How to create an effective CV layout

Updated 31 March 2023

A CV is often the first opportunity someone has to impress potential employers. Recruiters may review a lot of CVs in the recruitment process, so ensuring your CV is memorable, clear and communicates why you're the best fit for the role can be important. In this article, we explore how to improve your CV layout, which might help you secure an interview for your next role.

Related: What Is a CV? Curriculum Vitae Definition and Examples

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What is a CV?

A CV is a professional document that showcases your qualifications for potential employers. Your CV can include information about your work history, education, skills, contact details and references. You can also include a summary and an interests section to share personal details that might be relevant to the role.

How to organise your CV layout

Here are some steps that can help you write a great CV:

1. Use a professional font

To make it easy for recruiters to read, you can choose a clear, minimal font rather that's clear and simple. Some of the most common professional fonts to use for a CV include:

  • Arial

  • Calibri

  • Georgia

  • Helvetica

  • Times New Roman

Next, you can check your font size to ensure your CV is legible. For most content on your CV, font size 11 or 12 should be large enough to be easily read without taking up too much space on the page. However, you can increase the font size slightly for section headings or make them bold. For details like your previous employer's locations, you can decrease your font size to 10 to save space and allow more important information to be at the forefront.

Related: The ultimate guide to CV basics (With example)

2. Adjust page margins appropriately

To fit as much important information on the page, you can reduce page margins slightly. However, removing the margins entirely might reduce the white space in a document, which can make it appear as a large block of text that might be challenging to navigate. Ensure your margins are at least 1 inch on all four sides to keep your CV nicely spaced while maximising room on the page for important content.

3. Add an eye-catching header

Begin your CV with a header that includes your full name, current job title and contact details. For recent graduates, if your current job title is not relevant to the position you're applying for you could include your degree here instead. For example, 'BA accounting and finance graduate with extensive administrative experience.'

To catch the reader's attention, consider adding a block of colour behind your header or adding a line below the header to separate it from the rest of your CV. Increasing the font size of your name and current title is another way to make these details stand out, but keep contact details a standard size to save space.

Related: How To Create an Effective CV Header (With Tips and Examples)

4. Include a summary or brief personal statement

Beneath the header, you can briefly introduce yourself as a professional and explain why you're the best candidate for the position. It can be effective to keep this section around two to three sentences long and highlight your most important qualities and achievements. You can also tailor your personal statement to each role you apply for by highlighting skills that apply to the job description.

Related: How To Write an Attention-Grabbing Personal Statement

5. Emphasise your strengths

Depending on your level of experience and education history, you can decide how much space to devote to each section. For example, those with relevant work experience but fewer qualifications can put their work experience section ahead of their education section. Whereas those with less work experience could lead with their education section first, or even consider a skills-based CV format, where skills and examples of using those skills are highlighted as opposed to a chronological work history section.

Related: How to Write a Skills Based CV: Template and Examples

6. Order content logically

When writing about your work history and education, start with your most recent roles and qualifications first, then work chronologically from most to least recent experience. Recruiters will see a lot of CVs during the recruitment process, so consider what information they need to know and present it to them in a clear and succinct fashion.

7. Use clear headings

Using a slightly larger font size or bold text for headings can make your CV easier for readers to navigate. You might consider adding headings for sections such as:

  • Work experience

  • Education

  • Skills

  • Achievements

  • Publications

Adding these headings tells recruiters exactly where they can find the information they're looking for and also helps to space out the different sections on the page to make your CV easily scannable.

Related: The complete CV format guide: examples and tips

8. Space content out on the page

Large blocks of text can be off-putting for readers and may leave recruiters wondering where to begin. To create separation between different sections, you can double space or add a line before moving on to the next section's heading. When presenting your skills and qualifications, it can be helpful to use bullet points to present information succinctly rather than paragraphs of text. Bullet points and headings not only help to space out your writing on the page but also help to present important information to the recruiter clearly.

9. Keep it brief and relevant

It can be possible to write an effective CV of almost any length, but most effective CVs are brief. Two pages is typically a suitable length to ensure you're providing enough information without overwhelming recruiters with irrelevant details. That said, those with extensive work experience may find their CV is closer to three pages.

To keep a CV brief, you can omit job titles or qualifications that might not be relevant to the role. However, if this leaves gaps in your history you can briefly summarise less relevant experience. For example, you might include something like, ‘whilst studying for my degree I also worked in the retail and hospitality industry. This experience allowed me to develop my customer service skills which I continue to use in my current role…'

Related: How Long Should a CV Be?

10. Tidy up your contact details

To keep your CV to a reasonable length, you might want to remove any unnecessary information. For example, when providing contact details on your CV, you can keep it simple and only include:

  • Email address

  • Mobile number

  • Current city and county

This is because you might not need to provide your full address or multiple contact numbers unless requested, so leaving those details out can save space on your CV. If you have a professional website, you can also include a link within your contact details section.

Related: How to write contact information that gets your CV noticed

11. Pay attention to page breaks

If your CV is over one page, you might want to pay attention to where the break between pages falls. For example, if the first page of your CV ends halfway through a paragraph, and the next page starts halfway through a sentence, this has the potential to appear unprofessional. It can be more beneficial to present your skills and experience in an easy to read, appealing manner, which you can do by ensuring page breaks occur only in places where there's no other text.

12. Tailor your CV to the job you're applying for

When searching for a new role, it's normal to apply for multiple positions. However, you might take the time to adjust your CV to reflect exactly what recruiters are looking for. Keeping your CV general so that you can apply to multiple roles can save time, but it can be even more beneficial to provide specific skills and examples that show recruiters what a great fit you can be for their role.

When using a CV to apply for multiple jobs, it can also be important to read job descriptions carefully and edit your CV to highlight the key skills that an employer highlights on the particular job description you're applying for. You can use the same CV layout but revise the personal statement, key skills and experience you emphasise to ensure your application remains relevant to each role.

13. Keep your visual elements simple

Black text with a white background can be easy to read and might help readers focus on the content. However, you can choose to add colour to your CV, to add some visual design. It might be helpful to keep any colour you choose minimal and to use professional, muted tones. While a bit of colour in the header or headings can be eye-catching, too much colour on the page can be distracting and has the potential to come across as unprofessional.

For that same reason, it can be beneficial to leave graphs, logos and photos off of your CV. However, when applying for creative roles, using a company's brand colours, font and style can be a great way to make a lasting impression on recruiters.

Related: What is a visual CV? (Plus tools to create one)

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