It is true that the content of your CV is very important. You want to prove that you are a well-rounded person and a good potential employee. You want to highlight your skills, your best qualities, and your most relevant work experiences.
But while content is very important, the success of your CV also depends a lot upon its layout – how it looks. Below, we will help you decide on the best CV layout. We’ll discuss the top three CV formats as well as some general tips for creating an easy-to-read and visually appealing document.
Choose a CV Format
There are three main CV formats – the chronological CV, the functional CV, and the combination CV. Which one is best for you? We’ll discuss them each in turn.
The chronological CV is the all-around best choice for most job applicants. Recruiters expect an easy-to-read document that follows a familiar format – in this case, the reverse chronological order.
What does reverse chronological order mean? It indicates that you list your work experience and education beginning with the most recent happenings and working your way backwards in time. So, for example, the job you just left comes first, followed by the job you had before that.
Because it is so universally accepted, the chronological CV is the best choice for most people. It also has the added benefit of being one of the easiest CV formats to compose.
Functional CVS are occasionally recommended for instances when you have the skills to do a job well, but these skills are not reflected in your previous work experience. However, some recruiters have a problem with the functional CV. It may be as simple as they’re disliking an unfamiliar format. However, when a functional CV omits the dates of work experiences, some employers may fear that the applicant is trying to hide something negative from their past.
If you need the flexibility of a functional CV, we recommend opting for a combination CV instead. We’ll discuss that next.
The combination CV adds the skills focus of the functional CV to the reverse chronological listing of the chronological CV. In this way, employers get just what they expect – your work history in an easy-to-follow order. But you also have the advantage of highlighting your skills early on in the document.
For your skills list, choose three to five of your most important qualities. Then, include two to three bullet points explaining how you gained the skill and how you can use it below each heading.
Key Layout Tips
After you’ve chosen the right CV format, you need to make sure that the layout is clean and free of any distracting errors.
There is a famous study that states that recruiters spend only 6 seconds reading an American resume (resumes are the American version of a CV). That same study tracked eye movements and determined some of the best ways to make your CV visually appealing. These include:
- Using a simple layout
- Clearly marking each section with title headers
- Using a clear and easy-to-read font
- Using bold titles and bulleted lists
- Including a detailed summary at the top of the page
Let’s focus a bit more on your font and the effect it has on readability. You should always choose a professional font style with a size of 10 to 12 points. Avoid fanciful or fancy fonts. Your font can be either serif or sans-serif, such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
Use the same font throughout your document, and, if possible, on the cover letter as well. You can use bold or italics and slightly larger font sizes to draw attention to the headers.
Also, pay attention to the white space. Allow ample margins between sections and on all edges of the document. Make sure that your CV does not appear to be a solid wall of text.
If you desire, you can use an online CV template to do all of this layout work for you.
Finally, you should save your document in PDF format. Why? Today, many CVs are submitted electronically. If you submit a word processor document, your formatting may be lost when it is printed or opened using a different program or device. Your hard-won CV could thus appear disorganized or even unreadable,
Using a PDF format prevents this. PDFs retain their formatting no matter how they are opened.
Also, if you used various colours in your CV, try printing your PDF in black and white only. This will allow you to see whether all the text is still legible when printed in black and white.
The best way to format your CV is to choose either a chronological or combination CV format. Then, you can use an online CV template to ensure that the section organization, font, and other formatting details are visually appealing.