We see hundreds of CVs a week and in amongst these applications see examples of effective and not so effective attempts at this contentious document.
There seems to be a trend towards more and more complex formats – often sold to candidates by CV writing services who focus on the document as an end in itself – whereas it needs to be a means to an end – getting you in front of the employer of your choice.
Our advice would be – keep it clean, clear and simple.
We’d always recommend using Word rather than a PDF.
You may fancy an italic or bold typeface, or perhaps unusual text colours and backgrounds – but readability is key. Don’t lose substance for the sake of style.
Plus the more complex the formatting, the less likely the document is to consistently display correctly, especially when saved to a job-board or in-house database.
We often see logos added for every employer; these can look good, but can move unpredictably when saving in a new database. They often end up interrupting or occluding the text, making the document difficult and frustrating to try to read.
Avoid text boxes – they will make your CV less searchable and less likely to be parsed correctly by in house recruiter software. Do you want it to be pretty or do you want your future employer to find you?
If you wish to add a photo, use a professional headshot – anything else is distracting and unnecessary.
And make sure it has the right dimensions…
You think we are joking – but it happens!
Think about what will be important and relevant to the employer – not what is most important to you. Start with the recent and relevant. The top third of page one will sell you best – do you really want to use that space listing old GCSE grades or discussing your love of your dogs (although we can understand this as dogs are amazing but perhaps not very relevant in your job application).
Be careful with your font sizes, don’t take up the whole first page with
in size 20 font (often spelled incorrectly). It is not the best use of space.
That said – your name and contact details including an email address you check and a mobile phone number where an employer / recruiter can leave messages should be at the top of the document. Seems ridiculously obvious but often they are not included or hidden away at the end or in a tiny, greyed out footer.
Watch out for typos – we all make them and mostly in life they don’t matter that much but in a CV they can be very distracting for an employer and make a wrong first impression that can be hard to shake. Don’t reply on spell check – it can’t check context. Every week we see the same mistakes – Manger for Manager, Dairy for Diary, Souring for Sourcing, Costumer for Customer, Filed for Field, Roll for Role and so on!
Finally explain gaps – generally not a problem but just need to be covered off. Also be accurate – more and more employers will check dates or if you’ve applied before will have old CVs on file for you. Your CV needs to be verifiable.
Everyone has a view and I am often told by candidates they have been advised one way or another. I would say think about who the advice is from – if it from an employer or a recruiter who understand what a CV needs to achieve it is probably worth listening to. We know what our clients / recruiting managers are looking for and know what works and what doesn’t in our sector at least.
Remember this is your first impression; let’s make it a good one!