CV Formatting Faux Pas: What to Avoid

Are you embarking on a new career path? Has that amazing promotion finally become available at work? Or are you simply looking for a change of job? Whatever the reason, it’s time to dust the cobwebs off that CV of yours.

You know what you want to say and you’ve had a look at what feels like hundreds of CV templates, surely you’re the CV Champion by now, right? Well, you’ve certainly made a good start! However, there’s much more to CV success than the experience and skills you include and the layout you choose.

Like with any written piece, what you say, how you say it and even the formatting you use throughout your CV can have a profound effect on the reader. When the reader is someone you really want to impress, like a recruiter, then you really need to make a good impression on them, and your CV is your first opportunity to do this. Make it count!

How you format your CV is important – you want a potential employer to know that you take care in everything you do and put yourself forward as a polished professional. You don’t want to miss out on a job due to something as easily rectified as CV formatting.

Here at Bridgewater, we’d like to think we know our way around a good CV, so here are our top CV formatting tips to make sure your CV is the best it can be:

White space is good (but not too much). It’s true, a CV should be as concise as possible, but there’s no point trying to pull the wool over the reader’s eyes by trying to squash a lot of text onto one page. The end result will be messy and difficult to read – you’re definitely not in with a shot if no one can decipher your CV! That being said, spacing things out too much can raise suspicions, too.

It doesn’t need to be ‘jazzy’. Unless you’re going for a creative role, you don’t need to focus too much on applying things like templates, borders, set formats or photos to your CV. It may look pretty, but it won’t do much to boost your chances. In fact, it may undermine your professionalism.

Font matters. WHO wants to read THIS? (Hint: No one does.) It’s tempting to want to show off your IT and word processor abilities in your CV, but using different fonts and text effects is not the way to do this. Be sparing when using effects such as bold, caps and italics, only use them when necessary to prevent your CV looking like a school project. It’s also advisable to stick to one appropriate font style; bear in mind that certain fonts can make your CV look dated and please, no Comic Sans!

Be smart with your bullet points. Utlilising bullet points is always something we would recommend. The reader can easily skim through your education or work history, for example, and find the information they need quickly, rather than sifting through overly detailed paragraphs. When employing bullet points as a formatting choice in your CV, keep them plain, small and make sure that each point is no longer than 2 lines.

PDF magic. As a CV pro, you’ll know that the best thing to do is to tailor your CV to job applications. You will, therefore, have one master copy that you use as a basis for various versions of your CV. This is fine kept in an amendable format such as .doc, however you can’t guess what operating system or application a recruiter will use to open your CV. All your hard work could be for nothing if the formatting goes awry when your CV is opened by someone else. The best thing to do is to submit a CV in .pdf format (or similar) to ensure everything stays in place!
To give you an extra hand, below are some more general CV blunders you’ll want to avoid if you really want to net that job.

Being too casual

We cannot stress it enough – this is a formal document. Many candidates shoot themselves in the foot by being a little too laid-back in their CVs or by writing how they speak. Any information you put forward in this document should be written in a professional manner; this means that your grammar should be on point and your sentences/bullet points should read well.

That being said, don’t go overboard – it’s a CV, not dinner at Downton Abbey.

Not proof-reading

This may seem astoundingly obvious, but you’d be surprised at some of the mistakes we’ve seen left in CVs! Make sure that you take the time to carefully re-read your CV, even get a second opinion if possible, to eradicate any risk of your potential employer receiving a less than perfect finished product.

It might be a bit of a pain, but errors, no matter how silly or how significant, can raise doubts in an employer’s mind over attributes such as attention to detail, written skills and even your ability to stay focused.

Including too much information

An employer needs to know about your experience, your skills, your qualifications and your contact details. Anything else is supplementary, so don’t waste time telling them about your nationality, medical history, marital status, favourite cereal and dog’s name – unless they specify, they don’t need to know!

Also, remember that your hobbies and interests should reflect who you are and you should always be able to relate these back to your professional strengths and abilities.
Overall, your CV needs to be easy to read, aesthetically pleasing, honest, professional and checked thoroughly before you let a potential employer see it. Take a look online at professionally written samples or even at CVs of friends or relatives to get a good idea of how yours should look. And don’t forget the power of good formatting!

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