Education & Career Trends: 5 Tips for Impactful CV Layout and Structure

4 min read

Edition: December 27th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS


You want your CV to stand out from the rest. (Image Credit: Getty)
  • Excerpts from article by Stuart Gentle, published on onrec.com

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a professional document that summarises your work history, education and skills. The main purpose of a CV is to market you, as a candidate, to prospective employers.

While you do want your CV to stand out from the rest, there is still a standardised method of structuring it to make it easy for prospective employers to notice your qualifications, work experience, skills and other important details at a glance.

Here are 5 tips to lay out and structure your CV for a positive impact:

1. Incorporate all key CV sections in the proper order.

Employers will likely only spend about 8 seconds looking at your CV, so it’s important to present your information in order to best capture their attention.

If you have at least some professional work experience, your CV should ideally follow this order:

  • CV header (your name and contact information)
  • Personal statement
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Optional resume sections (hobbies, achievements, languages, publications, etc.)

If you have little to no professional work experience (if you are a student or recent graduate), you will want to use a different CV section order:

  • CV header
  • Personal statement
  • Skills
  • Education (including awards and honours, degree classification, and so forth)
  • Work experience (including any volunteer experience, part-time work, internships, placement offers, etc.)
  • Optional resume sections (hobbies, achievements, languages, publications, etc.)

2. Choose appropriate fonts and colours.

Choose a font that’s professional and easy to read. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Arial
  2. Calibri
  3. Cambria
  4. Garamond
  5. Georgia
  6. Helvetica
  7. Times New Roman
  8. Verdana

Use 11 or 12 point font for the body of your CV and 14-16 point font for heading and subheadings.

If you opt for serif font like Times New Roman be sure to use a font size that is big enough to be legible, as serif fonts often appear smaller and denser.

Select a font colour that is, again, professional and easy to read, like black, dark gray, or navy.

You can opt to introduce a pop of colour in your CV header, but keep the overall colour scheme businesslike.

3. Pay attention to margins and spacing.

The standard for CV margins is one inch all the way around. However, you can adjust the margins slightly if you need to squeeze one more line of text onto the page.

However, don’t go less than 0.75 inches as the document will start to look cramped and some text may be cut off when you take a print-out.

Use 1.15 line spacing for the body text of your CV to allow for easy readability while not sacrificing too much space.

After each heading or subheading, use a double space.

4. Use columns, headings, subheadings and bullet points.

Use columns, headings, and bullet points to break up the information on your CV and avoid overwhelming a potential employer with a massive wall of text.

You might include one narrower column with your contact information, skills, and any optional CV sections, and one wider column with your work experience and education.

5. Be mindful of ‘how long should the CV be’.

Although two pages is considered the standard CV length, there is an increasing trend toward single-page CVs.

However, it’s also acceptable for very experienced candidates to submit CVs that are up to three pages long.

So, depending on your experience level, aim for between one and three pages in length, but be sure that everything you include on your CV is relevant to the job that you are applying for.

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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