The Best Way to Format Your CV

The best way to format your CV is by making it as clear as possible.

Whether you’re writing your CV for the very first time or revisiting your CV for the 3rd or 4th time, working out how to format your CV never gets any easier. Even once you’ve got the content right, it can be tempting to move paragraphs around, change the order of your headings and just generally try to make it more ‘appealing’.

Trust us when we say that when it comes to your CV, less is more.

Your CV is a way of showcasing your skills, experience and personality to prospective employers, and you should focus on ensuring that it’s your content hiring managers will remember, NOT the large photo of yourself splashed across the top of the page.

If you’re applying for a role within a larger company, your CV may be passed through ATS software. ATS software isn’t interested in garish colours and photos. In fact, it may not even be able to read a CV that’s too ‘unique’. Instead, strip your CV back to basics, and make sure it could never be classed as style over substance.

Here are 5 of our top tips for formatting your CV:

- Don’t include a photograph of yourself
For one thing, what you look like has absolutely no impact on whether or not you’ll get the job. You want to be judged on your attributes, not your hairstyle. Equal opportunities also means that employers will disregard any image on your CV and you’ll have wasted valuable space by including a photograph that will be ignored.

- Be economical with your words
Your CV should be concise, and every word you use must be carefully thought out. Make sure you cut down on waffle and focus on giving hiring managers information that will help them understand why you are the best person for the job. The more concise you are with your words, the more engaged people will be when reading your CV.

Make use of short paragraphs and smaller chunks of text rather than large rambling blocks of words. Most of us naturally overwrite, and it’s often relatively easy to condense the words we use and still say the same thing. When you write your CV, remove any repetition and make sure each word is necessary.

- Use clear headings and subheadings
Your CV should be structured in clearly defined sections that are easy to skim read. A well organised CV will have obvious sections, and if you can’t work out where information should go, ask yourself if it really needs to be included. Headings could include: personal details, work history, qualifications and hobbies.

Once your sections are clear, make sure none of your sections run across from one page to another. It’s harder to skim read across page breaks and this can often affect the flow of your words.

- Consistency is key
Stick with the same format throughout your CV. Start and end dates are likely to be included in almost every section of your CV, and you should make sure they’re written in the same way and in the same place, every time.

For example, if in your work history section, you write the date in digits and on the right hand side of the page, don’t then write dates in long hand and to the left in your education section. Keep the format the same throughout your CV and it will be a lot clearer for hiring managers to understand. Equally, if you write your job title in bold and the company name in italics, keep it the same for each job.

An irregular format will mean anyone looking at your CV has to work harder to understand what you’ve written, and you want your CV to offer quick and clear communication.
Don’t be creative with colours and fonts

Hiring managers aren’t looking for artistic abilities. Stick with standard fonts that are easily read by both humans and ATS systems, like Ariel, Times New Roman and Calibri, and avoid fonts that need deciphering with a magnifying glass.

Bright colours won’t help you get noticed. If you want something to stand out, use the bold, italics or underline feature rather than relying on colour.

- What if I want to make a creative CV?
Creative CVs have grown in popularity over the last few years, and they usually involve making innovative variations of a CV on products or designs that will appeal to the company you are applying to work for. If you believe that your sector, role and industry suits a creative CV, that’s great, but always have a more professional CV ready too.

To demonstrate your creativity, you could include a portfolio or links to online blogs or profiles. If you decide to do this, don’t include lengthy URL links. They look messy and they’re unnecessary. Instead, hyperlink the title of your portfolio pieces so that hiring managers can quickly understand what you’re asking them to view.

- How do I know if my CV is formatted correctly?
Ask a friend, colleague or family member to take a look at your CV and give you an honest opinion. Ask them to answer direct questions: was it easy to read, did you understand the content, were there any inconsistencies, and did you spot any mistakes. Often, when we’re too close to a piece of work, we simply don’t see the mistakes ourselves. A fresh pair of eyes may be able to spot something you’ve missed.

Once you’re happy with your CV, scan it to make sure there is enough white space between sections. Blank space is often used in design to help content make more impact, and to give your words time to sink in.

- How should I save my CV?
When you have a finished CV, save it in various formats. Job sites will often specify what format your CV needs to be in, and if you have the choice, a PDF version will always look the same, regardless of the device used to open it. Word Documents are also a popular choice, especially for ATS software.

If you cover all bases and save your CV in multiple formats, you’ll always be able to access the right version quickly.

If you’d like a professional opinion about your CV, don’t be afraid to send us a message! CVs are what we do, and we’re always happy to help you reach your next career goal.