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CV Writing: Getting the Basics Right

This article was originally published on Zonotho on 26 November 2019 and later republished on Careers24 on 21 July 2022.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Being an HR professional, I can easily see hundreds (if not more) CVs in a month. That might worry you if you’re looking for a job. It means you need to ensure your CV gets noticed.

There are many ways to make your CV stand out, and I’ll be writing a series of articles that can help you there, but first, let’s focus on the essentials. Here are the most important sections in your CV and how to present them:

Personal Details

This section is short and needs to have all the relevant information. Make sure to include the following:

  • Name and surname
  • Nationality
  • Work permit (if applicable)
  • Address (minimal: area, city, country)
  • Contact details (Email address and/or contact number)

This section is important for shortlisting, because recruiters will look at whether you’re in the right location and are eligible to work in the country. Companies don’t care about religious beliefs or marital statuses so keep those details out. Always ask yourself: Is this information necessary and does it explain whether I’m capable of doing the job or not.

Education and Qualifications

This should come next, especially if it’s stronger than your experience. Often jobs have a minimum qualification requirement, so be clear on what your qualifications are.

Add your highest qualifications first, and then list the rest of the qualifications and certificates after, starting from the most recent one. Remember to include the completion date. Course modules should only be added if it’s relevant to the job. You do not need to add school information unless you’re a recent graduate.


Experience can be placed before education if it compensates for the lack of qualification in your field. This section should include:

  • Job title
  • Company
  • Period worked in that role
  • Responsibilities within the role

This is where you need to pay extra attention. If your experience does not demonstrate that you’re eligible for the role you’re applying for, you may not make it to the shortlist. A few tips to consider:

  • Start from the most recent job to date and work your way down.
  • Mention the experiences most relevant to the job you’re applying for. e.g. If you’re applying for an administrative position, highlight your experience in Microsoft Office. 
  • If you’re listing a contractual role, add (fixed-term or contract) next to the role so that recruiters are aware that you aren’t job-hopping.
  • If you have managerial experience, mention that under the list of responsibilities and include the number of people you’ve managed.

In Summary

Because recruiters see hundreds of CVs a month, they need to find quick ways to shortlist candidates. Therefore, it’s important that you get these sections spot on so that your strong points are not missed. If they are easily able to spot that you’re in the right location, with the right qualifications and the right work experience, you have a better chance of getting noticed.

So, do yourself a favour and make sure that you have these sections polished. It’s better to be less flashy and get the basics right than to stand out for all the wrong reasons! It may just be the difference between being rejected and being shortlisted.