1. Making the right first impression

Making your CV stand-out is not about creating an outlandish document that catches the recruiter’s eye for the wrong reason! It needs to be aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-read; and whilst there is not a hard-and-fast rule for how you should present it, the following guidelines will provide you with the general criteria which you should aim to incorporate in your layout.

1.1 - Appropriate typeface and font

The most commonly used styles of typeface are Arial and Times New Roman as they look professional and are the fonts that most recruiters would expect to see on a CV. There may be some exception to this in creative roles but even then, you need to bear in mind that if the typeface is too difficult to read, it could be frustrating for the recruiter to attempt to decipher it and they may just give up! Use your common sense in making your CV appropriate for the role in which you are applying. It is best to keep the font size to either 10 or 11 and this should be consistent throughout your CV.

1.2 - Headings

Headings should be written in a larger and/or different font to make them stand out and should equally be consistent. Using bold/and or capitals in headings and job titles is the best way to make them stand out on your CV. It is the only place you should use capitals, everything else should be in lower case. Italics should be used sparingly as it is more difficult to read, but it is acceptable to use for naming publications.

1.3 - Spacing

To keep your CV easy-to-read, you want to ensure there is sufficient white space to break up the text which maximises the ability to clearly read your CV. Although the recommendation for the ideal length of a CV is two pages, it is best to create an additional page rather than cramming everything into two pages which then becomes difficult to read due to too much text on each page.

1.4 - Margins

Quite often space is wasted on a page because the margins are too wide – your left and right margin should be approximately 2cm, the top margin 2-2.5 and the bottom margin approximately 1.5-2cm.

1.5 - Footers

Allow at least 1cm from the bottom of the page for your footer as anything lower may be missed off during printing. It is very worthwhile making use of footers which should state your name, ‘Page 1 of ….’. This makes it much easier for the person printing off your CV as pages could become lost or muddled up and having a page numbering system would allow for easy collation of your document.

1.6 - Formatting

To ensure your CV is absolutely perfect, check the formatting of it when complete as it should be consistent throughout the document. There is not any point in writing a great CV to be let down by poor presentation, so be sure to take your time before printing it off to check for inconsistencies such as change of font or size, even spacing, bullet points which line up together. It is best to fully justify your CV which gives the document a finished and professional look.

1.7 - Bullet points

To make your CV more readable, your CV should have bullet points within each role to highlight key achievements or responsibilities. This breaks up the text and helps the recruiter to be able to skim-read your CV and quickly determine your key achievements which is of great help when they have many CVs to look through. They can include arrows, dots, or squares but stick to one type throughout your CV. Also note that as they are not grammatical sentences, they do not require a full-stop after each one.

1.8 - Photos

Whilst in other countries the use of photos in CVs is widely acceptable, it is definitely not expected or recommended in the UK. The only exception to this would be when applying for a role which requires it because the job is based on how you look eg. a model or actor.

The reason for its non-use is because of anti-discriminatory laws – the potential employer only needs to base their opinion on your professional background and therefore having a photo which could influence them either way would potentially deter them from this so keeping your CV neutral gives everyone the same fair chance. Although this point goes against the main issue of making your CV stand out, even if you do look like Angelina Jolie, it will not help you to flout this in the initial stage, and particularly if the decision-making person is female!

1.9 - Exceptions to CV length

As already stated, in the main it is best to try to keep your CV to two pages, three as a maximum and you should be discriminatory as to what to take out of it if you go over this. If you have worked in a lot of interim/temporary roles, it may be best to structure your CV to a functional or combined one to make it more skills-focused rather than a chronological CV.

The exception to this would be for a number of professions where it is expected that your CV would be much longer than this eg. academic and scientific roles, for which you have to write in detail about your research and publications, and for medical CVs (please do visit our specialist medical interview website, ISC Medical for guidance on CV writing for the medical profession).

1.10 - Sending by post

Whilst it is widely acceptable for most CVs to be sent by email, there are still some who may request that your CV be posted instead. You should use good quality, cream, white or off-white paper, A4 size, not overly thick but more substantial than standard photocopy paper (the quality that most letterhead paper is printed on).  If possible, try not fold your CV, it should be kept flat and therefore you would require an A4 size (C4 for envelopes) to send it. However, do remember it will be classed as a large letter by the Royal Mail so the postage will be more costly and it will not be delivered with a regular first class stamp on it.  If you do have many CVs to send out and you are trying to keep down your costs, it is also acceptable if you need to fold your CV once and send it in a smaller C5 size envelope but certainly no smaller than that as your CV can start to look untidy if it has too many folds. If possible, use a matching envelope to complete the finished look.

1.11 - Printing

You should print off your CV using a good quality laser printer which will always look more professional than a photocopied version. Do avoid double-sided printing as this does not look good on a CV – use a sheet of paper for each page.  Once printed off, you should attach the pages by a simple staple in the top left-hand corner which is preferable to using a paperclip whereby the pages can separate and become lost.

The print colour should always be black which is the most easy-to-read and best for photocopying and scanning.