CV and Resume Layouts

Making sure you get the ‘look’ right

The issue of cv and resume layouts is often overlooked by eager job hunters and career changers in a rush to get their resume out to as many people as possible.

But the way your cv looks has an enormous impact on how well it will be received by a recruiter.

The minute your resume or cv is out of the envelope or reaches the top of the pile, you are gaining plus or minus points in the recruiter’s eyes.

Before they have even read a word, they will be forming an impression of you from the general appearance and layout of your resume. If you are changing careers, you need to score every plus point you possibly can.

So it is essential that you pay attention to your cv layout. Time spent here will pay dividends in the long run and will
increase the chance of your application going on to the ‘yes’ pile for interview.

So what are the key factors to consider with cv and resume layouts?



Many computers default to Times Roman. Now I have to say that I think this font has a stuffy, old-fashioned look about it, so I always recommend to clients that they change it to a more modern font like Ariel or Verdana. Just that one change can lift the look of a cv and immediately make it seem lighter and more contemporary.

Fonts like Ariel are also easier to read, so you are helping the recruiter as they wade through dozens of resumes. If you are trying a new font, check it carefully for readability before deciding to use it.

Think about the size of the font too. 12pt comes out quite large in Ariel so you could get away with 11pt, but 10pt is beginning to look a bit pokey.

If you are trying to squeeze a lot of content into your resume a 1pt drop in font size can be the answer, but don’t go so small that you make it a strain to read.


The headings on your cv are the signposts to guide the reader round quickly. So help them to navigate easily.

Make sure that the headings of each section stand out clearly. Usually bold plus an increase in font size by 1-2pts is all you need. Italic may be worth a try, but it doesn’t usually stand out enough. Underlining is a bit old fashioned and all three together is too much!

Don’t make your headings too large or use BLOCK CAPITALS as this often makes them dominate the whole resume.

Not sure what headings to use? Click here…


Clients often ask me about using colour as part of their resume layout. I think you can use colour, but use it sparingly and with care. Above all your cv must look well designed and professional.

A quick look at some company annual reports can give you a few ideas. Look at the way they have been laid out and how the different level headings are designed. Colour in resume layouts should normally be limited to the headings and you should select subdued colours like dark blue or dark green rather than red or pink.

Remember that your resume may be photocopied in which case the impact of any colour you have used will probably be lost.


Let your cv breathe. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to cram masses of information into a small space. You will end up with a resume that is such hard work to read that some recruiters will not even bother, or at best they will just skim read it.

Take a look at how web pages are put together. Sub headings, short paragraphs and bulleted lists are used to space the text out so it is easier on the eye.

Actually you can learn a lot from well designed web pages so browse around and see what works well. Much the same rules apply to cv and resume layouts.

  • Use bulleted lists as these create white space on the right of the page.
  • Keep your margins a reasonable size so there is white space around the edge.
  • Add extra blank lines between sections. This helps draw the eye to them and also helps to open the page up.
  • If you have a lot to say, allow your cv to spread to two pages with well spaced sections. This will have a stronger impact than one page of densely packed text.
  • Try to avoid solid blocks of text that are longer than 4-5 lines.


People agonise over the quality of paper they should use for a cv or resume. Personally I do not think your choice of paper is such acritical factor.

Of course you should avoid using the cheapest paper you can find that feels flimsy and crumples easily. However, any reasonable quality of photocopy or printer paper should be fine.

Some people spend a lot of money on expensive, high quality vellum style paper. This might be an investment worth considering if you have been invited to send your resume in response to a personal meeting with a new contact.

But in most cases, it will not add significantly to the impact your cv has, as it will be just one of many being considered by a recruiter.

Coloured paper is not usually a good idea, but if you want to give it a try, stick to very pale colours – blue or beige are the most appropriate. If your cv is photocopied in black and white, coloured background paper may show up as a dirty grey. So on thewhole, white paper is safest.

Exceptions to the rules

There are always exceptions to every rule and in the case of cv and resume layouts, you can ignore all of this if you are going for a creative or design based job.

In this case your cv layout is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your creative flair. So using an eye-catching design with a range of colours and unusual fonts is acceptable as you try and capture your reader’s attention by standing out from the crowd. You can feel free to try out different resume ideas to show off your inventiveness.

Bottom line?

The basic message is to think about who you are sending your resume to. What kind of company or organisation is it? Tailor your resume layouts to meet their expectations.

Your task is to make your resume easy on the eye, so that the reader is invited in, encouraged to read through the whole document. Paying attention to details like font, colour, space, headings and paper can make all the difference.

Once you have won them over with eye catching cv and resume layouts, your next step is to impress them with high quality content.

About the author

Amy Thomas

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