How can I make my CV look better?

Your question

I’m applying for jobs that I have the right skills and experience for, but I’m not getting any interviews. I’m worried that the design of my CV is letting it down. What can I do to make my CV (and me!) look better to potential employers?

Our answer

A cluttered, unclear and long CV can give a poor first impression. Ideally you should try to keep your CV to one page (two at the most) and be succinct and selective with the information you include.

Recruiters often spend just six seconds reviewing a CV (and spend 80% of that time on six items), so make sure they can quickly pick out the most important information by differentiating each part of your CV visually.

Here are a few style pointers to help you improve the design of your CV (if you are a designer then you will probably want to break the rules):

    • Pick a colour scheme that’s easy on the eyes – instead of using straight black text, which is what everyone else uses, lighten it to a 90% gray. Pick out a lighter, brighter colour to bring attention to headers and important contact information. But use colour sparingly!
    • Stick to standard sans serif font or serif for a traditional sector job – especially if you are sending a word document. ‘Funky fonts’ are a no-go. Never use more than two or three font styles, and make sure they are easy to read. If you do want something to stand out, choose an original font for your name to create the impression of a logo and make a feature of it at the top of the page.
    • Don’t make your text too small  use a font size of 10-11 point to make sure potential employers can read it. Don’t make your text too large or it will look like you are trying to fill space.
    • Use bullet points – to list information and ensure it’s easy to read.
    • Let your CV breathe – allow a little white space between information to make it more legible. Also leave a healthy margin around the outside to give your CV a more professional look.
    • Don’t forget to tailor your CV to the employer – Some will appreciate originality while others will prefer something more serious. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be chic and slick.
    • Use quality paper – if you are sending a hard copy, always make sure it is printed on good quality, heavyweight paper. It’s the little touches that make the difference.

Need more inspiration?

Take a look at our Pinterest board for working mums’ CVs.

And see this example by Emphasis business writing trainers about how to write a graduate CV.

Answered by Kary Fisher.

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