Key Must Have Components for your CV

Posted by | March 9, 2021 | Ask an expert, Career changers, CVs and cover letters, For your career, Job hunters, Looking for work

Key Must Have Components for your CV blog header

By Carolyn Brown

We have posted a few times over the years about what to put in your CV. See Why your CV sucks, and CV tips to make it better… Which either means we have a terrible memory for topics discussed or that we think keeping your CV current is a really important thing to do. My money is on the latter.

We last discussed the dos and don’ts of creating an attention-grabbing CV in June 2020. But instead of a blog, it was a Live video call with Do Good, founder Julia Capon; and Kristy McLaren and Nikki Walshaw from McLaren Associates Ltd , view Practical CV and Job-hunting tips.  For those who don’t have the time to listen to this informative and insightful discussion about applying for work during a pandemic, never fear, for I have turned it into an up-to-date guide to creating a winning CV – a version 20.21 as it were.


1. Chronological forever

Recruiters still want to see your previous roles and experience listed in chronological order. Outline the relevant skills underneath the role, and be sure to mention achievements. If there are significant gaps between roles, explain in short the reason why, e.g. took time to gain a new qualification, see the rest of NZ (would have listed travel overseas as an example, but if the gap were in 2020, everyone would know you were fibbing).


2. Proofread

Get someone else to look over your CV before submitting it to the employer. Or use a grammar app (there are free versions available) to proofread if you are short on time. Our brain isn’t very good at seeing our own mistakes on paper.  Bonus tip: Get a text to speech extension on your computer to read it aloud to you. It’s amazing what things you’ll pick up when a machine reads it to you!


3. Keep it concise

Whilst limiting your CV to one or two pages is a myth, it does need to be concise. Save the flowery descriptions or in-depth analysis of why they should hire you for the interview. Recruiters admit they spend around six seconds scanning a CV for relevancy before deciding to put it in the reject pile or not.


4. Know thy self

Avoid the temptation to apply for every job that is going and stick to the ones that you will enjoy doing and can do. If you are passionate about a position, then make sure to show it in your cover letter. Now, I know from personal experience that the feeling of any job is better than no job. But trust me when I say that if you don’t really want to do the job, recruiters will notice. A generic CV is the first giveaway.


5. Transferable is the biggest keyword in a Covid world

Sadly, a lot of people found themselves out of a job in 2020, thanks to Covid. Whilst it might seem like your training in a particular role was for nothing, it wasn’t. The practical skills might not be transferable, but those ‘soft skills’ like an eye for detail, working well under pressure, and customer service are. Be sure to let recruiters know this when applying for jobs that you might not have the ‘hard skills’ for (yet).


6. Presentation is important

Keep your formatting simple and easy to read. Be sure to send your CV as a PDF, so you don’t lose any formatting if they open your word document in a different version (although if they request a word doc, send them one). Try to avoid using columns if applying to a large company. The software they use to scan CVs doesn’t like them. Do not use acronyms or jargon unless they are mentioned in the vacancy notice. Recruiters don’t have time to guess; they like clarity.


7. Lose the photo, keep the interests

Employers are not allowed to choose applicants based on age, race, gender or anything else that could be considered discriminatory under the New Zealand Human Rights Act. Recruiters know this, but unconscious bias still rears its head from time to time, so leave the profile photo and birthdate for your passport.  Do include a short statement about your hobbies and interests though, as it gives them a clue as to whether you will fit in with their values and work culture. Recruiters prefer it if you leave in the year you received your qualification, as this makes it easier for them to check its validity with academic institutions.

You can also leave out the names and contact details of your referees. Unless they specifically ask for them in the job application, it is okay to state “referee details available upon request”.


8. Keep the personal pronouns, ditch the third person

Your CV is a reflection of what you have done and what you think about yourself. Talking about yourself in the third person is not what one does if you want to avoid being put in the nah pile.


9. The dos and don’t of social media

This commandment specifically relates to when you have a LinkedIn profile. For the dos and don’ts of social media in general, the rules of the blog I wrote last year still apply. See What does the internet tell employers about you? Ten tips for managing your social media for the job search.

In 2021, LinkedIn is still a place that recruiters scan for more detail about a candidate. So make sure that your CV matches what you have written in your profile. Nothing smells more like a rat than inconsistent dates, job titles, skills and experience.


10. CVs and cover letters go together like a horse and carriage

Even in 2021, with all its electronic communication, and fancy application software, the cover letter is still considered a vital part of the process. It shouldn’t be a regurgitation of what is included in your CV, but a targeted and concise explanation of why you want to work for the company and the attributes and skills you will bring to the position.

Your contact details should be included in the cover letter and in your CV, so if they get separated during the recruitment process, they can easily find each other again. Ensure the file names you give to the documents also include your name and the position you are applying for.


So there you have it, the dos and don’ts of putting together a CV in 2021. They are pretty similar to those offered in 2020, which is a good thing. Especially given all the other changes you have had to deal with over the last year.  The templates offered for free on the internet in 2020 are also good to go in 2021 – yay. Hopefully, job interviews won’t change much this year either. But if they do, we will be sure to tell you about it.



About Carolyn Brown

Carolyn enjoys writing stuff that engages readers, makes them feel like they are in a conversation with the screen, and doesn’t require a dictionary on standby to make sense of what she has written.

When she is not creating content, she likes to keep busy volunteering for various not for profits; throwing sticks to her step-dog as they walk along North Beach in Christchurch, and enjoying the company of friends. If you would like to know more, head on over to her website or email her at [email protected]

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