have no experience with, tell your potential employer that you are open to learning more, even better yet, start a course at the time of applying for the job and explain that you are actively gaining this experience.

Anything negative about yourself or an employer

Now is not the time to be self-deprecating. Keep it professional and highlight your strengths. Do not reference why you are leaving your current employer and do not write anything negative about the organisation you are planning to leave.

A headshot

Headshots are outdated, more often than not, they are not required on an application so do not include one. Save the valuable space.

Infographics

The exact same applies to infographic, likely unnecessary and not a good use of space.

Salary history or expectations 

Your salary history will not be relevant to the hiring manager. Your salary expectations will be, but you shouldn’t talk money until you have your foot in the door.

References 

Including references or the line “References available on request” is another space suck. It is common for potential employers to make a phonecall to a previous reference further down the line in the interview process, so no need to include either.

What do you think are the must haves and must nots for a CV template? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Now read: How to write a cover letter and stand out from the crowd

Now read: Common CV mistakes and how to avoid them 

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