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5 Tips to Make Your CV Visually Appealing

What’s the main purpose of a CV? The main purpose is to get you an invite to interview and an opportunity to meet and impress the hiring manager. So the first page of your CV is the most important. Your CV is most probably going to be read first by either a specialist in-house recruiter or an agency consultant, not necessarily the hiring managers (the decision maker). Sometimes your CV could be read by a computer – okay it’s a very sophisticated vacancy and candidate management system but it’s not yet get any common sense or discretion!


A recruiter will only glance over the information, most probably skim read in just a few seconds and definitely won’t be reading your CV word for word in the first sift. A recruiter working on the agency side will probably face screening 100 to 500 CVs for one advertised vacancy and they’ll be looking for any reason to screen your CV out. If you make a spelling mistake or two, the layout looks poorly presented or you’ve waffled on and on for big chucks of text then your CV is going in the rejected pile.

Taking the time to put together a presentable CV is time well spent and there are lots of tips, techniques and templates you can use to help you communicate your experiences in the most effective way.

1. First Page Impressions Count

The first page of your CV is likely to be the most important – have I said this before? It’s this page that will determine if the recruiter reads on to find out more about your background. It’s this page that makes the most impact. Your CV has to make a big impact in the shortest amount of time and it’s all about that first page impression.

The layout of information needs to look and feel professional and be real easy to read. The first page needs to explain your main achievements relevant to the role (don’t leave the most relevant stuff until the bottom of the last page or hidden in loads of text!) and within those achievements you need to demonstrate some commercial awareness (saved time, reduced costs, generated additional revenue, identified future opportunities, automated processes and so on).

Ideally find out who will be reviewing the CV and write to match the audience. I know this isn’t always possible to keep tailoring your CV for every single vacancy - certainly not when you are being represented by an agency. It may also sound time consuming to keep changing your CV but it is worth spending a little more time at the beginning of the process to secure an interview sooner.

2. Fancy Fonts or Not

If you are applying to jobs in the corporate sector then stick to traditional fonts and use the same one throughout the CV. I must have read tens of thousands of CVs over my career and I’ve seen CVs with 5 different types of fonts, several different types of bullet points and different sized margins all on one CV. This looks messy and unprofessional. Unless you are planning to work in the design sector or art industry then this is not the time to use fancy fonts – you’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons. Some handwriting fonts are particularly difficult to read – that’s definitely not an advantage to you if the recruiter cannot read your CV!!

Related: 5 Great Tips for Writing a Successful CV

Keep it simple and easy to read. Make it particularly easy to spot your knowledge, skills and achievements and they absolutely must be relevant to the job you are applying or at the very least show some transferrable relevance. You need to use a reasonable size font too – not too small or again it’s difficult for everyone to read the fine print.

3. Maximise the space

Avoid big white spaces on the page. This is a complete waste of space and should be used to maximum effect. I’m not a big fan of telling candidates to keep to one page but I know a lot of recruiters will disagree with me on this point. If you have relevant history then it’s appropriate to include a little more detail – however, don’t overdo this generous view as you don’t want to send the recruiter to sleep!!

If you do use two pages but have masses of white space then this is not good use of the pages. However, don’t be tempted to squeeze all the information on fewer pages by reducing the font size. You are being assessed on how you can write clearly and more importantly concisely. Don’t indent too far onto the page either – again you could be unnecessarily reducing your space to write a decent sentence.

4. Bullet points

Keeping in mind that you want the reader (the recruiter or the hiring manager) to be able to scan quickly across your CV and match your skills, experiences, and knowledge to the vacancy you’ve applied – so you’ll need to ensure the presentation of that information is clear. The last thing you want to achieve is making it very difficult to find information or use unnecessary jargon to make it difficult to understand what you actually did or your responsibilities.

Related: How to Write a Winning CV

You don’t want the reader to have to work really hard to find the right information – so the use of bullet points is still a big plus in the way you present your key skills, experiences and knowledge in the most clear and concise way.

5. Error Free

It’s so important these days to proof read your CV. Don’t rely on MS Word to point out all the incorrect spellings – as you’ll miss words that are actually spelt right but have a totally different meaning to the context of your sentence. Here are some examples, there, their, they’re, here and hear, right, write, rite.

It’s not a weakness to ask someone else to proof read and for their professional opinion on the layout and content. It’s very difficult proof reading your own writing – because you’ll often read back what you intended to write. You know what you wanted to say and you’ll see these words on the page or miss additional words. The best authors in the world hire a professional proof reader and you can actually take formal qualifications in the skill (or art!) of proof reading. Keep your CV error free. You also need to keep it jargon free unless it is a well recognised industry acronym (For example, CIPD or ACCA).

Keep your CV up to date. You may not be thinking of moving on or you are fairly comfortable in your role but these days you never know what opportunities may be presented to you. You may be approached by a previous manager or executive head hunter or sadly put at risk of redundancy and you’ll have to take action very quickly. It’s time well spent keeping your CV current and up to date and a very easy task to maintain rather than starting from scratch.

Good luck in your job search!

photo by: pozland

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