What information should you include in your CV?

Potential employers are looking for a document that proves why you're the ideal candidate to invest their time and money in.  Essentially it's a sales brochure, highlighting the unique selling points that make you stand out from the crowd.   

I had a very interesting discussion recently with a NZ recruitment specialist – she told me she was with 10 other leading specialists talking about how a CV should look today.  Every person there had a different opinion and no two people could agree on what a CV should look like! There's no universally accepted format, but your CV should cover the following elements. 


Personal details– name, address, one contact phone number and email address, enabling employers to contact you quickly and easily.  Nationality, age and date of birth are not necessary.

Professional Profile– a short introductory paragraph that sums up your experience and key offerings.  Rather than include a generic objective such as “seeking to work in a progressive company with opportunity for advancement”, a strong statement on planned career pathway can be more effective.

Career Overview– one line for each role showing job title, company name and dates.  This enables employers to see where you have worked and when without having to scan through the document, and will help them to make a decision quicker on getting you in for interview.

Key Achievements– the most effective CVs in today’s market are those that show employers what you have achieved for previous employers. Anybody can say that they are a great “team player”, but if you can demonstrate that you were a key member of a team that developed a process for simplifying customer interactions, which directly resulted in a savings of $X to the company, then you have made a strong impact with the employer already.  Skills are important – achievements are irrefutable.

Qualifications and training– if you have a Postgraduate Diploma or Degree, you don’t need to include pre-university education.  If possible, include any voluntary training you have undergone that is relevant.  Put the latest qualification first.

Technology– this is often left out in CVs, yet we live in a computer driven world and most employers are going to want to know that you have a degree of technical understanding and can find your way around a computer.



Professional experience – this is where you go into more detail on your work experience.  List your most recent position first, continuing in reverse chronological order including the name, location, website, brief description of the business and dates of your employment for each company you have worked for. Aim to use bullet points to highlight your responsibilities and achievements in each role so the person scanning your CV can quickly match up your experience with their job description. 

Hobbies and interests – 99% of the time, these should not be included. Keep the document concise and professional in format and in content. 

Personal details – one of the first things an employer is going to want to know, is whether you are legally entitled to work in New Zealand. It’s important to be up front about this.  Other things to include in this section are any languages, professional memberships, volunteer experience and certificates/licences.  It's not necessary to list referees on your CV, but you should state that details are available on request. 

The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. Remember you're not writing a CV for yourself, you for your reader. 

Things to watch out for:

  • Resist the urge to jazz up your CV with images or colour.

  • Steer clear of long paragraphs. 

  • Bold type can be effective, but don't overdo it. 

  • Underlining should be reserved for website links only. 

  • Avoid font sizes smaller than 10.5pt. 

  • Don't use txt speak and only use abbreviations if they're universally known. 

And finally… 

  • Check for spelling or grammatical errors – do a manual and automated check, as computerised spell checkers often miss important things.

Is a professionally prepared CV and cover letter all you need to get a new job?

In a word – no.  A professional CV and cover letter are not magic documents that will get you into any role that you want!  There are quite a number of factors that come into play when you are hunting for a new role and the more that you can prepare to overcome them, the quicker you will find success.  Here is what you need to be aware of when applying for a new role:

Internal applicants– this is one of the hardest aspects to overcome.  Employers tend to prefer internal staff as they are a known quantity and it is a lot more cost effective for them than taking on someone new.

Experience– it surprises me that a number of clients have wanted me to prepare letters for them for roles that they have little or no experience in.  

Meeting the role criteria– again I have had clients wanting to apply for roles that specify the candidate must have knowledge of certain technical programmes, for example, and they have no experience with them at all.  Pay particular attention to the wording in an ad: if they use the word “must” or “essential”, then you are wasting your time applying if you do not meet these criteria. This is one of the most important parts of your job search – the more closely you can show employers that you have what they are looking for, then the more likely you are to be chosen.  I almost always include a section in a cover letter that shows how the client matches the job description.

Realistic career step– if you have three years’ experience, you will most likely not be successful in applying for senior level roles.  Look at roles that would be the next natural level for your career pathway.

Interview skills– I cannot stress enough how important it is to put a lot of research and work into this aspect of your job hunt.  Interviews are not easy to come by, so you should always come into them prepared and confident.  I advise all my clients to look on YouTube for “Interview Training” videos – there is a wealth of information out there from industry experts and seeing some live examples of both what to do and what not to do, can make a world of difference to your confidence and your success.  Even if you feel you do well in interviews, being armed with preparedness will make you a prime candidate.

Location– the further away you are from a role, the more likely you are to be put to the back of the pile unless you can demonstrate exceptional skills.  If you are applying from overseas or out of town, make sure that you let them know you are able to relocate at short notice if successful in the role.

Your CV and cover letter are a very important part of the process, but not the only ones.  The people who find success the quickest, are the ones who address as many of the above aspects as possible.