Order of Sections for a CV
Before you write your CV, you’ll need to decide on the order of the different sections. Which sections do you need to include and which ones can you leave off? There are different types of CVs, each of which has its own order: the chronological CV, the skills-based (functional) CV or the combination/hybrid CV (which combines the chronological and skills-based formats). We’ll walk you through the sections every CV should have as well as the different types of CVs best for your situation.
While it is important to tailor your CV to each job, there are sections that make up the core of your CV and shouldn’t be left out unless they’re completely irrelevant or you have nothing to add, no matter which type of CV you use. These include:
- Contact details
- Personal statement or profile
Your personal profile is a brief 4-6 sentence paragraph where you introduce yourself and highlight your key skills and accomplishments. As this paragraph often determines whether recruiters read the rest of your CV, it’s important that you don’t skip this section.
- Work Experience
Here, you’ll need to focus on your most recent work experience and include the following details:
- The name of your employer
- The title of the position
- The dates you worked (month and year)
- 2-3 bullet points that outline your responsibilities and achievements
Again, start with your most recent qualification and include the following details:
- The title of your course, degree or study programme
- The name of the academic institution
- The dates of study (month and year)
If you’re older and have extensive work experience, you don’t need to go into details about your course unless it’s particularly relevant. You also don’t need to refer to your secondary school education.
If you’re a recent graduate, you may want to place more focus on your education and list the modules you’ve taken.
- Skills Summary
Many recruiters and employers will appreciate the addition of a ‘Skills’ section which lists your skills in easy-to-read bullet points. That way, they can quickly determine your suitability for the job.
Optional sections can include:
- Professional Certifications
Whether you’ve pursued several degrees or studied for vocational courses, certifications and qualifications provide proof of your expertise and skills.
- Professional development, training or courses
Even if your courses don’t come with a qualification, you can include these in your CV to show employers that you’re developing your skills in your spare time.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to do an internship, including this on your CV is a great way to impress recruiters and employers as internships provide valuable practical work experience.
- Extra-curricular activities
Extra-curricular activities are particularly relevant if you have just left or are still in education. Including these in your CV shows employers that you have/had other interests outside of your studies.
- Volunteer Experience
If you have volunteer experience, including this on your CV could give your application a boost as many employers prefer candidates who spend their spare time contributing to the wider community.
- Hobbies or interests
Hobbies and interests can give employers a glimpse of your personality; however, it’s fine to leave these off your CV if you’re short of space.
Place the most important information first
As you’re probably aware, recruiters and employers sometimes receive hundreds of CVs for a single job application. This means that they don’t have much time to review each CV carefully - in fact, some recruiters only spend seconds scanning CVS.
When drawing up your CV, it’s a good idea to take this into account by placing the most important and most relevant information at the top.
To decide which information you want to focus on in your CV, it can be helpful to do a brain dump of your work experience, skills and knowledge and then compare these against the job description. Once you’ve established what you want to keep in your CV, you can decide which type of CV or which order is best suited to your needs.
Order of your CV and your situation
As mentioned, which sections you include in your CV and how you order them depends on which stage you’re at in your career:
- You’re a recent graduate or student
As a newcomer to the job market, you’ll usually have little work experience. Therefore, it makes sense to prioritise your education which should come after your personal statement or profile:
So, using a chronological CV format where your most recent qualification is listed first, the order would be something like this: Contact details, Personal Statement or Profile, Education, Work Experience, Internships, Extra-Curricular Activities, Volunteer Experience.
- You have an extensive career history
If you have an extensive career history, you’ll want to focus on the last 10-15 years of your work experience.
In this case, you can structure your CV as follows: Contact details, Personal Statement or Profile, Work Experience, Education, Skills, Professional Certifications, Professional Development, Training or Courses (if applicable)
As the focus will be on your skills and accomplishments, a combination/hybrid CV is best where you list your experience in reverse chronological order and at the same time highlight the skills acquired in each position as well as the outcomes you achieved.
- You’re changing careers
If you’re changing industries or careers, you can either opt for a combination/hybrid CV or a skills-based CV, depending on the level of experience you have.
If you don’t have much relevant experience for your new role or industry, it’s best to go for a skills-based CV. On the other hand, you could stick with the traditional combination/hybrid CV and draw attention to your skills: Contact details, Personal Statement or Profile, Skills Summary, Work Experience, Education, Professional Certifications, Professional Development, Training or Courses.
- You’ve job-hopped
While you may have had valid reasons for changing jobs frequently, job-hopping can throw some recruiters off. The best way to handle this is to opt for a skills-based or functional CV that places the focus on your skills.
For skills-based CVs, you can order the sections as follows: Contact details, Personal Statement or Profile, Skills Summary, Work Experience, Education and any additional sections that you think may help your application.
In the ‘Skills Summary’ section, list your core skill as a bullet point and then add sub-points detailing how you acquired that skill, e.g.
Chaired work social committee
Managed staff rotas
In the ‘Work Experience’ section for skills-based CVs, it’s fine to only mention essential details such as the name of the employer, the position held and the years of employment.
- You have gaps in your CV
If you have gaps in your CV for whatever reason (sabbatical, parental leave, unemployment, etc.), again, a skills-based or functional CV can help smooth out the gaps and draw attention to the skills that you have to offer rather than your lack of experience.
Change the order of your CV for each application
Which order you choose for your CV will depend on the stage of your career, as described above. You may decide to change the order for each application.
As each job is different, you’ll need to consider whether you place more focus on your work experience, education or skills. Therefore, it’s a good idea to create a basic CV that you can draw on and tailor for each application.
This is where an online CV builder such as Jobseeker can help. Our CV builder allows you to easily switch up the order of your CV, no matter which template you use, without affecting the formatting. That way, you can focus on making your CV shine through your skills and accomplishments.
Emphasise the order through formatting
However, you decide to structure your CV, using clear headings makes it easier for recruiters to skim through its content.
One way to make the different sections stand out is by applying bold formatting and using larger font sizes.
When it’s immediately clear to recruiters and employers what you have to offer, not only will you make a good first impression, but you also increase your chances of landing an interview.