Does your CV format matter?

  | James Innes

Whilst it may seem like a relatively minor issue, the CV format you use is actually very important. Recruiters are normally very busy and don't have time to pick out the information they need from a poorly organised layout. The CV format you use could be the difference between your CV being read or consigned to the bin!

The format of a CV includes the number of pages, division into various sections, choice of font style, and layout.  Consistency is also important. Many CVs have errors in formatting, such as the use of different font styles or sizes, lines being more indented than others, or the inconsistent use of spaces. This creates a poor impression on the reader. You can’t be bothered to take the time to perfect your CV; why should they, in turn, bother to read it?

The important principle is that the CV format must be used with the reader in mind. You may have the greatest experience, skills and attributes but, if the recruiter has to hunt for the information you may never get invited to interview on the basis of your current  CV.

The most common types of CV are the chronological and the functional CV. The chronological CV, the most suitable format for the majority of people, lists your employment (and academic) history, usually beginning with the most recent post and working backwards, with a brief summary of the key responsibilities for each position. A functional CV lists your experience in different functional areas – such as Sales and Marketing – and focuses on specific skills rather than a career history. Functional CVs tend to be used by individuals with little practical experience, such an s graduates, or those who have had career gaps or held a number of short-term jobs.

When writing a CV, keep a basic fact in mind. It should be easy to read, both for the hiring manager and for the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that many larger firms use in their recruitment process. Basic readable fonts like Arial, Verdana, Calibri, or Times New Roman are most likely to get read. The font size should be between 10 and 12. Whilst it may be tempting to make the font size smaller so you can get more information on the page, resist the urge! Anything that detracts from the legibility of the document should be rejected.

Only in rarest circumstances, should any colour except black and white be used. Some creative roles such as graphic design or advertising may favour the use of colour on a CV, but even then you might be taking a risk. Section heads can be larger, boldened or italicised, but remember to be consistent how this is applied.

Whilst in countries such as Germany or France a CV should include a photograph, in most parts of the world they should never be part of the CV. Find out what is common where you live or where you are applying but, if in doubt, leave it out.

However good your experience and skills, an employer will not ask you for an interview if you do not use a proper CV format. A recruiter will usually spend less than 30 seconds reading a CV. This is your one chance to convince them to take their interest further. Don’t blow it with a poor format or layout.

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