When writing a CV, many of us tend to forget about the importance of the format. CV format is important for a variety of reasons including the fact that proper formatting ensures that your CV is scannable by ATS bots, as well as attractive and easy on the eyes of recruiters. Put simply, proper CV format can make all of the difference between a recruiter reading your CV in full or simply moving it to the bottom of the pile.
If you have ever wondered how to properly format your CV, we are here with a few tips for proper formatting. In this article, we’ll detail all of the sections that your CV should have, explain the difference between a skills-based CV and a classic chronological CV, and include the steps you should follow to create each type.
As always, don’t forget to make sure that your CV stands out so that you can present your skills in the most professional manner! For this, we highly recommend using a CV template. This way, you don’t have to put all of your time and effort into the design of your CV, allowing yourself more time to focus on formatting and, of course, the content. With that, let’s get started!
CV Format and Structure: What Sections Should You Include in Your CV?
When practicing proper CV format, the first thing you need to know is all of the sections that you should include in your document. The most professional CV includes a series of important sections that you can use to really sell yourself as the ideal job candidate. When creating your CV, be sure to include the following sections in this order:
- Contact Information
- Personal Statement
- Professional Experience
- Academic History
- Key Skills and Qualifications
- Industry Awards
- Professional Certifications
- Professional Affiliations
- Conferences Attended
- Any Additional Training
Aside from including these sections in your CV, it is also crucial to structure each specified section the right way. For this, we recommend including the following information in each section. Let’s break down each section step-by-step so that you know the relevant information to include in each section.
In the Contact Information section of your CV, you’ll want to include relevant contact information. Not only does this make it easier for hiring managers to contact you for an interview, but it also makes it easier for them to look into your background, thereby verifying your relevant professional experience. Here’s what you’ll want to include in the Contact Information section of your CV:
- Full Name
- Professional Title
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn Profile
- Home Address
Your CV’s Personal Statement section is an especially crucial section when it comes to enticing a hiring manager to read your CV in full. This is because the Personal Statement section acts as an overview of all of the information that you’ll be including in the document. You will want to include relevant keywords in your Personal Statement section, explaining why you are the ideal job candidate for the role.
Be sure to keep your Personal Statement to a brief 100 words in length (at most) and use it as an opportunity to provide a highlight of your relevant skills and experience. If you have years worth of relevant experience in a similar job role, for example, write your Personal Statement as a CV summary, highlighting your most impressive professional achievements.
If you don’t have much professional experience yet, however, don’t worry! Instead, go for a CV objective in which you summarize all of the skills you have mastered so far and how you would apply these skills to the position if hired. Regardless of whether you use a CV summary or a CV objective in your Personal Statement section, be sure not to focus solely on what you want out of the position. Instead, focus on emphasizing what you have to offer as this is what hiring managers are really interested in.
Here’s an example of a great Personal Statement that focuses on the skills the applicant brings to the table, rather than what they want out of the position if hired:
Reputable and licensed NMC Registered Nurse who is trained to work effectively in high-stress environments, all while staying calm and rational under pressure. Seeking to leverage analytical and record-keeping skills to assist St. Johns Hospital with any and all upcoming challenges.
Structure should be a primary concern when organizing the Professional Experience section of your CV. By including relevant professional experience in proper CV format, you will make your CV more pleasant to read all while presenting your experience in a way that entices hiring managers. Here are a few key points you should keep in mind when structuring your Professional Experience section in accordance with proper CV format:
- Start with either your current or most recent job.
- Next, list your previous jobs in chronological order (descending).
- After this, list your job title, dates worked, and the name of the company.
- Below each entry, add up to 5 bullet points which explain your achievements and responsibilities.
In the Academic History section of your CV, you’ll want to focus on any post-secondary education that you have. There’s really no point in mentioning your high school, for example, unless it is your highest degree of education. To create your Academic History section in accordance with proper CV format, be sure to include the following in this order:
- Graduation Year (if you are currently studying, include your estimated graduation date)
- Institution Name
- (If applicable) Include Sub-Honors
As an additional note, applicants without a lot of job experience should place the education section above your work history, taking care to mention any coursework you have completed as well as extracurricular achievements.
Key Skills and Qualifications
Finally, you’ll want to follow these steps when creating the Key Skills and Qualifications section of your CV in accordance with proper CV format:
- Create a spreadsheet that includes a master list of all of the professional skills you have developed.
- Next, read the job listing carefully and take note of any skill-related keywords.
- Select the skills from your spreadsheet that most directly align with those in the job listing to include on your CV.
- Rather than simply listing skills in a separate Skills section in your CV, be sure to also include them in both your Personal Statement and Professional Experience sections.
CV Format Beyond the Sections
Now that you know which sections to include in your CV, it’s time to talk more in-depth about overall CV format. By following the appropriate steps when formatting your CV, you’ll create an eye-catching CV. Hiring managers appreciate an attractive, well-organized CV.
An appropriately formatted CV also increases your chances of passing the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) CV scan. This is incredibly important as, according to a worldwide report on recruiting automation trends, 75 percent of talent acquisition professionals claim that AI-based technology is projected to play a large role in their hiring processes this upcoming year.
So what do you need to keep in mind as you format your CV? Here’s what you need to know:
- One-inch margins should be set on all sides.
- Use either 1.0 or 1.5 line spacing.
- Choose an appropriate and professional font for your CV and stay consistent with the font throughout the entirety of the document.
- Create a professional CV header where you can include your contact information.
- Divide your CV into legible sections.
- Ensure that your section headings are slightly larger than the rest of the content.
- Add a blank line before and after each header in the document.
- Make sure to save your CV as a PDF to ensure formatting remains intact.
Should You Use a Skills-Based CV Format or a Classic Chronological CV Format?
The next thing you will want to consider as you format your CV is whether to use a skills-based CV format or a classic chronological CV format. If you have a more unorthodox work history, a skills-based CV is likely the best bet for you. Those with a detailed work history would be able to make a classic chronological CV format work to the best of their advantage, however.
A skills-based CV (also known as a functional CV) focuses on the candidate’s skills rather than their work experience. This type of CV is usually utilized by those in creative industries who have done a lot of jobs on their own (such as freelancing jobs) or those who are career changers.
Here is an outline of the basic structure of a skills-based CV that you can follow when creating your own:
- Contact Information
- CV Objective
- Skills Summary
- Work Experience
- Additional Skills
There are many pros associated with using a skills-based CV format. For one, this type of CV takes the focus off of your work history, highlighting your specific skills instead. This makes this type of CV a great choice for those with a limited work history, as well as freelancers and those with experience handling a large number of single projects.
Secondly, when written properly, a skills-based CV showcases your most important skills, validating them with specific examples related to past work experience. Finally, a skills-based CV format is the best fit for creatives and candidates that find themselves targetting more highly specialized positions.
Classic Chronological CV Format
A classic chronological CV format gives you the ability to offer a more historical account of your career path so far. Those with a robust work history will find that a class chronological CV format is best suited for them as it allows plenty of room to highlight relevant job history.
Here’s an outline of the structure you should be using when creating a classic chronological CV format of your own:
- Work Experience
Like a skills-based CV format, a classic chronological CV format has its fair share of advantages. For one, a chronological CV shows specifically which positions you have held in the past and for how long. A chronological CV also fits the preference of most recruiters as they are most familiar with this format. Finally, if you’re applying for a senior executive position, a chronological CV will be prioritized by recruiters in most cases, increasing your chances of landing a job interview.
Final Tips for Proper CV Format
Now that you’re more familiar with the proper CV format, it’s time for a couple of final tips for proper CV format. When creating a CV (rather than a traditional resume), there are a few tips you’ll want to follow. Want to learn more about resumes as opposed to CVs? Check out our article on the difference between CVs and resumes! With that, let’s get on to our CV tips:
- Always choose the right font type and size: Your CV should always be legible and easy to follow for recruiters. We recommend choosing a sans-serif font between 10 and 11 points for maximum readability.
- Utilize your space effectively: When creating your CV, keep in mind that it is easy for your CV to become too long. To ensure you’re using the space allotted in the most effective way, organize with bulleted lists, bold important keywords, use section headers, and remove any irrelevant information.
- Make sure you’re using the right margins: It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your margins between .5 and 1 inch. Margins that are too large will leave too much white space. On the other hand, margins that are too small can easily make the page appear too busy.
- Always proofread for errors: Lastly, we highly recommend proofreading your CV for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes multiple times. There’s nothing less professional than a CV filled with obvious and careless mistakes. Take your time and make sure your CV is as professional as possible!
We hope that these tips, tricks, and examples of proper CV format have been helpful to you! When following these guidelines, you’ll have the best chance of creating a professional CV that a recruiter will not only read but enjoy reading! When your CV is properly formatted, you’ll have a much better chance of getting that all-important job interview. From all of us at BuzzCV, good luck!