Working on your CV may be the last thing you want to do, but it is an important task when searching for a job - so it needs to be amazing!
As a marketing tool, your CV tells employers what you are good at and answers the essential question! ‘Why should we hire you?’ So, if written properly, it can do wonders for your career prospects.
While there is no such thing as the perfect CV, you should try to follow the basic rules of CV writing, to ensure that it matches the employers’ expectations. The general and most important rules are that it should always be targeted to a specific position and contain keywords to beat the applicant tracking system and make it easily readable to employers.
Apart from the content though, you should also pay attention to the overall design. Since we have extensively talked about what goes into it, it’s time to look at what makes it complete. Getting the right visual appearance is an important part of the process of CV writing because this is what makes it stand out from the crowd.
If you are currently on the job hunt, check out the following tips to help you create a CV that makes a strong impression.
1. Decide on a CV Format
Your first step should be to decide on a format. This is crucial since it can help you list your skills and credentials in the best possible light. There are many types of CVs, and if you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of each format you may struggle. To make things easier, you first need to figure out a few things:
(a) What’s the purpose of your CV?
The purpose is to get you a job. It gives you the chance to get a job interview. You should ask yourself this question to determine what you want it to say to recruiters. Each person has a different story to tell, and the format you choose will ultimately inform employers what this is. The format can help you ‘set the scene’ as it focuses on what you want to talk about.
(b) What works best for your situation?
Choosing the right format ultimately helps you present the facts in a clear and easy-to-read way. Whatever you are going for, it’s important to keep it simple to avoid confusing the employers. The best way to give employers a clear image about who you are is to think about what works best for your situation. So, obviously you need a job, but why do you need one?
For example, are you changing careers? Are you searching for a student or a graduate job? These questions can help you set the focus and direct employers where you want them to go.
These are some of the most common formats jobseekers use depending on their needs:
- Traditional/Chronological: the reverse chronological order lists the most recent experience and qualifications first to match these with the requirements of the position – ideal for people who are well established in their careers.
- Skills-based/Functional: focuses on skills and covers the gaps in your employment history – ideal for people starting or changing their careers.
- Combined: a combination of a chronological and skills-based CV - ideal for graduates.
- Academic: focuses on academic achievements and is used when applying for lecturing or research-based positions e.g. post-doctoral research.
- Technical: used for IT positions to highlight hard skills most relevant to the job.
- Mini: short version of a CV for networking purposes.
- Profile: presents your personal profile, your achievements and explains why you are applying for the job – ideal to justify cultural fit based on your personality.
- Non-Traditional/Modern: can take the form of an infographic, video, online profile or portfolio – ideal for creative positions or when applying for startup jobs.
(c) What structure do you want to use?
The format you choose sets the structure that your CV is going to have. The simpler this is to follow, the easier is for employers to get the information they need out of the document and decide whether you are fit for the job or not. Considering that employers spend approximately six seconds on each CV, you need to be able to communicate your strengths quickly.
2. Use the Right Style
At this point, it’s important to think about the style of your CV as well. So, would you rather go traditional and create one that lists your credentials in a nice and conservative style? Or would you prefer to experiment with a modern template?
Before you can tell what the best move is, think about your industry and the employer you are applying to. Do some research on them and consider their company culture. This should help you decide whether the modern approach is appropriate for them or not. To help you out, this is a list of industries for which modern and traditional CVs work:
Modern CV: Media and Journalism, Marketing/PR, Web Design, Graphic Design, Writing, Creative Arts, Charity Work, Hospitality, Sales
Traditional CV: Administrative/Support, Business, Law, Finance/Accounting, Human Resources, Insurance, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Nursing, Real Estate, Science, Technology, Transportation/Warehousing, Trades
The traditional format can work for all industries whereas for the modern one you have to be more careful. If the employer is more serious and conservative, he would expect you to be the same.
There are many great sites you can use to get some inspiration for both modern and traditional CVs.
3. Get Down to the Details
Many people struggle with CV design. But, while there’s no ‘best’ design that fits everybody’s preferences or needs, what we suggest is that you go for the design that you feel more comfortable with and speaks to you the most. Apart from the format, you should also think about the minor details and practicalities of the design process. If you are using the MS Office Word, you can use a variety of formatting techniques and styles to make it look good.
Here are a few important guidelines:
- Keep it short: make it no longer than two A4 pages.
- Use narrow margins: make the most of the space you have on the paper (1.27 cm).
- Think of the spacing:5 line spacing is more than enough.
- Make use of bullet points: use standard bullet points instead of hyphens or extreme ones, and avoid long paragraphs or dense text.
- Use headings and subheadings: clearly separate your sections or use italics and bold (if you must)
- Use effective fonts: Use Arial, Verdana, Tahoma or Cambria (10 to 12 points). These are easier to read on the screen and paper. Avoid comics sans
- Change text alignment: Highlight important text, positioning it to the centre of the page, e.g. your contact details.
It’s important to think of things from the employer's point of view and what is more convenient for them..
4. Keep it Simple
There is no need to include photos, fancy fonts or go overboard with more than one colour. The secret to making a CV that it is easy-to-read is keeping it simple. In terms of design, less is more and a well-presented CV should:
- Be easy to read.
- Be simple and concise.
- Be clear and straightforward.
- Make sense and follow a logical order.
Before you are ready to send your CV, make sure that you tick off these points. If it meets these criteria it’s ready to go, because then it’s more likely to stand out from the competition or even better, make it to the final list. For best results, when you finish writing it, take a last look at the CV while holding it away from your eyes. Turn it around and see if the text and structure looks balanced to you. If you aren’t 100 percent it works, employers won’t be satisfied either.
5. Have Copies of Your CV
Technology has certainly made things a lot easier for jobseekers. Now, you can create an online CV and send it to employers by email. Despite that, a printed copy is always handy, and when you are on the job hunt, you need to carry a copy with you at all times - you never know who you might run into.
Don’t forget that you will need to have lots of copies for different positions. So, if you don’t have a printer, you might want to buy one.
If you have a laser printer, you might want to get an extra set of ink cartridges, printer toner and of course some good quality paper. The more professional your CV looks, the more chances you have to get invited in for an interview.
If you are new to job hunting and don’t know how to create a CV, this is a good guide to follow. It can help you choose the best format and design that works according to your needs. Spending some time on how to get these two elements right, could make a huge difference.
So, what design would you choose to make a strong impression? Let us know in the comments’ section below…
See also: Extraordinarily Creative CV Examples