CV Format – Does it Matter? What Works? and How to Avoid Tearing Your Hair Out.

Choosing a CV format can be confusing. But there are definite ideas that work and those those that don’t. Here’s my take – on where you could go wrong, how to avoid it and how to keep your eye on the prize – getting called for an interview. That’s what it’s all about after all.

You can tear your hair out. Maybe you get a book about CV’s but all you see is pretty average looking CVs. And then they start talking about “functional” and “chronological” CVs. And you may be left with more questions than answers?

So let’s demystify a little, ok?

CV Format – What’s That?

Yeah, good question. It’s two things: 1) the overall look; and 2) the structure – ie. what info. goes where.

Both are important because your CV – your CV format – will be your first impression. Even before anything is read the beginnings of an opinion will be formed about you. Good or bad. Right or wrong.

So let’s look deeper at the two areas of CV look and structure.

CV Format – Get the “Look” Right

It’s really tough because there are a million things you can do with the way your CV looks – fancy fonts, spacing, alignment, headers, pictures, boxes, tables, word art, font effects, backgrounds – you get the message?

The good news is this: it’s all unnecessary. None of that stuff carries any marketing ‘boom’ with it. Unless you try to get fancy – almost always you’ll get it very wrong and all your fancy-fancy work will have the opposite effect you’re looking for – a ‘boom’, but a bad one.

Why doesn’t fancy CV formatting work? Because it’s just not what’s being looked for. It gets in the way. It irritates. It confuses. Sometimes it can work – if your audience is highly creative, in new media, etc. But even then, who says that company’s HR people who do all the initial filtering of CVs are creative types?

So, a fine balance has got to be found between satisfying the ‘norms’ (what recruiters/employers expect to see and are used to seeing) and getting your message across powerfully. It’s best to keep it simple. With just a few little adjustments to get some attention.



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    Gerard le Roux

    [Updated May 2014]

    Hi, I'm Gerard le Roux, a CV writer and job search coach - published in The Star and Financial Mail and heard on Radio 702 and SAfm. I help people get more interviews and job offers.

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