How you present your CV layout is just as important as what you actually write in it. Making sure that the content and information is displayed in an easy to read and concise manner will not only help the hiring manager reading your CV, it can also impress them with your presentation and communication skills.

In a CV you have to choose your words and where you place them very carefully. Help the employer as much as you can by making key data and important information easy to find.


If you are having trouble deciding how to structure your curriculum vitae then use the notes below as guidance to build a CV that makes a good first impression on potential employers.

There are no golden rules regarding CV layouts, therefore it’s advisable to experiment with different layouts and designs until you develop the one that gets you results. Be creative and customize your formats so that your CV is unique, interesting, uncluttered and easy to follow. Remember the only ‘right’ CV structure is one that you feel comfortable with, that highlights the contribution you can make to an employer and more importantly the one that gets you invited to job interviews.

A CV reflects you as a person, your skills and your experience, so when choosing and designing a layout take into consideration the length of your work experience, academic qualifications and your skills sets. The layout of your CV will ultimately depend on the amount of information you are trying to fit into it.


CV layout examples

Chronological CV layout example

CV layout example 3

Explaining a chronological CV layout.

Explaining a functional CV layout.

Avoid a muddled and disjointed CV layout
You wouldn’t turn up for a job interview in torn clothes and walking barefoot would you, but the job hunting equivalent of this is having a disorganized, confused and disjointed CV with unconnected information all over the place. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap by having a CV that is clearly laid out and correctly organized, where one section naturally leads onto another related one. Ensure key information about you is flagged up and easy to find as little points like this could be the difference between you being invited to a interview or not.

As your CV should be a maximum of two pages long it’s important that try to save as much space as you can. The key to achieving this is to decide what essential information you need to include in your resume, ring fence that and then work around everything else. Listed below are various techniques and methods to help you shorten your CV.

Prioritize information
This is the most obvious way of saving space, only include key information that is directly relevant to the job you are applying for. Exclude irrelevant topics like your hobbies and interests.

Condense information
Rewrite sentences and paragraphs so they only include essential content, concentrate on making your words count and have meaning rather than waffling. If you put your mind to it you will be surprised at how by using fewer words you can reduce a paragraph of 100 words to 50 words and still effectively communicate the same message. To help you condense information consider changing your writing style and the way you put sentences together.

Curriculum vitae in your CV
Occasionally some job seekers have the words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ in bold letters at the top of their CV, this is unnecessary as it’s pretty obvious to any reader what the document is. Save yourself a few lines and leave this out.

Avoid repetition
Most job seekers are prone to repetition in their CVs, sometimes this is a deliberate act to emphasis a particular strength or point. It is however unnecessary to keep repeating a specific keyword mantra like in the hope that it will get noticed. Get around this potential problem by rereading your resume and removing points that have been repeated or even said in a different way.

Line spacing
Change the line spacing settings from double space to single space.

Use bullet points
These are a excellent way of focusing the reader attention on a short sentence.

Smaller font size
If you are really pushed for space then consider using a smaller font size i.e. 10 points instead of 12.

Page margins
Decrease your side, top and page footer margins.

Shorten the size of any header, these can sometimes take up to three lines.

A word of warning, never use jargon or abbreviations to save space, they can make your resume look unprofessional and tacky.

Space between different sections
Shorten the gaps between different sections to just one line rather than two or three. If at a space of one line the page look cramped then increase the gap to two lines.

Your contact details
Save space by writing these so they fit on one line rather than having a separate line for your name, address, telephone number etc.

Current and previous employers
You need only write in detail about your present and last employer. For your work history prior to your last two roles simply give the company name, your job title and your employment dates. Compress your early career history into short descriptions of a few sentences each.

Instead of putting the names, titles, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of two referees, save space by having the following simple line of text;
’References – available on request’
If required you can always provide the full contact details later on to any employer who requests them.

Using tables in a CV layout
Tables and cells should be avoided if you intend to send your CV via email in MS Word format. This is because the format of a cell or table can change drastically if the recipients computer is set up differently from yours or if they lack software that can display tables.

However if you intend to have your CV as a PDF document, then there should be no problems with compatibility, so tables and cells will not pose a problem in any PDF CVs.

Also note that tables are useful because many people tend to scan a document rather than read it, in instances like this tables are excellent tools for quickly highlighting important information.


The targeted CV
These are focused on, written for and aimed at one particular job role only and are tailored to a particular job in order to draw attention to your relevant skills and experience. Every sentence, paragraph and section within it should be developed with the target job and prospective employer in mind.

The benefits of having a targeted CV:
If done properly and depending on the circumstances they can increase your ratio of job application to job interview.
Very few job seekers are prepared to spend the time and effort writing a completely targeted CV, so if you have one it is almost certain to stand out.

Targeted resumes can greatly increase your chances of being invited to a interview.

The disadvantages of a targeted CV
Some employers do not like them because sometimes they cannot see what you have done in each job. The way around this particular problem is to include a more broader outline of what you have done in each job. Or to combine it with a functional or chronological resume.

The main drawbacks of a targeted CV is the time and effort it takes to write and adapt a separate one for each job you apply for. To be done properly prospective employers will have to be researched, along with their industries, products or services as well as the job role.

Before you start ask yourself the following questions:

  • What exactly does the employer want?
  • What work experience, qualifications and skills do I have that are relevant to the job I am applying for?

How to write a targeted CV
Find out what the employer wants by reading the job advert and noting down specific competencies being asked for. Use the vacancy advertisement to compile your resume. If only a vague job description is given then research the role on the Internet or even call the recruiter up and ask for a more detailed job description.

Next sit down with a piece of paper and go over your qualifications, work experience and skill sets, then using active descriptions write down those points you feel fit the employers requirements.

Finally after collecting all of this information start to layout and write a CV that matches and emphasizes your capabilities with the employers needs. If you are having difficulty choosing what to write consider using words and phrases that appear in the advert.

The layout of a targeted CV
Unlike standard curriculum vitae’s they are split into sections under a few headings listing your relevant abilities, achievements, experience and educational qualifications. Depending on your work history they can be one page documents or a standard two pages.

Research the job role and the prospective employer
Thanks to the Internet it has never been easier to do either of these. Research the company, their products and also their customer base. Check to see if they have been in the news recently i.e. for opening a new store or a product launch. Whatever information you find you can impress the recruiter by skillfully mentioning it in your curriculum vitae. They will like the fact that the you have gone to the length of investigating them and their products.

What if you do not have much relevant experience for this job?
If really want to apply for a position but do not have much relevant work experience then you need to show and focus on your future potential. Do this by writing a:

  • First class CV that will show off your communication skills.
  • Show off your in-depth knowledge of the prospective employers industry.
  • Research their company and wow the employer with your knowledge of not only their products but also of the competitors.
  • Demonstrate your future potential as a employee by giving practical examples of how you would improve their business. For instance by improving administrative procedures, cutting costs or increasing revenues.

The performance CV layout
As the name suggests this sort of resume shows off your past performance and is ideal for people who have a long career history. It is essentially a mix of the chronological and functional CV layout and is intended to grab the recruiters attention immediately by highlighting:

  • Your key achievements from previous jobs.
  • What you can offer a employer.
  • Positive characteristics.
  • Desirable qualities.

This layout and blueprint is NOT suitable for:

  • Graduates.
  • School leavers.
  • People with little or no work experience.

Employers want to feel confident that the person they eventually employ will improve the company and take problems of their hands. They want someone who:

  • Displays a positive attitude.
  • Takes pride in their work.
  • Is articulate and of suitable appearance.
  • Shows initiative

The aim of a performance CV is to clearly demonstrate relevant information and desirable qualities that you want a prospective employer to see. When thinking of these remember to make sure they are appropriate for the job in question. Play around with words, styles and formats until you feel you have got it right.

Create an effective CV by including a skills matrix that uses bullet points to list keywords or very short phases that stand out from everything else. Start by creating a table and in each cell have a bullet point for each keyword, this format also saves you space as you do not have to write a sentence out for each keyword. Below is an example of a simple keywords matrix for a sales manager resume:

  • Competitor analysis
  • Vendor management
  • Communication skills
  • Brand marketing

This section tends to be at the bottom or lower part of your CV, how low depends on the length of your career and work experience. Remember that academic qualifications that are displayed appropriately can add gravity and value to a CV.

Start by listing your most recent qualifications first and working backwards. Focus on displaying those modules, degrees and certificates that are most relevant to the job or your career. Do not mention those exams or courses that you failed, just display those that you passed. Only give the school, college or university name, there is no need to give their full address or contact details, if required you can supply these at a later date. To summarize include the following information:

  • The school, college or university you attended.
  • The examinations or qualifications you passed.
  • The dates you attended.
  • The subjects you studied.

What if you do not have a strong academic background
If you left school with poor grades or dropped out of university and your academic track record is not great then you have no real option but to skim over this section. Compensate for your lack of academic qualifications by focusing more on your work experience or future potential as a dedicated hard working employee.

If you left university midway through a degree course then it may be worthwhile mentioning this in your CV, but be prepared to give a valid and believable reason for your dropping out.

Currently studying or in the middle of a course
If you are half way through a full time or part time course, for instance a long distance learning or Open University programme then it is worth listing this in your CV. In the date section simply put ‘Current’.

There is a growing trend for job seekers to create their CV in a MS Word document and to then save it in PDF format. There are certainly advantages for sending your CV as a PDF document, here are some:

  • A PDF looks much sharper and clearer than a normal Word file.
  • It will always look the same when it is opened.
  • It cannot be altered or tampered with.
  • If the recruiter prints it off to have a hard copy, then the quality will be excellent.


What not to list in your CV
There is not need to list any of the following personal information, unless the job advert specifically asks for it:

  • Nationality.
  • Date of birth.
  • Place of birth.
  • Your National Insurance Number.

What type of fonts to use
You should always use fonts that are conservative, is easy on the eye and professional looking. Times New Roman and Arial are good examples. Also ensure that the font size does not exceed 12, unless you want to emphasize a point, for instance is you wish to place sub headings. Ensure that only one font style is used throughout your CV template.

Bullet points and making power words stand out
Use these to highlight those points you want to get noticed, they could be single words or they could be a short sentence. Throughout your CV layout try to highlight keywords and phrases which are relevant to the roles you are applying for. Do this by using:

  • Bullet points.
  • Making them bold.
  • Underlining them.
  • Having them in a different color.

More about CV power words


Personal details
These are traditionally at the top of your resume and should include your name, address, home / mobile telephone numbers and email address.

Personal profile or summary
Before you begin writing ask yourself the following questions:

  • Firstly what work experience does the vacancy require?
  • Secondly how can you best highlight your achievements and experience in these areas?

Now write a brief statement and description of yourself and your career achievements, include your career objectives, aims and what you consider to be your strongest personal traits. Also explain what sort of role you are looking for and also why.

Career history
Give a breakdown of your employment history, starting with the most recent or present. Include the following information:

  • Employers name.
  • Location where you were based.
  • Employment dates.
  • Job title.
  • Duties and responsibilities.

In it list those skill sets and career achievements which you feel are relevant to your industry or to the job that you are applying for. To emphasis particular keywords consider making them bold or underlining them.

Giving details or present and previous employment
If you have a long career history then only mention in detail the most recent ones, there is no real need to explain in detail what you did 20 years ago. There is not need to go into lengthy descriptions of your previous employment. Instead use bullet points to list key responsibilities and duties that relate to the vacancy you are applying for. Try to keep them as brief, relevant and simple as possible, remembering to highlight any keywords.

Areas of expertise and work experience
Focus on showing key data and facts that can benefit the employer. If possible give examples of your achievements. Focus on showing that you are an accomplished hard worker who can bring many positive attributes to your new place of employment.

Academic qualifications
List your academic qualifications including the certificates, dates, locations, colleges or universities and grades.

This section is usually placed at the end of your CV and to save valuable space should just be a short sentence saying ‘References available on request’. There is no need to include the details of your references. If required you can supply these later on.


Related topics:

CV distribution

Free CV templates

How to write a CV

Interview questions and answers 

Should text be justified in a CV

Simple CV template

The best font for a CV

What not to put in your CV

Why CVs are rejected

Writing a career objective statement