Even the best CV in the world can be let down by poor presentation…
A CV has to be both well written and presented professionally in order to catch a recruiter’s eye. And although your formatting may change depending on your industry, there are a few simple rules which you should always follow – and could dramatically increase your chances of success.
We’ve already covered some excellent CV layout examples, but here’s our list of CV layout dos and don’ts:
CV layout dos
Keep it short and sweet. The most effective CVs aren’t just informative, they’re also concise. Try and get straight to the most pertinent points, and ideally take up no more than two sides of A4.
Choose a professional font. A professional font ensures that your CV can be easily read and simply scanned. Remember: Comic Sans is not your friend.
Present things in a logical order. Use sufficient spacing, clear section headings (e.g. work experience, education) and a reverse chronological order to keep things clear and easily legible. And always make sure you highlight your most recent achievements.
Play to your strengths. Format your CV to maximise the impact of your application. For example, if you feel a lack of experience is holding you back, lead with education instead. As long as you can relate it back to the role in question, how you order the sections is up to you.
Use bullet points. They’re a great way to draw attention to any key facts or relevant information, allowing a hiring manager to skim the document easily and find your significant achievements without having to wade through the hyperbole.
Other things to do: Include contact details, keep email address professional (firstname.lastname@example.org does not count), maintain consistent formatting, ask someone to check for common spelling and grammar mistakes.
CV layout don’ts
Be afraid of white space. Don’t fear the gaps. Even if you think your CV looks quite bare, as long as you’ve included all the relevant information and applicable, quantifiable achievements, you needn’t worry. Remember: Sometimes less is more.
Try to include too much. The ideal CV should be a checklist of all of your accomplishments. It should not be your life story. Tailoring your CV to the role is a great way to skim some of the fat and keep all waffle to a minimum.
Include irrelevant information. Before including any points in your application, ask the same question: will it help you get the role. If the answer is no, take it out. Hobbies and interests are a great example. If they don’t help you stand out, don’t waste valuable space.
Forget your cover letter. Although it is often seen as a different entity all together, your cover letter is attached to your CV and both are vital in helping you clinch the right role. Utilise yours properly, and your CV becomes the perfect document to reinforce your talent. Oh, they didn’t say include one? Still do. Every extra opportunity to sell yourself should be taken.
Experiment with size. You may think that changing font size is a great way to fit your CV onto two pages. But whether you’re using large font to make your application seem longer or you’re using smaller font to make sure everything fits; you’re not fooling anyone. See also, margin size.
Other things not to do: Use crazy colours, use crazy fonts, include unnecessary references, include a selfie.
This is a typical CV for a job application. Here we’ve used one for a Construction Worker, but it could be adapted for any job.
You could make a CV like this to apply for an apprenticeship.
These are typical CV's for a school leavers, where they have very little work experience so more emphasis is put on personal achievements.
These are generic CV templates which you can use to make your own CV. Make it as interesting and relevant as possible.
Hand-write your CV. This looks unprofessional and old fashioned.
Include information which may be viewed negatively – failed exams, divorces, failed business ventures, reasons for leaving a job, points on your driving license. Don’t lie, but just don’t include this kind of information.
Include anything that might discriminate against you – such as date of birth, marital status, race, gender or disability.
Include salary information and expectations. Leave this for negotiations after your interview, when the employers are convinced how much they want to employ you.
Make your CV more than two pages long. You can free up space by leaving out or editing information that is less important. For example, you do not need to include referees – just state they are available on request. Don’t include all of the jobs you have had since school, just the relevant ones. Add details about your most recent qualifications, which are more relevant, but summarize the rest.
Dilute your important messages. Concentrate on demonstrating the skills they need, what you have achieved by applying the skills you have and what benefits your clients have gained from your work.
Use jargon, acronyms, technical terms - unless essential.
Lie - employers have ways of checking what you put is true, and may sack you if they take you on and find out you've lied to them.
Include a photo unless requested.
If there is an organisation you would like to work for you can write a letter asking if they have any jobs available. Try to find out the department or name of the person who handles recruitment, and address your letter to them. Follow up the letter after about a week with a polite phone call.
If you are sending your CV in response to a job advert, it is a good idea to send a covering letter with it. Check who the applications need to be sent to and address your letter to that person.