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I've been struggling for a while with my CV and I need help on deciding which sections should I include in it? I lack the formatting skill, I remember studying in school how to prepare my CV - there were specific rules, but since then the times have changed tremendously.

I prefer having the following sections:

  1. Contact information - very basic - just name, address and telephone;
  2. Profile Summary - a brief description of what's happened so far in my professional development;
  3. Skill Set - a tabular representation of the basic skills I acquired so far;
  4. Education;
  5. Work experience;
  6. Additional;

It is relevant to say that I live in Europe and I'm not native English speaker, so I might lack very basic notion about the art of writing a CV.

Please - feel welcomed to express your opinion on:

  • whether this section set is sufficient?
  • whether I intent to use the sections correctly?
  • do I break any standards, if I prepare my CV the way I'm planning? should "Skill Set" section be exhaustive (we - the IT people - use enormous amount of buzz words), or should mark the general areas of competency?
  • What, besides languages, should go in Additional?

Any help is highly appreciated!

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2 Answers

There are probably about as many ways to write a CV as there are people who have ever read or written at least one.

You might want to include at least also an e-mail address in the contact details section.

One thing you would put into the Additional section (unless you add a specific section for it) is any (professional) references. I simply wrote a fairly generic "references are available upon request" under a separate heading in my CV; don't think I ever had anyone ask for them, though. Just be prepared for that someone might ask.

In my CV I list specific work-related skills under each job, then towards the end have a short paragraph listing programming languages and technologies with which I have only non-professional experience, thus making it clear which is which as well as when I most recently worked professionally with each. (So, I have worked professionally with technology X for Y years, but only non-professionally with Z, but could probably get up to speed reasonably quickly if needed. I don't claim any real experience with M68k assembly, for instance, but I wouldn't get a deer-in-the-headlights look looking at such a source code listing either.)

Side by side with the generic skills list I also put in notable non-professional experiences. Be careful here, and don't overdo it, but some things that show that you aren't a complete workaholic might be beneficial. This probably depends a lot on the culture where you are applying for jobs.

In general, it's probably better to put in a little too much than a little too little, since you will almost certainly tailor the CV to each position (or at the very least company) anyway. It's easier to cut things out than to add more to make it match the position you are applying to, and cutting out is much faster than writing new if you find something interesting, giving you more time to focus on the personal letter where you can "sell" yourself to the company.

And like @JohnSmithers said, be honest.

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wrt "better to put in a little too much than a little too little" - my personal philosophy is to NEVER put anything on my CV about which I do not wish to be asked :) –  warren Feb 7 '12 at 15:52
    
@warren, that's why in the remainder of that paragraph I focused on tailoring the CV to each position by cutting things out rather than working them in. –  Michael Kjörling Feb 9 '12 at 8:24
    
I know a lot of people do the "tailor" option with their CVs - but I have personally found that tailoring my CV can lead to awkward situations (where you forget which tailoring has been done where). So I prefer to use a single CV and tailor my cover letter :) –  warren Feb 9 '12 at 15:22
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  1. If your first language isn't English and you write your CV in English, find a native speaker who can correct your errors.

  2. English CVs start listing the previous jobs/education with the newest topic (your last job) and go down to the oldest (where you went to school). In Germany, for example, it's the other way around. But you do not have to follow that convention. I have read a lot of debates about the pros and cons and nothing really convincing.

  3. Read the guidelines of the company where you want to apply. Follow them.

  4. If you write a cover letter, explain, why you have chosen this company and why you are the best fit (within one page/two paragraphs).

  5. Avoid buzz word clusters. If you are a programmer and list every programming language you might have heard of or you used the last time ten years ago, then you will look like all these other liars out there and you do not want that.

  6. Be honest.

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Thank you for your answers - they're helpful! –  karla Jan 17 '12 at 19:48
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