Whether your CV is being read by a human or a machine the structure of it is crucial. Hiring managers spend mere seconds skimming your CV and if they can’t navigate it easily, they’ll give up; applicant tracking systems (ATSs) are expecting clearly defined sections too. If they can’t find them they may deprioritise or reject your CV.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to structure your CV with sections:
1. Include the right sections
Required sections are contact details (at the top of your cv), education and work experience.
Optional sections are personal profile, key skills or achievements, interests and references.
2. Add section headers
Headers make it clear to the hiring manager what they are looking at and will ensure the ATS won’t miss potentially critical information. Use standard section names (see above) and put your section headers above the content for that section and not on the same line as the content. This is visually clearer and more appealing to the hiring manager, and it also ensures the ATS will find your sections.
3. Consider quantity
The quantity of content in each section will help the ATS figure out which are your most important sections, so keep this in mind when writing your CV. This is also another reason to ensure you include headers as without them the ATS may accidentally combine different sections into one and assume you’ve placed more importance on it than you truly meant to.
4. Include relevant content
This may seem like a no-brainer, but always include relevant content beneath your headers i.e. don’t include headers with no content. Be aware that issues with the layout or formatting of your CV can mean an ATS can’t find content even though it’s there. So, try saving your CV as a text document to see if you can spot any potential problems.
5. Don’t repeat sections
Repeated sections will be confusing for hiring managers and ATSs, so never include more than one of each. Skills and contact information sections are common examples of this.
A CV should never be a challenging document to process by humans or machines. By adding sections to your CV you’re essentially creating a familiar map that will help both the hiring manager and ATS to navigate to your most relevant skills and experience in the most efficient way possible.