CV layout - how to set out your CV in a clear, clean and concise manner

CV layout
Although you want your CV to stand out from all the rest, it must be presented in a clear, concise and clean manner. A potential employer may only spend a matter of 30 seconds scanning each document, and therefore the words on the page should be easy-to-read and to the point.

You are not writing a novel and so your page must not be crammed with unnecessary words and black ink.
The function of a CV is not to get you the job, but to intrigue the reader and spark interest so that he wants to see more. In CV terms, minimal is best.

Below are some pointers and general rules on how a CV should be set out and presented.
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The best font for a CV

Here you need to consider the font type and the font size.

The text needs to be clear, well spaced out and easy to read. You may be tempted to use a fancy font to make your CV stand out, however, it is best to stick to classic types such as Times new Roman, Arial or Verdana. Bear in mind that these days, many CVs are scanned by a computer before being read by an actual person and so you must use a font that a computer will recognise.

Although you might want to use small-sized writing in order to fit more on your page, the ideal is a font that is no less than 11pt. Too small will mean that your reader can't see it and might just toss it to one side. Writing that is too big will also have a similar effect.

Stick to one font and use it throughout the document, otherwise it will look messy and do not use capital letters unless you are starting a sentence or writing a title or sub-title, as this looks blurry to the eye.

Always use black ink.

Using underlined, bold and italic text in a CV

Use these effects sparingly. Yes, you may want to highlight certain points or key words, but limit bold to titles, subtitles and the odd important phrase.

Underlining and italics may only be necessary in certain cases but are not essential to a CV. Only use if they enhance the appearance of the document, making it clearer and easier to read, and don't clutter up the page.

Do not let these effects distract from the content of the CV.

Language style

Your CV needs to be crisp, short and to the point. For this reason, brief statements, bullet points and a punchy style are the norm. Do not use long sentences or long paragraphs and try to get your message across in the shortest way possible.

Sentences should be between 10 - 20 words but do not use abbreviated words unless they are commonly understood by everyone. Under no circumstances should you use text messaging speak!

Use plenty of strong action verbs in your sentences such as "adapted", "projected", "planned", "facilitated", as this enlivens the reading process and can help to shorten long descriptions. Try to start each bullet point with one of these verbs.

It is common nowadays, in modern CVs, to drop the use of personal pronouns (I, you, he, she etc), in order to save space and some say, to sound more professional. So, instead of "I achieved consistent annual sales of over 1 million." you would say, "Achieved consistent annual sales of over 1 million."

If you work in a specialised field, try not to use specialist jargon, as the reader may not always understand, particularly if they belong to another department such as Human Resources or Administration.
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Check for errors

There is nothing more off-putting for potential employers than a document that is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Even though spelling may not be one of your strengths, everyone knows what a dictionary is and you should look up any words that you are unsure of how to spell. Be careful with spell-checks on the computer, as they are often set to the American version.

A document with mistakes can give the impression that you are careless and hasty in your work.

Once your CV is written, go back and check the document at least twice or get someone else to do it, as it is often easy to overlook your own mistakes.

Length of a CV

A CV should be no more than two sides of A-4 paper and the general rule is one page to every ten years of work experience.

Best paper to use for a CV

Now that you have written, checked and rechecked your CV and it is ready to print out, you must now choose the type of paper that you are going to present it on.

Choose a good quality paper such as 80 or 90g; you don't want it to rip or appear too flimsy. On the flip side, it mustn't feel like cardboard either.

White is the best choice for colour and cream if you have to be a little different. Abstain from using patterned, textured or anything other than plain, white paper. It is more professional.


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