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10 things recruiters wish you knew about CV design

Published: Monday 9th December 2019

You might have written a compelling CV which outlines your top grades and impressive employment history, but if you can’t effectively format it, your efforts might be overlooked. Recruiters spend as little as seven-seconds (yes, really!) reading each CV, so they need to be able to find the key information fast. This means that while your quirky, colourful design might help you to stand out from the crowd, it might also land you on the rejection pile if it’s too overwhelming or unclear.

Job interview concept with business cv design

But the good news is, we’ve pulled together 10 things that recruiters wish you knew about CV design, so you can freshen up your CV’s appearance to avoid making any formatting blunders or critical mistakes that could cost you the job. Let’s get stuck in:

1. Simplicity is key

Bright colours, unique layouts and graphics? While you might think these look great and help you to stand out, anything too fancy or over the top can be distracting. So, as they say, less is more! Keep your layout simple, clean and easy to help recruiters to quickly find the information they need.

2. Bullet points are your friend

Bullet points are the perfect way to break up long blocks of text and help the recruiter to easily digest the information. Using them when outlining your key skills and responsibilities in past roles and can have a huge impact on the overall readability of your CV.

3. Don’t be afraid of white space

It’s easy to think that you need to fill every inch of your CV, but an entire page full of text is extremely off-putting to the reader. Don’t be afraid of a little white space here and there. In fact, leaving blank space can help to better separate your sections and ensure recruiters can easily navigate through the document.

4. Mind your margins

On a similar note, you might be tempted to make your margins small in order to cram more information in or make them big if you feel you haven’t got a lot to say. This can make your CV look messy and unprofessional, so it’s best to choose a layout with clear, reasonable margins and be selective with your content instead.

5. Pick your font wisely

You want your CV to be as easy to read as possible – and while you might enjoy fancy fonts or bubble writing, these have no place on a CV. Choose a clear, simple one like Times New Roman, Calibri, Helvetica or Arial to keep your CV looking professional and clean.

CV on Clipboard. Composition on Working Table and Office Supplies Around. 3d Rendering.

6. Get the size right

Once you’ve chosen a strong font you need to get the size right – again, it shouldn’t be too big or too small. You might want to adapt this to suit your unique content, but we suggest font size 10-11 for the body and size 12 (bold) for the headings.

7. Images are a no-no

Not only do images take up valuable space on your CV, but they can easily detract attention away from what you’re trying to say. Therefore, it’s best to leave images, screenshots, photographs and logos off your CV altogether. If you’re keen to show off work examples, just link to an online portfolio instead.

8. Consistency is crucial

This one is often overlooked, but you must make sure that CV is consistent if you want it to ooze professionalism. This means if you’ve underlined or made one heading bold, you should do the same for the rest. Additionally, try to keep your chosen font and size consistent throughout.

9. Make your sections clear

The best way to help recruiters see that you’re a good fit for the role is by breaking your CV down into sections. This normally includes your profile, key skills, employment history, education and interests/additional information. Make sure each of these sections are clearly defined by leaving enough space between sections and making sure they’ve all got well-formatted subheadings.

10. Follow industry norms

While these formatting tips will work for most CVs, it’s a good idea to research CVs from your specific industry and see if any patterns emerge. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you can afford to be a bit more creative with your design, while a lawyer will need to keep things more corporate and professional. This will also give you advice on how best to structure your CV, what order your sections should go in and any other industry-specific rules you should stick to.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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