What to put on a CV (and what to leave out)

You are ready to enter the Dutch job market for the first time or you finally made the choice for a career change. In both cases you start your job search by updating your CV or writing it from scratch (again). You open your laptop in good spirits but soon you will catch yourself staring at a blank screen. You actually don’t know what to put on a CV. You have no idea what to include, what is best left out or how to write it all up in a clean format and persuasive manner.
We will tell you all about what to put on a CV, in what order and what is best to say in each section. Including some useful tips that will get your document noticed and make you stand out from your peers.

Things to know beforehand

This is not a step-by-step guide on what to put on a CV that you can use over and over again. The best CV’s are tailored to specific jobs. To maximize impact, your curriculum vitae should contain the most relevant experience, skills and qualifications that match requirements in the job description. So make sure you customize your CV to a particular vacancy. Each and every time you send one.
Now let’s check out what to put on a CV.

What to put on a CV: must-haves and optional elements

There are some standard rules about what to put on a CV. Although you need to tailor the contents, each CV consists of the following must-haves and -if relevant- some optional sections:

  1. Contact details
  2. Profile
  3. Experience
  4. Education
  5. Certifications & awards (optional)
  6. Skills
  7. Languages
  8. Hobbies and interests (optional)
  1. Contact details

At the top of your curriculum vitae you place your contact details. Include your full name, your place of residence, your phone number and your personal email address. Also include your LinkedIn profile if you have one (you should). Often you can leave out your date of birth, since it is irrelevant for most jobs. Note your details clearly and well-organized.

  1. Profile

Most people have a general idea on what to put on a CV, but they tend to forget this section – and it’s a very important one. Right beneath your contact details you write up some short personal profile. Tell recruiters or hiring managers who you are and what skills and achievements you can bring to the table. Leave out reasons for leaving your current position or an explanation on why you want this particular job. All this should take just a few sentences.

  1. Experience

Recruiters love to read about your experience, but they don’t want to search for it. Therefore you need to list your past experience up to 15 years clearly and in chronological order (latest first). Name the dates, your positions and the companies where you are/were employed and mention your achievements and responsibilities. Support those statements with numbers and data if you got them.

Bonus tip

Are you new to the job market and haven’t got much work experience yet?  Put this section after the “Education” section. Then you can also list volunteer work, side jobs or your roles in relevant study projects or internships!

  1. Education

When you ask people what to put on a CV, most of them will tell you to include your education. And rightly so, because it is a critical component of your CV. In this section you list your completed studies, again in chronological order (latest first). Keep it short. Just name graduation dates, your degrees and the names of the institution.

  1. Certification & awards (optional)

Did you complete some important courses or training? Got some appropriate certifications or won a few awards? Although it is completely optional, mentioning them can be effective provided they are relevant to the job position. When you do use them in your CV, be sure to list them just as your education and work experience. 

  1. Skills

This skill section is the last essential part of your curriculum vitae. In this section you outline some relevant skills and competences for the job you’re applying for. Don’t list all your skills, but limit yourself to the 5-7 most relevant ones. Remember to not just tell what you’re good at, but also show how you put those skills to good use and what you’ve achieved doing so. For the experienced among us the “Skills” section is usually used just under your “Profile”.

  1. Languages

Your knowledge of different languages can be important, especially in international environments. Again if relevant, you might want to list all the languages you master and describe your level.

What to put on a CV: photos, hobbies & references

There is some ongoing discussion about what to put on a CV in terms of photos, hobbies and references. In our view photos should be avoided unless explicitly asked for. As with your date of birth, your CV should all be about your skills and qualifications and not about how you look or your age. Hobbies or interests can be important as you reveal a piece of your personality. They demonstrate other skills and experience of yours which can give you something to talk about during your interview. References should be left out, since most recruiters, hiring managers or other decision makers know they can request them if needed.

Need help?

We know exactly what to put on a CV and how to write it up effectively. We gladly help you by reviewing your current curriculum vitae or profit from our professional CV writing services for international jobseekers in the Netherlands and get an easy customizable document you can use again and again while job hunting.

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