When you’re writing a CV from scratch, it’s hard to know where to begin! As well as thinking about the wording you want to use, you also need to consider the best CV layout. If you haven’t updated your CV for a while, it’s worth getting yourself up to date with the latest expectations to ensure you’re giving your CV the WOW factor.
What should a CV look like?
A CV should first and foremost look professional – you’re trying to impress a recruiter or hiring manager, not your mates. Graphics, logos and skills bars generally don’t go down well, whereas a clean, linear format does.
Your main consideration should be your reader. Make their life as easy as you can. Remember that your CV is the first impression you will make on them, so if, at first glance, the layout appears sloppy then so will you. Your ability to demonstrate the right
skills, experience, attitude and
qualifications will carry far more weight with the reader than over-designed presentation.
Which is the best CV layout?
There’s no one “best” layout for your CV – it’s a matter of taste, and what one recruiter loves another may hate. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that your CV makes a positive impact. The main rules are to keep it:
- Easily readable – choose a font that is easy to read, both on screen and when printed out, in a sensible size
- Structured – ensure there’s a logical flow through the document and that headers are easy to pick out
- Concise – cut out the waffle and use bullet points instead of paragraphs
- Consistent – this is an easy way to show your attention to detail and eye for presentation
- Well-spaced – don’t overwhelm the reader with a cramped layout
You’ll need to include the following sections:
If you’re looking for an example of a great CV layout – this is it! It’s my own CV, as due to client confidentiality I can’t share any others, but it lets us identify the key features that make a good CV.
So, what makes this such a good CV layout?
- There’s a lot of white space, which makes it easy to read and digest
- The section headers are clear and consistent
- The font is Calibri 10 point – a standard, easily-readable font
contact details are easy to locate at the top
- It starts with a profile paragraph, that serves as both an introduction and elevator pitch
- The career history is concise and presented as bullet points rather than a wall of text
- Achievements are separated out from responsibilities, to draw attention to them
- The early career is summarised, as the detail isn’t recent or relevant
- Career and education details are presented in reverse-chronological order
- Formatting is consistent throughout the document
- There are no graphics, images, photos, logos or charts, to distract from the important content
- There is a logical flow through the document
An example of a bad CV layout
So now you know what the best CV layouts look like, what layout mistakes do you need to avoid? Here’s an anonymised example based on a CV I received:
What makes this a bad CV layout?
- A photo is included – a bad idea that readers should ignore due to anti-discrimination legislation
- Garish colours that detract from the content
- Skills bars, star ratings and logos – virtually meaningless and likely to cause reading errors with an
- Paragraphs that make a wall of text, instead of easy-to-read bullet points
- No clear achievements highlighted
- Education presented with oldest qualification first
- Irrelevant personal details taking up space
- Mistakes with spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax
- No logical flow of sections
- Profile section that is generic at best and doesn’t show how the candidate will add value
Should I use a layout from the internet?
Be very wary of CV templates that you find online. While some of them look great, the majority of them don’t meet best practice guidelines and hardly any are
ATS friendly. Over-designed CVs are more style than substance – clean, single-column CVs tend to work best. You many also find – with a pre-determined space for each section – that you can’t fit your own details into the space allocated. You’ll either have too much space, or not enough.
Still unsure about the best CV layout?
As long as you focus on your reader, you’re free to express yourself and experiment within these guidelines until you have the best CV layout for YOU.
Alternatively, CV Shed can help you to put your best foot forward. With services ranging from a
full CV from scratch to a DIY CV
eBook, there’s bound to be a service that meets your needs. Why not
get in touch to see how I can help you?