How to layout a CV | 13 techniques that will get you more interviews
Your CV layout is a hugely important factor in landing job interviews.
A professional and well-structured layout will create a winning first impression, and allow you to highlight your in-demand skills to potential employers with ease.
The following techniques will show you how to layout your CV, and start landing the interviews you need – regardless of your industry or level of experience.
Firstly, here's an overview of how to layout a CV;
- Name and contact details at the very top
- Head the CV with an introductory profile
- List your work experience in reverse chronological order
- Finish with your education and qualifications
- Hobbies and interests are optional
The example CV below shows you how this works in practice.
Now let's dive into the details of how to layout your CV...
Keep it simple
As an ex-recruiter who used to read hundreds of CVs every week, the best piece of advice I can give on layout, is to keep it simple.
Don’t be tempted to use flashy templates with logos, background designs, photos and skills graphs – they simply detract from the content and make your CV a confusing read. A classic case of style over content.
Keep a very simple black and white colour scheme throughout (maybe a splash of colour in headings at most) and keep any images out of your CV (curriculum vitae).
A text based CV with a clean and simple font will create a pleasant reading experience for employers, and ensure that your CV doesn’t confuse any CV scanning software
Break text up
Huge chunks of text are a readers’ worst nightmare
Would you want to read something like this?
Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people – so making them hunt through massive paragraphs will not help your job applications at all.
Use short sharp sentences and plenty of bullet points to break your text up, and allow readers to quickly navigate your CV and pick out the info they are looking for.
Use one text column only
Keep your CV layout written across one column for simplicity, and to control what order recruiters view the information on your CV.
If your CV has 2 columns or more, then recruiters’ eyes will dart around the page and they will decide which part they read first.
Writing your CV in a single column will mean they are forced to read from top to bottom – allowing you to decide which parts are seen first.
Start with a persuasive intro
Holding recruiters’ attention within the first few seconds of them opening your CV is vital for your job search success.
If you fail to do it – they may skip straight on to the next CV in their inbox without reading yours in full.
Order your roles correctly
Your work experience should be listed in reverse chronological order (that’s starting with the most recent job at the top, and working down to the oldest)
Depending on your level of experience, the amount of detail you dedicate to your experience will differ.
Experienced candidates should focus most of the space on their CV to their career summary
Junior candidates (school leavers, graduates) should focus less on their work experience, and more on their education, projects, placements etc.
Tailor your education to your experience level
The amount of page space you dedicate to your education will again be determined by your experience level.
If you are an experienced candidate, then a small section at the bottom of your page will be enough for your education.
However, if you are a junior candidate, then you will need to provide plenty of detail on your education, to compensate for your lack of work experience
Use clear bold headings
Make your CV easy for recruiters to navigate by clearly dividing all of your sections, and heading them up with bold titles.
This makes for a much more pleasant reading experience and gives the document a professional outlook.
Keep page transitions tidy
Your CV is your marketing material for your services, so you want to keep it looking sharp as possible if you want to appear as a credible candidate
Messy page transitions like this one below may not be the end of the world, but they look a little untidy, so try to avoid them
If this happens when writing your CV, simply move the section onto the next page, or play around with the margins to keep your CV layout neat, and avoid looking sloppy.
2 pages in length is perfect
To convey your message without boring employers, try to keep your CV to around 2 pages in length.
If it comes in a little over, it won’t be the end of the world – bur certainly don’t stray on to the 4th page.
Lengthy CVs never get read in full, so keep it short and sharp.
Reduce page margins
In order to make the best use of the space on your page, and keep it under the 2 page mark, you should keep your page margins relatively small
As you can see from the picture below, a big page margin at the top of your CV pushes all of the content down the page – and stops the recruiter from seeing important information when they open the CV.
If you decrease this page margin, you will fit more text into the CV, which allow recruiters to see more of your skills as soon as they open the CV.
Minimise contact details
Another common way that candidates waste space on their CV, is by including too many contact details, and formatting them poorly.
The example CV below is how not to do it.
The only contact details you need to include are:
- Email address
- Mobile phone number
- Rough location (i.e London, Liverpool, Manchester)
- Possibly your LinkedIn profile (if you have a good one)
You never need to include:
- Your date of birth
- Full address
- Marital status
Include a minimal amount of contact details and keep them tucked up into a small space at the top of your CV.
Never hide them at the bottom. You want to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to contact you.
Keep the font consistent
Keep your CV looking slick and professional by using one font consistently throughout the CV
Mixing your fonts about will make the CV look messy, which will in turn make you appear as messy candidate – not a great look.
Keep interests brief (if you include them at all)
Hobbies and interests are an optional section for your CV and don’t often make a huge impact on hiring decisions.
There are a couple of exceptions to that rule however…
If you have interests that are highly relevant to your line of work, such as a writer who runs a personal blog; then it’s worth mentioning them in your CV.
If you are a school leaver or graduate with no experience, then it’s worth mentioning impressive achievements such as fund-raising events or captaining a sports team.
However, if like me, your interests mainly consist of relatively boring things like socialising with friends or going to the cinema – then there’s no point in adding them to your CV.
If you decide to enter your interests, do so in a small section at the very bottom of your CV.
CV layout matters
If you want to land the best job offers on the market, then your CV layout needs to be perfected.
A strong layout will allow recruiters to quickly evaluate the benefits you can bring to a role, and will ultimately lead to more job interviews than a poor layout
Good luck with the job search.