Your CV format is crucial to job search success.
If you are struggling to land interviews with your current CV it may not be the CV’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 CV format changes, 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 (curriculum vitae) 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 a big impression to keep them interested.
(Quick tip: Read my CV cover letter writing guide to ensure you know how to write a cover letter that will encourage recruiters to open your CV.)
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 effect 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.
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 into the top quarter.
Wikhow has a more detailed article on how to change page margins if you need it.
Quick tip: You can save space and add some design flair to your CV by adding some icons to symbolise the contact details in your header.
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.
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.
(Check out our 17 examples of winning CV profiles here)
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
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
Check out my CV format & structure video for more tips:
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 from.
Quick tip: If you struggle with written English, try using a free grammar checking tool like Grammarly to eliminate the risk of making mistakes.
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 effect 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.
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
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.
6. Create your CV as a Word Document
There are 3 reasons why you should always create your CV in Word Doc format – you can save at is a PDF afterwards if you want to stop it from being edited.
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.
You could use a CV builder, or online CV creator, but be careful as some of them have poor structures and don’t allow much flexibility on design. Be sure to do your research and choose one with a professional template.
2. It’s compatible: Some companies will not have the relevant software to open non-word based documents- so if you don’t send your CV as a Word Doc or PDF, then the recruiter may not even be able to open it, which is a total waste of an application. Sending as an image file for example, will mean that many of the recruitment CV scanning tools will not be able to read your CV.
3. It’s editable: Sometimes you have make edits to your CV before sending them on to hiring managers or jobs. For example, you may want to make a few tweaks to your CV to highlight a particular skill a one-off job advert has asked for, or sometimes you may need to add a new skill or qualification you have picked up.
If your CV is in Word format then you can easily make the necessary changes and get your CV in front of decision makers quickly.
If you save your CV in a non-editable format (such as an image file) then you run the risk of slowing down the process when edits are needed – while you are scrambling to look 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.
To format your CV in 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 the perfect CV.
Renaming a file is pretty easy – take a look below
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.