How to create a professional CV

The CV is the central document of the application. For this reason, it should always be individually adapted to the applicant and the aspired profession. We'll show you how it's done.

The CV provides an overview of your personal details as well as your educational and professional background. Although the cover letter is actually the first document in your application, many recruiters still go for the CV first. Because there they get a first overview of your qualifications. In this way, HR managers quickly get the answer to a central question: Does the candidate meet the relevant requirements - or not. This makes the CV the most important document in your application.

While most applicants are aware that a cover letter should always be tailored to the job they are applying for, few know that an individual CV is just as important. It is not enough to write a CV once that reflects your entire education and all your skills. In our guide, we tell you how to create an individual CV that is tailored to you and your dream job.

What information to include in the professional CV?

There is some information that always belongs in your CV - whether you are applying for an apprenticeship, an internship or a job: your personal data.

Mandatory data includes your full name, address, telephone number and email address. If you want to save space in your CV, you can also put this information in a header. This also has the advantage that the personal data can be found automatically on every page of your application.

Please note: Your email address should always be a legitimate one. A combination of your first and last name is best.

Your educational and professional background, as well as your skills and knowledge, should always be included in your CV

  • but the extent of this depends on your experience and the position you are applying for. We will go into this in more detail later in this article.

Optional information in your professional CV

Optional information includes your date of birth, place of birth, marital status, nationality and religious denomination. All these details are not compulsory in your CV, as they could lead to discrimination during the selection process. So you should always consider whether they should be part of your individual CV or not.

*In a family business, you may be able to score points by having a large family, but other recruiters may fear that you have too many responsibilities outside of work because of your children.

The date of birth gives information about your age and is therefore welcome in most applications. This is because it allows the employer to assess how much work and life experience you have and how you might fit into the existing team.

The application photo

Due to the anti-discrimination law, the application photo is now also one of the optional contents of the CV. This is to prevent applicants from being favoured or rejected on the basis of their appearance, origin or gender.

In Germany, however, the application picture is still a common and central element of the application despite the law - and is additionally highlighted on a cover sheet, for example. An attractive and professional application photo is usually not a disadvantage. On the contrary: even in a job application, the first impression counts, which can be reinforced by a pleasant smile.

Hobbies in the CV

Although the trend is more towards a plain application that focuses on professional skills so as not to discriminate, hobbies are still welcome on the CV.

Your hobbies allow the employer to draw possible conclusions about your personality: Are you active and fit or do you prefer relaxed activities? Are you a team player or a lone wolf? In the best case, your hobbies can highlight other qualities that are crucial for your intended profession - for example, your endurance as a marathon runner or your organisational skills for your book club.

However, it may not always be an advantage to list your hobbies on your CV. Here, too, you must always decide individually which activities you want to list and which are perhaps uninteresting or even disadvantageous for the desired position.

If you apply in a young creative agency, you might be able to score points by saying that you like playing video games - in a conservative company, however, this pastime tends to have negative connotations.

Voluntary activities in the CV

Similarly to stating hobbies, you should also include voluntary activities in your individual CV. These are usually welcome, 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 for you.

Education and work experience in the CV

Your education and work experience form the central information in your individual CV. But here, too, there are a few things you should keep in mind. The stages of your life so far also depend on how much work experience you have and which job you are applying for.

*For example, if you apply for an apprenticeship after leaving school, you will rarely be able to prove that you already have work experience. In your individual CV, the focus is therefore on your school education. In this case, you should also mention side jobs and internships - regardless of whether they have anything to do with the training you are aiming for. In this way, you prove that you are committed and have already been able to gain an insight into the professional world. Hobbies can also reveal where your skills and interests lie and what you are passionate about.

*If, on the other hand, you are an applicant with several years of professional experience, it is not important to the recruiter which primary school you went to. In this case, you should only state your highest school-leaving qualification, degree or vocational training in order to give your professional stations more space and presence. You can therefore leave out the stations that are no longer decisive for your profession: If you have a degree in journalism, you don't necessarily have to mention your two-week internship at the local newspaper. However, you should always state your relevant professional experience in full - including any gaps in your CV.

Knowledge and skills in your CV

When choosing your skills and additional qualifications, you should also consider what is really relevant for the respective application.

If you are applying as a postman or delivery person, for example, you should always mention that you have a driving licence, what class and maybe even how long you have been driving. However, if you apply as an engineer, your employer is usually not interested in how you get to work.

If you have taken a ten-finger typing course, this may be an advantage for an application as an editor - but it will hardly earn you any bonus points as an automotive mechatronics technician.

Choose wisely! If you list all the activities and skills you have learned and mastered in your life in your CV, it will quickly appear overloaded and unstructured. At worst, it comes across as if you haven't thought about what is really important for the job. Only if you feel a particular hobby or skill can give you an advantage or enhance your personality should you add it to your individual CV.

Also, make sure that you do not repeat yourself in your CV and cover letter. Soft skills, for example, are best demonstrated in your cover letter. Simply listing them in your CV, on the other hand, is not very meaningful.

Structure and design of your professional CV

A personalised CV should reflect your skills and personality, including the design and structure.

However, you should follow certain guidelines when structuring your CV. In this way, you ensure that the recruiter can grasp the most important data at first glance. The structure should look as follows:

  • personal data
  • school education / vocational training
  • Work experience
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Hobbies and voluntary activities

However, the points on education/training and work experience are interchangeable in order - depending on which point is more important for your individual CV.

  • You can get creative with the visual design of your CV. You can never go wrong with a classic CV in tabular form, but you can stand out from the crowd with an attractive design.*

However, you should always make sure that your information remains in the foreground. Do not use more than two accent colours; the font should remain black to ensure good legibility. Geometric shapes, such as lines or symbols that highlight individual stations, are also a way to personalise your CV. Take a look at our CV templates: Here you will find numerous samples for creative and classic CVs.

The signature in your resume

To put the finishing touches to your individual CV, your personal signature must not be missing. This small but important detail shows your potential employer that you have prepared your application carefully. As most applications are now sent online, you will usually need to scan your signature in order to digitise it. If you don't have the opportunity to do this, we recommend you take a look at our CV editor: There you can create your individual signature directly online.