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Keep Your CV Formatting Simple

As a CV writer, I have seen hundreds of CVs and when talking about how to write the best CVs, a lot of focus is justifiably put on content, but in this post I want to discuss formatting.

Some CVs look good, while others look terrible. Many templates are visually appealing, while others are essentially black and white typed up job descriptions.  

But did you know that formatting isn‘t simply a question of aesthetics and design? Inappropriate formatting can also work against you when applying for a job. 

One of my pet peeves as a CV writer is the fact that you can download countless template designs which look ‘good’. They are full of graphics and all kinds of similar visual ‘bells and whistles’ to attract the attention of the recruiter. 

And yet, have they really been created with the recruiter in mind or just to get you to engage with their website and download their free templates? 

Like all kinds of professional writing, CVs need to be written for the reader, not the writer. What does a recruiter or hiring manager need to know when they read your CV? What are they looking for? 

They want to know what you can do for the new company and what results you have achieved for your previous employers. If the CV is aesthetically pleasing, then that helps, but it is not the primary thing they are looking for. The content of your CV is what they want to know about more than anything. 

So, here are a few tips to consider when formatting your CV:

Minimise graphics
I’m not a big fan of graphics on CVs. Ones that I write have contemporary designs, are minimal and present the necessary information for the reader in a simple and engaging way. Do the graphics help your case and make it easy for the reader? Some minor graphics can’t hurt and may even improve the visual of the CV. That’s up to personal taste. I’m just not a fan. 

Avoid large blocks of text
Keep things simple. Use bulletpoints, headings and sub-headings to make your content stand out. People are used to reading shorter paragraphs these days. You want the recruiter to read as much of your CV as possible, so make it easy for them. 

Use one contemporary font and minimise font size usage 
Multiple fonts are confusing. Again, keep it clean and simple. Use one. And yes, you will need to use different font sizes, but don’t use too many. Less is more. 

Avoid using text boxes
I can’t stress this one enough! Most companies use ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) online application filtering software to sift through the many applications they get. And though there are many different types of ATS, it is generally accepted that text boxes (and their content) are not read by ATS. 

For example, I saw a CV a few months ago that was full of text boxes. This meant that if the client had applied for a job and the company had used ATS, they wouldn’t have gotten past the first round as ATS would have only ‘read’ a blank document. Note that headers are not read by ATS either, so don’t put your contact details in the header of your CV.  

Keep in mind that some of the CV templates that you can download from different design and career websites include text boxes. So, beware! 

So, there you go. Keep your CV formatting simple and don’t use text boxes. Ever! 

If you’d like us to help you with writing and formatting your CV in the most effective way possible to get the attention of recruiters, then get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you. 

LinkedIn Jason Newton
Photo Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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