CV – Plain and Simple

When you need your CV to stand out, it is tempting to be creative in choosing font or paper, or by adding a photo. Generally, it is a temptation to avoid, the only slight exception being where the employer is in a creative industry. Even there restraint is needed.

The practical reasons for this are first that you want to appear businesslike and dependable, with a good understanding of how things are done. Any departure from that weakens your position. Second, it needs to be easy to read, with relevant information clearly set out. Initially, your CV is likely to get only a few seconds perusal. Thirdly, if you get to interview stage (if not before) your CV will get copied. The least you can do is ensure that it is still legible.

So the tips are

Use decent quality plain white paper. There is no need to use the finest paper (unless you are a applying to be CEO of a multinational) but budget copier paper is best avoided. Print a fresh CV for each application rather than use copies.

Pick a plain, basic business font such as Arial or Calibri. Both of these are easier to read for those with a visual impairment. Use 11 point, and certainly no smaller than 10 point and in black only. Brown headings (yes, it has happened) do not copy well, and look awful. Bolding should be confined to major headings, and italics avoided. Your CV needs to give the impression of being well laid out and readable, even before anybody actually reads it.

Do not add a photo unless you are specifically asked to do so (when it will generally not form part of the CV). Apart from standing out for the wrong reasons, you will destroy the employer’s anti-discrimination policy. That itself will not impress the HR department, who have put much work into drafting it. And remember who runs the recruitment process.

Of course, the CV hangs together with the covering letter, but that is for another post, if not several.



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