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How to format your CV to make the right first impression

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Everyone knows that first impressions count, and that is particularly true when it comes to your CV. Employers often have hundreds of applicants for just one job and so if your CV doesn’t look professional you will be quickly rejected.

That’s why we have put together some easy style tips to make sure your CV makes a great first impression and gets put to the top of the pile.

Once you’re feeling confident with these ideas, download our CV template at the bottom of the page, put the tips into practise and land that dream job!

Keep it consistent

Your CV will instantly look more professional if all the formatting is the same. This means using the same font, size and colour for all the text.

For fonts, use something that is easy to read -  Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri all work really well.

The best font size to use is between 10-12 points, but your title and section headings can be slightly bigger to make them stand out.

As for colour, only ever write in black for your CV!

Be careful - sometimes if you are copying and pasting words from other places, the text will keep a different format. Tools like ‘Format Painter’ and pasting using ‘Keep Text Only’  in Microsoft Word will help to keep everything looking the same.

If you find it hard to notice differences on a screen, print it out and have a friend or family member check with you.

Keep it short

The good thing about writing a CV is that it doesn’t have to be very long. In fact, a CV really shouldn’t be more than two A4 pages at most.

Remember, the employer won’t have a lot of time to look through your CV, so make sure you’re only putting in your key achievements that are relevant for the job and that the most important information is easy to find.

If you are struggling to keep it short enough, write in bullet points rather than in full paragraphs.

If you are struggling to think of things to write, just remember that you learn something from every experience. Perhaps you played for a sports team at school or helped to arrange a bake sale? These extra-curricular activities are great for proving you have important skills that employers want such as teamwork and timekeeping.

Remove personal details

As you are trying to keep the CV short, cut out any personal information that is not relevant to the job. Name, email and phone number are all important so that the employer can contact you, but you don’t need to include things like eye colour or height (unless you are applying to be a basketball player!)

Use logical sections

There are lots of different ways to divide up your CV, but just make sure that similar information is grouped together so it's easy to understand. Sections can include Work Experience, Education and Hobbies. Examples of how to use these different sections can be found in our template CV below.

Check your spelling and grammar

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure that everything is spelled correctly on your CV! Most word processors such as Microsoft Word will have in-built spell-checkers, so make sure you pay attention to those red squiggles!

If you don’t have access to a computer and are writing by hand, ask someone to help you read through your final draft.

Give it a sensible name

The vast majority of CV’s today are submitted electronically - either by email, or by uploading onto an employer's site. That means that a sensible file name can create a good impression before they have even opened your CV. A filename such as ‘Joe Bloggs CV.doc’ is fine - ‘doc1.doc’ or ‘ilovedrake.doc’ are not as good!

Now you should be ready to get that job! To practise all these tips for yourself, download our CV template below.