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The Layout of Your CV

When writing your CV, it’s easy to only focus on the content; however, the layout is just as important. Recruiters spend on average 5-7 seconds scanning CVs before they decide to read further. This means they’ll notice the layout of your CV first before they read its content. We share best practices for a CV layout that will get you noticed and increase your chances of landing an interview.

A well-thought-out CV layout conveys that you’re a professional to be taken seriously. If your CV looks too long, isn’t easy to skim over or is disorganised, recruiters will decide it’s not worth the effort and toss it in the bin before you have a chance to provide yourself. The following guidelines will help ensure that the layout of your CV creates a winning impression.

Guidelines for a professional layout of your CV:

  1. Keep your CV short and sweet
  2. Stick to a standard CV layout
  3. Avoid including a photo
  4. Don’t write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ on your CV
  5. Structure your CV
  6. Use an appropriate font and colours
  7. Save the creativity for creative jobs

1. Keep your CV short and sweet

On a CV, space is not on your side. That´s why its’s best to stick to 2 A4 pages. It´s unlikely that a recruiter will have time to read a CV that resembles a novel.

Keeping your CV short will also ensure that it can be easily scanned by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

The key is to look at the job description and only include relevant experiences, skills and achievements.

2. Stick to a standard CV layout

While the order and content of your CV can vary, there are a few elements that belong in every CV:

  • Personal details and contact details

The personal details you need to include depends on the country where you’re applying for jobs. As a minimum, include your full name, your full address and city, e-mail address and phone number. If you’re applying for a job overseas, also include the country in your address.

In South Africa, you may be asked to include your ID number, gender and date of birth; however, you should proceed with caution to protect yourself against identity theft. To be on the safe side, only disclose this information if specifically requested and send your CV as a PDF with password protection.

Optional details to include are your LinkedIn URL and your personal website/portfolio web address unless they’re crucial to your application.

  • Personal statement

A personal statement is a 4-5 line summary of your career history which tells recruiters who you are, what your skills are and what you’re looking for in a role.

  • Work Experience

Only include relevant work experience. For each job, state the company you worked for, your job title, start and end date and your experience. Try to include a mix of responsibilities and accomplishments to show your skills in the best light.

  • Education

Your vocational and further education matter here. Unless you’re a recent graduate, there is no need to mention the schools that you attended or the exams you took.

  • Skills

A dedicated section for skills on your CV isn’t necessary for the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. For South Africa, this section is essential for highlighting computer and foreign language skills as well as any relevant to the job vacancy.

  • References

In the UK and Ireland, it used to be common practice to write ‘references available upon request’; however, doing so is now considered a valuable waste of space. At this early stage of the recruitment process, references are not required, so there is no need to refer to them.

In New Zealand and South Africa, however, it’s customary to include two references so that prospective employers can check your work history. Make sure your references are current and of course, ask for permission before passing on details.

3. Avoid including a photo

It’s generally frowned upon to include a photo in your CV. For models and actors, where appearance is an important factor in the application process, a photo may be necessary.

It’s worth noting that in the UK and Ireland, strict anti-discrimination laws prohibit companies from requesting too much personal data from candidates.

4. Don’t write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ on your CV

Many candidates point out the obvious and write the words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ on their CV. This is a valuable waste of space and tells recruiters what they already know. Instead, your name should go at the very top of your CV. As it’s the first thing recruiters will see, put your name in bold and at the centre of the page so that it grabs their attention.

5. Structure your CV

Your CV needs to be easily scanned by recruiters and ATS. Here are a few pointers for giving your CV a clear structure and making it look presentable:

  • Give sections clear headings such as ‘Employment History’.
  • Use bold for headings and italics for subheadings.
  • Keep margins between 1 - 1.5 inches.
  • Leave enough white space between sections - don’t cram too much text into your CV.
  • Break up blocks of text with bullet points.

6. Use an appropriate font and colours

Fonts such as Calibri and Arial are easy to read and exude professionalism. Go with 10-12 points for normal text, 14 for headings and 14-16 for your name to make it stand out.

Keep colours to a minimum. The best colours for a CV are the standard black or neutral colours such as blue or grey for highlighting headings.

7. Save the creativity for creative jobs

With so many templates and designs on offer, it can be tempting to go show off your creativity to recruiters. If you’re applying to a hip ad agency, they might be impressed by an eye-catching CV with elaborate graphics and animations.

For most other jobs, recruiters will appreciate a CV that cuts to the chase and doesn’t make them hunt for information. The key thing to bear in mind here is to read the job description carefully. Unless otherwise specified, err on the side of professionalism and stick to neutral colours as described above.

Make use of a CV maker

While the content of your CV is ultimately what will land you a job, the impact of a professional CV layout shouldn’t be underestimated. With so much differing advice online, it can be difficult to know how to structure your CV well.

A professional CV builder such as Jobseeker.com can save you hours of work and help you make the best first impression with recruiters. Using our CV maker, you'll be able to choose from 32 professional templates that will ensure that you include relevant information in a format that’s concise and easy to read.

Simply enter your details and select the template that’s best suited to your application to create a CV that gets past the ATS, wins over recruiters and leads to a job offer.