A simple redesign of your CV

By Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst.

Ever read a huge stack of CVs? Believe me, it’s difficult. When vetting candidates with similar interests, backgrounds and qualifications, the information often starts to run together. Particularly in this difficult job market, when CVs are pouring in to employers in record numbers, many recruiters are having difficulty distinguishing among a pool of really well qualified applicants. Therefore, any internship or job seekers who haven’t spent a great deal of time working on the content and the look of their CVs are making a terrible mistake. Because your CV is your chance to make a good first impression with a prospective employer, if your CV doesn’t put your best foot forward, chances are you won’t make the cut. But you don’t have to be a design expert or a graphic artist to churn out a first class CV. Some very simple design techniques can enhance the quality of most any CV.

Selecting the Paper

Although some employers now accept CVs electronically, others will expect a hard copy. For those that you mail out, selecting the paper on which to print your information is actually a bigger decision than one might expect. What should be an easy choice can get complicated because of the multitude of options available. Job applicants today have an enormous selection of available paper styles to choose from – from numerous interesting colours to subtle marbleized background effects and the like. If you want to be taken seriously, keep it simple. Opt for good quality paper in conservative colours (think white, ivory), often marketed as “CV paper.”

Page Limit

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen recent college graduates with CVS consisting of 2, 3 and even 4 pages. While a lengthy curriculum vitae may be appropriate for an academic with numerous prestigious publications under his belt, most people should keep their CVs to one single page. The reason is twofold. First, most employers receive many applications, and carefully reviewing CVs from numerous candidates takes time. Busy professionals don’t have time to read about the organisations you were a member of in school or what all of your interests are. Second, on a related note, confining your CV to a single page will help you focus on what’s really important.

Eliminating Clutter

Ok, so you’ve accepted the single-page rule discussed above. What’s next? The most common mistake made after CV writers accept this one-page advice is to retain most, if not all, of the content from their longer CV simply by reducing fonts and margins to make all the information fit on one page. Huge mistake! Again, recruiters are busy and shouldn’t have to pull out a magnifying glass to try to make sense out of the information you’ve provided. The goal is to make your CV attractive and easy to read. Cramming tons of information on the page will create a huge obstacle in efforts to achieve that objective. After all, you don’t want to give them every detail of your life upfront. Providing them with just a few details about the important aspects of your education and professional background is ideal to make an employer want to meet you and set up an interview to learn more.

Utilising White Space

Most job seekers overlook the aesthetic appeal that including some simple white space can add to a CV. Because most applicants are so focused on content, they lose sight of the fact that, for better or for worse, as in life, sometimes appearance does matter when it comes to applying for jobs. The tips provided above concerning the elimination of clutter are a good first step. However, make sure that the margins you’ve selected look appropriate. And make sure there is adequate space between each entry in the CV to enhance the visual appeal. Capitalising on white space is one of the easiest, but most commonly neglected, strategies in creating a stellar CV.


Your computer’s default font is not necessary the most attractive typeface available. While restraint is important in selecting your CV’s typeface, as with selecting the quality and colour of paper, rest assured that the employers you contact will be overloaded with CVs printed in Times New Roman. To be fair, Times New Roman is perfectly fine and is easy to read, but any opportunity you can find to make your CV stand out in a positive way is important. Consider using Georgia font or Book Antiqua, which are not drastically different from the traditional Times New Roman, but those fonts do have a little more personality. On the other hand, using fancy or overly complicated typefaces will make your CV stand out for the wrong reasons.

Using Bolds, Italics and All Caps

Using the bold, italics and ALL CAPS features of your word processing system can be a good way to help employers easily skim your CV. Although the goal is to have a recruiter read everything you give them, they’ll appreciate it if you help them breeze through an initial review of your CV by using these kinds of stylistic devices. For example, displaying section titles, such as “Education” and “Professional Experience,” in all capital letters is a common approach. And writing the names of the schools you attended and the names of past employers in bold will help that information stand out. Also, italicising certain items, such as the degrees you’ve earned and the positions held with past employers, as long as done consistently, can aid in a quick review of a CV. However, job applicants beware: overuse of these features can make an otherwise impressive CV look amateurish.

Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, has been providing research on issues of concern to small businesses for 123Print.com Business Cards for three years. Prior to his involvement with 123Print, Bill was a small business owner himself, providing marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. Before working with 123Print on Business Card Templates, Bill spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world. It was there that Bill not only honed the skills he uses to help small businesses get ahead, but it is also where he realised that he’d rather help the little guy prosper than make huge corporations money.