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resume layout

5 Steps to a Perfect CV Layout for Beginners – Including [Secret] Tips!

by Kouakou Kouamé in Candidate 25/11/2015

Looking to improve your CV/resume layout? Do you have great skills but don’t know how to present them? So do many others as well. And many of them might miss out on great job opportunities because of making a first bad impression with a poor CV layout – your initial presentation to a potential future employer. But don’t worry. We are here to give some guidance.

In this step-by-step guide, we will transform a bad resume-layout into an amazing new profile which is almost guaranteed to land you a job! If you’re an absolute beginner, read from the very beginning. If you are just looking for tips, scroll to the image which resembles your current resume.

Quick disclaimer: there is no single perfect resume layout – CVs are extremely personal, so there are multiple layouts which can work. However, a few ground rules apply to all of them – and those are the ones we will be discussing below.

So here we have it. Given below, John Averageman’s resume. It has all relevant information in it. Well done, John. But just look at the layout. Absolutely appalling. Time for a change.

If you think your CV has a distinct resemblance to John’s CV, promise me you’ll change it. I am counting on you.

The Original (click to enlarge):

johnaverageman-1

  1. Order your CV correctly

The sections order of your CV should be common knowledge. But I included it anyway, because apparently John did zero research on how to create his resume.

  1. General Info – this includes your contact details and other information you should have on your CV, for example your date of birth.
  2. Career Goal – the career goal is actually optional, you do not necessary have to have one in your CV. If you do, make sure it is not some colloquial gibberish, but authentic and personal.
  3. Professional Experience – Your most important section. Depending on your experience, it should take up the largest part of your CV. Be sure to list your most recent position first.
  4. Academics – Just like your professional experience, list your academic background in order of recency.
  5. Other Skills – All your other skills which you find relevant should be included here.

First Update (click to enlarge):

johnaverageman-2

  1. Bullet points are much easier to read – stay concise!

John made the mistake to write out his information in paragraphs. No recruiter has the time or the will to read multiple paragraphs. Remember: recruiters sometimes screen hundreds of CVs every day – that means they barely waste any time on your CV. If you include important information hidden in a long paragraph, there is a good chance no one will ever notice it. Bullet points are the way to go. Stay succinct – each point should be a single line. Best practice: more bullet points for the more recent positions.

Second Update (click to enlarge) – already looking a LOT better – still some way to go!

johnaverageman-3

  1. Limit Color

Unless you know what you’re doing (i.e. you have a design – or hands-on marketing background), do not experiment with color. It can come off as amateurish, and is generally not easy on the eyes. Color is an easy distraction for the human eye, and you do not want to distract from your content. John here really enjoys that royal blue. John should enjoy that royal blue in his own time. Black & white is traditional and clean – more importantly, it is easy to read because of the obvious contrast.

If you really want to include color in your CV, be sure that it is easy to read, discreet and looks professional.

Third Update (click to enlarge):

johnaverageman-4

  1. Use the Space you have

You are allowed to change the margins of your document. John’s CV has a lot of space around the edges – decrease the margins (don’t overdo it though) to have more space for content.

Another point: in case you didn’t notice, John’s CV is very much centered on the left side. There is huge negative space on the right side. Utilize this space! Move the dates and location to the right and align them with your position/academic institution. Items on your CV which are small lists, like IT skills and languages can be put side-by-side. Be creative with your space!

A great practice is also to add your experiences to the time period they occurred. John was the Varsity Captain of his High School Swim Team. Include this information as a bullet point under your High School – it saves space and immediately signals the recruiter what you did as extracurricular activities in that time period. (Plus, you don’t have to mention your school’s name and year ANOTHER time, now talking about the extracurricular activity).

Fourth Update (click to enlarge) – I can already see light at the end of the tunnel!

johnaverageman-5

Note that we were able to cut the length of the CV a lot. Now it is only one page long.

Quick note on length: the ideal length of a CV is always a single page. The more experience you have (10+ years), your CV will increase in length or become much more dense and heavy. However, especially for very young/inexperienced job seekers, resumes which are very long are unnecessary – you have little experience, there is no need for a long resume!

  1. Integrate structure and simple styling into your CV

Remember what I said about color? I stand by it. No color! However, you can use simple styling to let important points of your resume stand out. You can use bold and italic lettering (sparingly), you can even use full capitalization (VERY sparingly). Lines help bring a clear structure to your CV, which is gold in the eyes of recruiters.

Fifth Update (click to enlarge):

johnaverageman-6

Done! That wasn’t so hard was it? We just transformed that hideous document into a professional, clean resume in five simple steps.

Still not sure about your CV?

There are multiple websites that offer to proofread your CV and give you pointers on what could be improved. Check out TopResume – they will definitely be able to help! Alternatively, you’re welcome to send us a shout – we love to help 🙂