2023 | Reading time: 15 Minutes

The content of a CV: What do you need to include?

The CV is the central document in a job application. It should always be tailored to the applicant and the job they are applying for. In this article we explain what you need to include in your CV.

CV

The content of the CV provides an overview of your personal details as well as your educational and professional background. That's why many recruiters choose the CV first, even though the cover letter is the first document in the job application portfolio. This gives recruiters a first impression of the candidate's qualifications and quickly answers a key question: Does the candidate meet the requirements? This makes the CV the most important document in your job application. Your CV should only include information that is relevant to the job you are applying for.

What should be included in a CV?

Whether you are applying for an apprenticeship, an internship, or a job: Some information always belongs in your CV. First and foremost, this includes your personal details.

You need to include the following information in your CV

If you want to save space on your CV for other content, you can put your contact details in a header. This also has the advantage that this personal information will automatically appear on every page of your job application.

Note: Use a reputable email address on your CV. A combination of your first and last name is best.

Your CV should also include your educational and professional background, as well as your skills and knowledge. How detailed your CV should be depends on your experience and the job you are applying for.

Optional content in the CV

The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) – also known colloquially as the Anti-Discrimination Act – came into force in 2006. It is intended to prevent unequal treatment during the application process and in the employment relationship. Since then, some personal information in the resume has been voluntary because it could lead to discrimination.

Optional information on your CV includes

Think about which information might give you an advantage and which might not.

For example, some companies might like to hear that you have a large family and many children. Others may be concerned that your work performance will suffer because of your personal responsibilities.

Your date of birth indicates your age and is therefore welcome on most CVs. It allows the employer to assess how much work and life experience you have and how you might fit into the existing team.

The job application photo

In many countries the job application photo is also an optional part of a CV. The aim is to prevent applicants from being favoured or rejected on the basis of their appearance, background or gender.

In Germany, for example, the job application photo is optional but still considered a common and central part of the job application. It is advisable to place an attractive, professional job application photo in the CV or on the cover page. A friendly smile makes a good first impression.

Education and work experience on a CV

Information about education and work experience is central to a CV. Which stages of your life you include in your CV depends on how much work experience you have and the job you are applying for.

For example, if you are applying for an apprenticeship after leaving school, you will probably not have any work experience. Your CV should therefore focus on your education. Be sure to mention your favourite subjects if they are relevant to your job, and your final grade if it was particularly good. You should also include part-time jobs and internships on your CV. This will show that you are committed and have already gained an insight into the world of work.

If you already have several years of work experience, information about your primary school is irrelevant in your CV. You should only mention your highest school leaving qualification, university degree or vocational training. Limit yourself to stations that underline your professional aptitude. If you have a degree in journalism, you do not need to mention your two-week internship at the local newspaper on your CV.

However, your relevant work experience should always be complete – even if there are gaps in your CV.

Which CV content comes first?

Most CVs are structured in antichronological or reverse chronological order. You start your list with the most recent stage of your career. Summarise your main responsibilities and achievements in short bullet points. You should also list the dates of your employment – the month and year. The education and work experience sections are interchangeable in order – depending on which is more important to your CV.

Your CV is a reflection of your skills and personality. This applies not only to the content, but also to the design and structure. However, you should follow some guidelines when structuring your CV.

If you have little experience with writing programmes such as Word, our CV templates will help you: Here you will find many examples of creative and classic CVs. For other job application documents, we also offer templates with coherent layouts that you can fill in with your content.

Do not hide parental leave and unemployment

Periods of at least two months during which you have not worked are considered gaps in your CV.

Young professionals in particular often find it difficult to find full-time work that matches their needs and skills. However, you can make good use of longer periods of unemployment by improving your skills, for example through language courses or training.

Parental leave, illness and caring for sick relatives can also interrupt employment. These circumstances are not direct exclusion criteria and should not be concealed from a potential employer.

Withdrawals from training or studies also count towards the content of your CV. The longer a break has lasted, the less relevant it is – especially if it was only for a short period.

Under no circumstances should you lie on your CV to cover up gaps. If your lie is discovered after you have been hired, you are likely to be fired. We therefore recommend that you explain any gaps in your CV truthfully at the latest during the job interview.

Include education and training on your CV

Participating in training, courses and seminars that lead to professional qualifications demonstrates your motivation and willingness to learn. You can prove your successful participation with certificates and references in the appendix. Retraining is also part of the CV content. In general, however, you should only include in your CV courses that are still current and relevant to the job.

For example, a successful course in ten-finger typing would be an advantage for an office clerk, but not so much for a car mechatronics engineer.

Skills on your CV

If you are applying for a job as a postman or courier, your CV should show which driving licences you have. However, if you want to work as an engineer, your employer is usually not interested in how you get to work.

If you list all the jobs and skills you have acquired in your life, your CV will look overloaded and unstructured. At worst, it gives the impression that you have not thought about what is important for the job you are applying for.

Make sure you do not repeat the content of your CV in your cover letter. There is little point in listing soft skills on your CV. Instead, it's best to give examples in your cover letter.

Language skills in the CV

Information about your mother tongue and foreign languages is also part of the content of your CV. It is important to be realistic about your language level. If you have only a basic knowledge of a language, you are considered to have 'basic skills'. On the other hand, if you can write, speak and converse fluently for the most part, "fluent in spoken and written" is an appropriate description for your CV.

Another way to show your language skills on your CV is to use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This is recognised across Europe and provides good objective comparability. It is based on a combination of letters and numbers and requires certification.

The following levels are possible:

  • A1-A2: Elementary use of the language
  • B1-B2: Advanced and fluent user
  • C1-C2: Business fluency and near-native fluency in spoken and written language

IT and computer skills as important content

Virtually every job today requires basic IT skills. Your CV should therefore include information about your knowledge and skills in using computers and IT programmes.

For example, if you are applying for a job as a programmer or IT administrator, it is important to know which programming languages or operating systems you know and how well you know them. For this reason, employers usually ask candidates to mention such skills in the job advertisement.

Hobbies and interests on your CV

Although job applications focus on professional skills, hobbies are an important part of your CV.

Your personal interests allow an employer to draw possible conclusions about your personality: Are you active and sporty or do you prefer more relaxed activities? Are you a team player or a lone wolf? Ideally, your hobbies will underline qualities that are important for the job you want - for example, your stamina as a marathon runner or your organisational talent for your book club.

You should also think about which leisure activities would be beneficial to your desired position. Do not overload your CV with superfluous information. If you are applying for a job in an advertising agency, your enthusiasm for video games may be welcome – in a conservative company, however, this leisure activity may have a negative connotation.

Volunteering on your CV

Voluntary activities are usually welcome as CV content, as social commitment is highly valued in our society. However, if you are applying for a demanding job that requires you to work at full capacity, an additional private burden can be a disadvantage.

Even if you have just finished school, you can show your social commitment in your CV. For example, you may want to mention that you were a class representative or that you volunteered as a tutor. This also shows that you are confident and responsible.

International experience on your CV

Be sure to include any long-term, job-related stays abroad on your CV. These are valuable experiences that underline your language skills and social competence. Especially if the company of your choice operates internationally, this is an important part of your CV.

In the case of internships, work and travel or au pair stays abroad, include where you worked and for how long. Student exchanges, school years or semesters abroad are part of your education.

If you already have several years of work experience abroad, you do not need to include shorter or longer periods abroad in your CV.

Signature and date complete the content

Unlike a cover letter, a CV is not a business letter. Therefore, you are not obliged to sign your CV. However, your signature shows that you have prepared your job application carefully. Similarly, if you include the current date in your CV, you are showing that the content of the job application document is up to date. However, this is not mandatory.

If you need more space for relevant information in your CV, you should leave out the signature and date for the sake of the CV's content.

As most job applications are now submitted online, you will usually need to scan your signature. It's easier to use our CV editor, where you can create your own signature directly online.

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