CV Writing Tips – Part 3 – Formatting

Here is Part 3 of our 4 part series.


CV writing tips – Part 3 – Formatting

How your resume looks is just as important as it’s content. Resume design matters.

From a recruiters perspective, when you have to evaluate hundreds of resumes each week, you’re going to spend more time on the ones that are both easy on the eyes and better for your attention span.

For example, if your resume format features wall-to-wall with text, uses several different fonts, and is peppered with dozens of bolded, italicized, and underlined words and phrases, it’s probably not going to get the attention it deserves.

So what makes a resume visually appealing? When you can quickly scan the document because it makes good use of white space, features clear and consistent section headings, and uses bullet points to make important items stand out.


The sweet spot

The sweet spot of a CV is the area selectors tend to pay most attention to – this is typically around the upper middle section of the first page, so make sure that this area contains essential information – such as your key work experience.


Use white space liberally

Create at least one-inch margins on your resume. This will not only help make the resume look well presented and not overly crowded with text, but also means that should any recruiters or prospective employers print your resume, you don’t risk having sections being chopped off.

CVs with large blocks of text and little white space are 13% more likely to be ignored by employers.


Stick with two fonts at most

It’s tempting to use all of the typefaces at your disposal, but having more than two fonts in any document only lessens its readability. One font is all you really need. If you use two, make sure they complement each other. For example, use one font for the headings and the second font for the body text.

Keep in mind, some fonts don’t display properly on all computers and key information might go missing or not display correctly.


Choose the right font

Times New Roman is a standard windows font. Law firms seem to like it but it isn’t easy to read on the screen, especially in small font. Instead, possibly consider freshening your CV with another font like a sans font – such as Arial or Calibri.

Font size is normally 10-12 points with larger sizes for subheadings and headings.


Use bolding and italics sparingly—and avoid underlining

It’s OK to use some bolding and italicizing in your resume text. Many resume writers may bold their previous job titles and italicize subheadings within each section of the document.

As for underlining—just don’t. Multiple studies have shown that most readers find underlined text difficult to read.


Use bullet points to emphasize skills and accomplishments

Bullets make it easier for employers to scan your resume quickly since they’re intended to grab the reader’s eye and lead it to the key points you want to make. Use them when you can, especially when you’re highlighting skills or accomplishments.


Be consistent

If you use all caps to present the name of your most recent workplace, for example, use all caps to present the names of your previous workplaces, as well. Or, if you use bold, centered text to present the first section title of your resume, use bold, centered text to present the remaining section titles, too. If you’re consistent throughout your document, you’ll subtly establish a reading pattern for potential employers that will help them follow your resume easily.


Resume length

A survey found that 22% of employers ignore CVs that are more than 2 pages long. Ofcourse this varies by industry. 35% of American employers preferred a one page CV and 19% a two page CV with the others saying it depends upon the position.

CVs in the US tend to be shorter than in the UK, whereas the 2 page CV still dominates for graduates, but I do see a trend now towards one page CVs: as employers are getting more and more CVs, they tend not to have the time to read long documents!

If you can summarise your career history comfortably on a single side, this is fine and has advantages when you are making speculative applications and need to put yourself across concisely.

However, you should not leave out important items, or crowd your text too closely together in order to fit it onto that single side.

Academic and technical CVs may be much longer: up to 4 or 5 sides.


Here are some great tips by CA, CEO and Career Coach and Mentor on MentorSelector –  Andrew Walsh. Andrew confirms points raised above – categorizing 5 main points to follow when formatting your CV:

  • Choose a modern Font
  • Use bullet points
  • Know what is an acceptable length resume for your industry
  • Use a consistent style
  • Respect document margins

MentorSelector also has people experienced in industries who may be able to guide you on what to focus on in a resume, as well as certified resume writers such as Karen Huller.

Stayed tuned for the final part of this series next week, where we look at the dark art of ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems).

To learn more about MentorSelector or to find your mentor or life coach, please click here or to connect with Andrew Walsh – click here. We are always looking for more mentors to join our family – its a great initiative that is mutually rewarding for both mentor and mentee. Register now to become a mentor or a mentee.