What should a CV look like?

Andrew Fennell Andrew Fennell

Your CV is vital to your job hunt, but what should a CV look like if it’s going to be effective at landing you interviews and job offers?

This guide will show everything your CV needs from design and format, to content and skills – in order to make a good impression on recruiters and employers.

We’ve also thrown in some CV examples at the bottom.

 

CV format

Recruiters often look through 100+ CVs in a day at work, selecting the best candidates to make the interview shortlist.  Before they even start reading the content, it is the format and layout of a CV that makes the first impression and determines how easy the information can be digested.

 

CV layout

 

A clean font

With so many CVs to look through it is essential that your CV allows the recruiter to easily read, or skim, the content.  Having a clear font is a simple way to achieve this.

Use a font which simple, clean and well-spaced for the eye to read – avoid choosing an elaborate font in an attempt to jazz the CV up.

Ariel is a safe choice but if you are not a fan of it, then other easy to read fonts include Calibri or Tahoma.

 

A muted colour scheme

However vibrant and dynamic the organisation you are applying to, don’t be tempted to make your CV a rainbow of different colours.  Remember – your number one aim is to make it easy to navigate, so stick to black text on white background.

If you want to add one colour to help headings stand out, opt for a professional looking muted colour.

 

Keep it simple

Simple CVs may seem boring but they are effective.

Resist the temptation to use unnecessary design features, graphics or photos which can all make it harder to quickly spot the important information.  It should be your skills that make your CV stand out, not a quirky design.

 

CV format

 

Stick to a plain written document which simply highlights your most in-demand skills.

 

Clearly divided sections and bold headings

When we read information on a screen, research shows that we scan documents to find what we are looking for.  Help the recruiter find the information they need by dividing your CV clearly into sections with bold headings to catch the eye. Pay special attention to your headings and the first words of each sentence because these are what the recruiter will see first.

 

Keep it under 2 pages

Most recruiters and hiring managers are extremely busy and read hundreds of CVs every day, so it pays to keep yours brief if you want to ensure yours is read fully. In order to make it to the interview shortlist, the recruiter needs to quickly be able to find your skills and experience on your CV.  Keeping it to a maximum of 2 pages will help them skim the headings and get a feel for whether you will match the criteria.

 

CV length

 

If you need to cut some info out, go back to the job advert and think about it from their perspective – what are the skills and experience the recruiter wants to hear about?  What info could they live without?

 

Break up text and use bullet points

Dense blocks of text are difficult for both human eyes and automated systems to scan.  Use bullet points to help your key skills and responsibilities stand out.

 

CV layout

Getting your information in a clear order and layout will help the recruiter navigate the documents and pick out the skills they are looking for:

 

Name and contact details

Start with your name, location, phone number and email.  You don’t need to include your full address, simply put the town or region where you are job searching.  You might also want to highlight the fact that you are “open to remote working” if that is the case.

Contact details

If your profile is up to date and you are active on LinkedIn you might also want to add a link to your LinkedIn profile.  LinkedIn now offers the facility to create your own URL, which is short and can include your name.  This will take up less space on your CV and is more memorable than a long link.

Your contact details should be clear and easy to find – for example in the top right-hand corner.

 

CV Profile

A CV profile (or personal statement) is a short introductory statement (maximum of 10 lines) highlighting your skills which match the job requirements. It should sell you to recruiters and entice them to continue reading.

CV profile

Avoid making vague statements that anyone could claim ( like “I am a skilled communicator”) and focus on specific qualities that you bring to the role, such as IT programmes you can use or industry-specific skills like bookkeeping or customer service.

A bullet-pointed list of your core skills following your profile will provide a strong overview of your experience

 

Work experience

Unless you are a school leaver or new graduate, work experience is the most important part of your CV and helps the employer decide whether it is worth calling you for interview.

Work experience

List your career experience, putting the most recent first (at the top).  Include name of the organisation, your job title and dates.

Make your work experience section “achievements based” – using bullet points to explain what you specifically achieved in each role:

For example, instead of listing; Managing customer service systems,

Write; “Managed a team of 25 staff to implement a new customer service system, resulting in a 50% reduction in complaints”. This shows what you did + what your actions achieved for the employer.

Add numbers to your CV to emphasise your impact; for example “Coordinated a cross organisational project which resulted in a 25% increase in sales”

 

Education & Training

For school leavers and new graduates, the education section will be important as evidence of skills gained and projects completed – include dates, name of school/college/university, subjects studied and grades achieved.

Education

For professionals with many years of work experience this section should be used to highlight the highest and most recent qualifications and any additional training courses that are relevant to the role.

 

Hobbies & interests (optional)

If your CV is already 2 pages long you might decide to miss this section out completely.  However, if you don’t yet have much work experience and you do have hobbies or interests which are relevant to the role, then include them here.

Make sure they are specific to you and not just pastimes that most people do.  Using active language to describe what you achieved in a hobby can make it stand out to a recruiter:

  • Volunteered twice a week at my local food bank, working with a team of people aged 16 – 75
  • Captain a local chess club, organising tournaments and producing monthly newsletter.

 

CV examples

Check out some good CV examples for guidance and inspiration.

 

Admin CV

Admin CV 1

 

 

Sales CV

Sales CV

 

Project Manager CV

Technical Project Manager CV 1

 

What does a good CV look like?  Conclusion

A good CV is well laid out, simply designed and easy to read anywhere on any device.  Filling job vacancies is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle –  a good CV makes all the difference for recruiters trying to find those missing pieces!

Learn more about how to write a CV.