Young woman holding her resume

Job hunting is a fiercely difficult task that millions of people take on every day. It’s tough to find that ideal path that will be the perfect blend between what you need and what you want. Your career could be one of the decisive factors on how your life will go. For some, it might even be one of the things that define them. Your job can become a major part of who you are as a person and shape your lifestyle.

Your curriculum vitae (CV), otherwise known as your resume, plays a major role in this equation. It’s the first weapon you have at your disposal while you’re out job hunting, and it has to be as sharp as possible. Your resume is both an expression and a presentation of yourself, a piece that reflects who the person behind all those credentials is. If you go too formal, it becomes boring. On the other hand, you go too wild with it, and employers might not take you seriously.

We all want to get noticed for who we are and advertise what we can do. That is why our resume needs substance, good credentials, readability, and last but not least, a few formatting tricks that will make it all aesthetically pleasing. Nevertheless, there are certain pitfalls to watch out for. These can range from that bullet point you place in for no particular reason, to wildly inappropriate rainbow-colored writing, to using a bad font.

So, dear job-seeker, here are some helpful tips to consider on how to format your CV and make sure all your hard-earned achievements are wrapped up in an eye-catching package.

1. Give It Space to Breathe

A cluttered resume will impede the hiring manager from identifying the relevant aspects of your background and will even make you as a candidate appear amateurish. It not only reveals your lack of organizational skills, but also how little interest you’ve paid in the overall appearance of your CV.

If you want to make a good impact on your employer, they need to have an easy time reading it. That means a clear layout, with plenty of white spaces, so the information will be easy to follow.

Do not burden their eyes, and certainly don’t force them to hunt through the clutter for your list of skills or recommendations. It’s much more likely that they will push your resume aside if you make them work too hard for it. There are plenty of examples out there that will give you an idea of how it should actually look like.

2. Make it “Skimmable”

Bullet points are your most important tools. Learn them, use them, make your resume look organized and to the point. Hence the name. Every prospective employee who is seeking a job needs to keep in mind that they’re not the only ones applying for that position.

Chances are that your potential employer has hundreds of applications to look through. They will not have time to go through all of them, so they will take those piles and create “shortlists” of the ones that caught their eye.

If you want your CV to make the cut, it needs to be easy to skim. Use bullet points to show your interests, number how many skills you have, and make sure all your contact information is all in the same place. It’s not a mystery novel, so your future employer shouldn’t have to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Your resume is a presentation of yourself, and it needs to make a good impression in the first couple of seconds.

3. Find a Good Font

Not Comic Sans. Never, ever use Comic Sans. One of the biggest mistakes in creating your own CV is getting a little too liberal with fonts. As a rule, even for designers, more than three of them in one logo or any sort of piece, is too much. There are perhaps a few exceptions to this rule, but when you’re writing a professional-looking resume? The number can stretch to perhaps two types of different fonts, and that’s it. It is incredibly important to have your CV appear to be the work of a professional, not someone experimenting with artistic writing. It was a nice phase when we were in second grade, but we have moved past it.

Times New Roman and Arial are quite possibly the most common because they’re default fonts that arrive with Windows. If the resume is sent online, your employer will have no problem viewing it precisely how you intended. It’s highly recommended that you go through a few professional-looking options even if they might seem dull. It has to be clear, concise, and Microsoft-approved.

4. Recent and Relevant

Nobody will be impressed that you once took a biology class in 10th grade. Your resume needs to continue to be updated in a way that will boast of your most recent achievements and you need to keep them coming. Seeing your CV plastered with dates from years back might not send the right message. It could say to your prospective employer that you were once interested in that particular field, but your dedication has faded through time. It doesn’t speak a lot of your commitment capabilities.

5. Tailor Your CV Like a Suit

It has to fit perfectly. Different employers may be looking for different skill sets. That is why it’s important that your CV does not become a standard for all types of jobs. You may have varied interests and perhaps you are trying to apply for different industries. However, a job application for a big movie studio should not look the same as the one for the food industry, as they are looking for different things. Your level of creativity may have to vary, as should the highlighted talents you surely have.

The fact that you have a keen eye for details might not be so important if you’re looking for a part-time job as a waiter. Your memory and people skills on the other hand? They need to be at the front.

6. Just a Dash of Color, Not a Splatter

All black and white will look completely boring, and that’s not what you want to convey to your future employer. Add a bit of color here and there. Make some research on which ones are most impactful to the eye and use them to your advantage. Ever wondered why you always see the bright red of Coca-Cola with ease? It’s alive and it stands out.

Writing a resume should reflect the same thing. You may not be advertising a product, but you are presenting who you are. However, don’t go too wild and start coloring everything. It’s a resume, not a painting, so you need to be careful to not overdo it. Color a particular skillset or achievement that you truly cherish and want to stand out. Don’t simply do it to make your CV look like a rainbow. Unless you’re applying to become a clown.

7. References in the Digital World

Few people write actual letters anymore. A lot of our achievements and past performances can, and probably are, posted online. Insert links in your resume to show your employer that you’re a published writer, had a few pieces from your portfolio posted online, or perhaps an article on your work. It adds variety to the bland text and shows that the world has already seen your work. If they’re not convinced of your talent, all they need to do is click for proof!

8. Keep It Short and Sweet

It may be tempting to show off everything you ever did and explain it in excruciating detail. The problem is that an employer might not be interested in reading all four pages of your resume. In fact, if it’s too much, it’s very likely that they will ignore it. They could think that you were unable to compress the information or decide which of your skills is more important. An employer won’t have time to read through all of it so they can find your main talents. You do.

9. Proofread

There are thousands of online tools out there that could help you with the process. Make sure that your CV does not include spelling or grammar mistakes. These tiny little details could genuinely make the difference between accepted and rejected. If you didn’t bother to read your own resume, why should an employer? It’s the shredder for you.

10. Name It if You Mail It

A lot of resumes are sent online today, and something as seemingly trivial as the file’s name is very important. The standard is “Your Name_Applied Position”. While it’s good by default, it’s not at all something that will make you stand out from the crowd. Add a bit of a twist that will make you sound more interesting, but also keep it relevant and appropriate. For example, instead of naming it ‘John Smith_Manager’ put it ‘John Smith_Manager with Experience’.

You may not know it, but your prospective employer has hundreds of CVs to look through. They won’t have minutes to spend on each one, so you only have around 10 precious seconds to make your own resume stand out and be remembered. Make them count.

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