7 CV formatting tips that will get you more interviews

August 16 2015 , 6 Comments

CV Formatting Tips and advice.

If you are struggling to land interviews with your current CV it may not be it's content that's letting you down.

Sometimes your CV formatting could be making it difficult for recruiters to see your skills and cause irritation in the process, which will result in your CV being overlooked. 

The good news is that by making a few simple format changes to your CV, you can make some big improvements that will hugely increase your chances of landing job interviews.

Take a look at the following tips and see if there's anything you can use to boost your CV.

 

1. Decrease your CV page margins

You have limited space when writing your CV, so you need to make the most of it by minimising blank space and filling the pages with compelling content that will persuade employers to contact you - especially at the  top of your CV.

The top quarter of your CV is particularly important because it is the first thing a recruiter will see upon opening - it needs to make big impression to keep them interested.

Decreasing you page margins will allow you to fit more content into the top of the page and your CV as a whole.

Take a look at the CV below; it has a large page margin at the top and you can see the affect that it has - you can't see much of the CV content when you open it because it's all pushed down the page by the margin. 

Some recruiters will move straight on to the next CV without scrolling down if they don't see enough of what they want at the top - which is bad news for your application.

cv margin formatting

However if you decrease the top page margin then much more of the content becomes visible to the recruiter upon opening your CV, which will give you a much greater chance of making an immediate high impact.

Ideally your current or most recent role should be visible open opening so that recruiters can instantly see your current capabilities.

Below you can see how to decrease your page margins and how much more content it allows you to squeeze in to the top quarter

cv margin formatting

 Wikhow has a more detailed article on how to change page margins if you need it.

 

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2. Minimise contact details

Another way I often see candidates wasting space on their CV's is by writing far too many personal details at the top.  In a similar way to large page margins; lengthy contact details push the content of your CV down the page and hide important content from view when first opening it. 

Recruiters don't need to see your full address and date of birth on your CV - it's too much detail for the early stages of a job application. 

All you need to include is your name, telephone number, email address and rough location - so that recruiters can contact you and have an idea of where you can commute to.  Put these details at the top of your CV in small font size to save as much space as possible.

The examples below show the difference this CV formatting can make to your it's effectiveness

cv contact formatting

cv contact formatting

 

3. Divide your CV's sections clearly

To ensure that your CV is easy to navigate and has a professional outlook you should have clearly headed sections throughout. 

If recruiters find your CV easy to read then they will like you more - it's that simple

 

Most likely you will have at least a profile section at the top followed by employment history and then a section for education/qualifications.  Make sure each section is titled accordingly and that the text for the heading is in bold and a few sizes larger than your paragraph text.

CV section formatting

You may also have sub headings within your CV (for example your job titles will be sub headings under the main heading of your employment section).  Sub headings should be emboldened and can be slightly bigger than your paragraph text but not as big as the main heading text... Like below

cv section formatting

At StandOut CV we also use borders in our CV formatting to make really clear divisions of sections for our customers. 

To add a border simply click the lower border button in the tool bar when you've finished writing the text in it... see below

cv border formatting

 

CV writing service  Free CV template

 

4. Use bullet points in your CV role descriptions

Bullet pointing your role descriptions makes it far easier for people to read your CV and pick out the information they need.

Recruiters and hiring managers are often very busy people so they will be reluctant to wade through big messy paragraphs. Break your roles up into logical one-line bullet points so that your important skills can be easily picked out at speed.

Look at the 2 CV sections below...  They contain exactly the same text but one is an unstructured block of text whilst the other is bullet pointed.  It's obvious which one is easier to read and extract information form.

cv bullet point formatting

 cv bullet point formatting

 

5. Ensure your CV page transitions look tidy

A page transition is what happens when one page ends and the next one starts. I see a lot of candidates who have really messy page transitions like this one below which has a really bad affect on your CV formatting. The role title is on the bottom of the first page of the CV but the details of the role do not start until the second page. 

It's not a deal breaker but it looks really untidy and would cause me to doubt the candidate a bit - especially when it's such a simple thing to fix.

cv page formatting

In this instance all the candidate needs to do is move the role title down on to the second page by clicking above it and pressing enter a few times.  This simple change instantly makes the CV look more professional... see below

cv page formatting

If you have messy looking page transitions in your CV then you can easily fix them by moving roles down the page a little or even playing with the page margins a bit.

 

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6. Always send your CV as a Word Document

cv file formatting

There are 3 reasons why you should always save and send your CV in Word Doc format 

1. It's superior: Ideally you should write your CV using Microsoft Word because it has the best features for CV writing in my opinion and the majority of employers will open your CV in Word when they receive it. If you can't get access to Word then you can use Google Docs or Apache Open Office (both free tools) because they also allow you to save the file in a Word compatible format ensuring that all employers will be able to open your CV. 


2. It's compatible
: Some companies will not have the relevant software to open files like .txt or even PDF's - so if you don't send your CV as a Word Doc, then the recruiter may not even be able to open it, which is a total waste of an application.


3. It's editable: Sometimes recruiters have to make edits to your CV before sending them on to hiring managers.  For example big organisations often have standard candidate forms that they have to copy all of your CV content on to, or sometimes a recruiter will just want to make a few tweaks before sending your CV on to their client. 

If your CV is in Word format then recruiters can easily make the necessary changes and get your CV in front of decision makers quickly.  If you send your CV in a non-editable format such as PDF then you run the risk of slowing down the process when edits are needed - while the recruiter is chasing you up for an editable version of your CV, other candidates could be beating you to the post.

 

7. Name the CV file properly

A CV is a professional document and the file name will be seen when it's attached to emails, so take a few seconds to name it properly. 

If I receive an email application and the CV attached has a messy name like "01978373final draft" or "Dave's admin CV" then I will instantly get the impression that the candidate is a bit sloppy - not a great start if you want to get shortlisted for roles.

The best way to name your CV is simply use your full name followed by CV

This is how a recruiter will view your application so the file name matters hugely when it comes to CV formatting and making your CV stand out.

cv file naming

 Renaming a file is pretty easy - take a look below

rename cv format

 

Conclusion - Good CV formatting wins interviews

CV Formatting is extremely important and can quite literally make the difference between getting an interview or not getting an interview.  

A well formatted CV will ensure that your skills are highlighted to readers and that it moves through the recruitment process quickly.

Check out our example CVs to see full 2 page examples of well structured CVs with annotation.

 

If you have spotted any formatting issues in your own CV then you should be able to fix them fairly quickly using the tips above in order to improve your application success rate and secure more job interviews.  You can always bookmark this page and return later if you don't have the time to make them right now.

If you have any questions or comments on CV formatting then please ask in the comments below.

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Comments

Ssembatya Umar on October 13 2016 at 02:43PM

Hi thanks a lot

GJ on October 10 2016 at 10:54PM

Hi

These are really useful tips. What is the best way to present a history of different roles held with the same company?

Thanks

GJ

Noelia Esteban on June 20 2016 at 07:40PM

Hello,

Thank you for the information and the advices, I’ve found them precise and very useful.

Christine O' Reilly on February 02 2016 at 04:35PM

I found your information very informative and consise. Thank You.

Andrew on January 15 2016 at 03:58PM

Hi Richard

Good to hear your making some improvements to your CV

In answer to your questions…
1. If you don’t have the name you could just start with “Hi” or “To whom it may concern” it depends on how formal the company appear to be from their website. A first name is usually fine if you know it, not many recruiters feel the need to be addressed as Sir or Mr/Mrs these days

2. I would usually close a cover note with “Kind regards”

3. Ideally your CV should be around 2 pages, its not a hard and fast rule but it just needs to be a nice easily digestible size to make sure employers and recruiters can read it.

Thanks

Andrew

John on January 15 2016 at 12:41PM

Hello,

Thank you for the advice. I think my CV uses most of your recommended format, except, for some reason, in ‘key responsibilities’I went from bullet points to paragraphs – I shall now go back to bullet points.

I have put my contact details in one line under my name across the top, which saves more space.

Questions:
1. How should you address your cover letter or email if you do not have the name of the recruiter? If you know the name should you not put Dear xx xx? You have put, ‘Hi Steve’ in your example, but this seems too informal.

2. Should letters/emails be closed with, ’Yours sincerely,?

3. What is the best length for a CV?

Best regards,

Richard

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