Curriculum vitae template presentation and style

Irrespective of style and design, above all the presentation of your CV needs to be high quality and clear and professional and up-to-date.

This means not using poor quality photo-copies. Original prints are best. This applies to letters as well. Photocopies and documents that have obviously been mass-produced imply that the sender is throwing lots of mud at the wall and hoping some will stick. This makes the recipient or interviewer feel like you don’t care much where you end up, and that you don’t have a particular reason for wanting to join their organisation, which is the opposite impression that you need to be making. Poor quality photocopies reflect on your own quality. Scruffy unprofessional documents will be interpreted as a sign that the sender is scruffy and unprofessional. Old CVs that are dated several months ago, or a photocopied letter with a blank space in which the sender writes the date in biro, will suggest that you are not up-to-date nor well-organised, and also that you’ve been looking for a job (obviously without success) for some while.

On the other hand, pristine professional-looking documents on good quality paper stock (100 gsm minimum ideally) will signify that you are professional, and also that you can be trusted to communicate appropriately and professionally when and if you end up working for the organisation concerned. CVs and letters with current dates, that are purpose-written (tailored) for the recipient, will suggest that you are recently available, selective, focused, and also that you have logical reasons for believing that a good fit exists between you and the employer, all of which weighs heavily in your favour against all the mud-chuckers.

So: high quality, clear, professional and up-to-date CVs and letters are vital.

According to research the inclusion of a photograph of yourself is more likely to have a negative effect than a positive one, but I guess that depends on what you look like and also how the reader responds to the way you look, which is not an exact science at all. Until photographs become the expected norm, if ever they do, unless you have a very good reason to include a photo then it’s probably best not to.

If you are asked to include a photograph of yourself, as certain jobs require, then ensure you go about this professionally. Have a decent photograph taken by someone who knows what they are doing. Definitely resist any temptation to use a snap taken at the pub, or a picture of you dressed up as Father Christmas or just about to climb the north face of the Eiger. One in twenty interviewers might respond well to a zany picture, but most will be rather wary: getting shortlisted generally depends on your seeming like a good fit, not looking like you could be an oddball. If you want to convey that you are free-minded or possess great individuality or creative strength, then use the descriptions and evidence in your CV to demonstrate this. No-one relies on a picture.

Clear and clean and professional does not always necessarily mean 10pt black font on 100gsm standard business stock paper, but be mindful that the farther you stray from convention the greater risk you run that the reader will take exception to the style. No-one ever threw out a great looking CV because it looked too professional and business-like.

Of course certain industries – marketing, advertising, media, the arts-related sectors – are more amenable towards unorthodox presentation and design, but use your judgement. If in doubt keep it simple and professional. Gimmicks and wackiness might initially grab attention, but most employers, even if the job requires a high level of creativity, are seeking reliable professional people they can manage, rather than someone who looks like they could be a bit of a nutter. Use creative design with care. Make sure you are happy the situation really warrants a strong display of creative individuality before you reach for the holographic film and glitter.


cv file format

This is obviously important if uploading your CV to a website, or sending via email, or conveying your CV in digital/electronic format.

Use a file format which is most accessible to most people.

For example:

Docx files are not accessible to everyone. (Docx files cannot be opened by old versions of MSWord).

Doc files are therefore more accessible to most people than docx files.

Pdf is arguably the most accessible and safest format. (Pdf files can generally be opened by everyone – using Adobe Acrobat Reader – and also the pdf format remains consistent when opened, unlike doc and other word processor files, which are often affected by fonts and settings on the recipient’s computer.)

The excellent open source ‘office equivalent’ enables easy conversion from doc to pdf, although other methods exist.

Consider file format from the view of your target audience/reader and choose a format by which the recipient will be able to access your CV easily and reliably.

As a general rule, the more complex/unusual your code/fonts in your CV, then the more it will make sense to use a pdf file format.

Another consideration is that unless you protect with a password, word processor files like doc and docx can be altered by the recipient. It is very much more difficult to alter a pdf file. This robustness of a pdf is a further reason for choosing pdf format.

In certain sectors (media, marketing, design, etc) pdf files will be recognised as a more appropriate presentation format, which inevitably reflects as a subtle advantage for anyone demonstrating that they’ve chosen to use the pdf format in presenting their CV.

As ever – for the presentation of any important information to a specifically targeted reader – ask what file format they prefer.


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