What is CV design? (Including how to effectively use it)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for work, an effective CV can help you make a positive first impression on recruitment managers. To create a positive impact with this document, you can tailor your CV to suit different opportunities in various areas of employment. Choosing a professional-looking CV style that clearly outlines your capabilities and uses a suitable layout that compliments your profession can help get your application noticed. In this article, we demonstrate how CV design can enhance your profile and improve your chances of securing an interview.

What is CV design?

CV design is the graphical and typographic layout you choose to present the content of your curriculum vitae. The function of good design is to deliver essential information in a visually, easy-to-assimilate format. The design breaks up the main components of your curriculum vitae, headers and titles such as, education, work experience and contact details and rearranges them in a range of strategic, visually engaging options designed to create impactful documents. While the focus of the design remains focused on the clear presentation of your information, its objective is to deliver it in a graphically pleasing fashion.

Related: Elements to include on a CV for a teenager (With CV example)

Why is CV design important?

When employers post a job listing they may receive hundreds of candidates all vying for the same position. When scanning through large volumes of applications, recruitment personnel invariably encounter numerous documents that use very similar layouts that don't easily distinguish themselves from the others. Many candidates focus solely on detailing their personal information and may not have placed enough emphasis on the importance of a visually pleasing document. Great CV design demonstrates a strong layout with a clear presentation and displays credentials in a unique and eye-catching format.

Design for different career types

Choosing the design that best compliments your abilities, experience or chosen profession is key to making an effective and attractive document. For example, professions such as accountancy and graphic design vary greatly, but both want their CV to accurately portray their skills and reflect their personality.

A graphic designer, for example, may include more visual elements to show their overall design skills. An accountant might choose a simpler, more formal design to show their professionalism and attention to detail. When choosing an overall design for your CV, consider your career field and what's best for your industry.

CV layout

You can select a layout option most applicable for your profession from the range of CV templates available online. These are often categorised into profession types to make them easier to browse and help you quickly find an appropriate template to begin designing your CV.

Many designs are freely available to download and allow you to simply paste your information into the different categories provided in the templates. Other online CV services allow you to build your CV by following simple guidelines then paying a fee to download your completed document or have it emailed to you.

Related:

  • Guide to writing an effective CV summary (With examples)

  • How to create an effective CV header (With examples)

Designing your CV

A CV is a concise narrative of your academic and professional life to date. They're a succinct biography that allows employers to quickly understand your qualifications. Although there are numerous design templates you can choose from, a curriculum vitae usually follows a uniform structure. This is the typical CV format. Here's more information about each of these parts:

Contact information

When you've chosen a template that you feel uses the appropriate layout, style and colour scheme for you, you begin filling in the necessary fields with your information. Firstly, your contact information field gives you an opportunity to get a little creative by choosing an eye-catching font. Times New Roman is a very common font, so perhaps another strong font such as Copperplate or Mistral may work better for this section. Remember you can increase the font size and use a bold case in this section if needed.

Professional summary

Professional summaries are optional additions to the traditional CV structure, they function as concise personal statements of intent or declarations of ability, that immediately address the recruiter. If you choose to include one, this section allows you to briefly describe career goals or the benefits you could bring to a company. You might continue to use the font you chose to use here to complete the details for the rest of the document. Often used are conservative, highly legible fonts that read well in low point sizes, such as Georgia, Helvetica or Tahoma.

Work experience, educational history and personal skills

Clear differentiators can help distinguish and increase the readability of these important sections of your CV. The title of each section could be a different point size, a bold font or a font that contrasts with the subsequent body of text. The smart application of line breaks, underscoring and italics all contribute towards distinguishing groups of details, remember to use them consistently to give your typographical structure continuity. The use of bullet-points can help readers isolate key information. Some templates offer ratings graphics that you can adjust to your skill levels.

Interests and hobbies

You might choose to revise your typographical layout in these final sections. This is not imperative and your choice depends on how a new style might fit in with your existing layout format. You might choose to use a slightly less formal style to indicate a warmer conveyance of your interests.

Related: How to write about CV hobbies and interests (With examples)

Other design considerations

When you're choosing a font, remember that if it's not a commonly used one, the recipients may not have the same font installed on their device. This can result in a substituted font that can impact the design of your CV. Saving the document as a PDF file and embedding the fonts you use can be a workaround for that issue.

If you can keep your CV to a one-page document without it looking cramped that's great. If you can't, then avoid exceeding two pages as recruiters can be swift to dismiss lengthy documents. Remember to maintain a consistent style throughout, keep plenty of white space and avoid densely worded sections. Doing this helps enable readers to navigate the document easily and quickly derive the information they need from you.

Create a narrative

Your CV is a succinct story that follows your educational and career journey and therefore it makes sense that it follows a logical, chronological narrative. A curriculum vitae offers employers insight into your work history, hobbies and may indicate your personality at a glance, allowing them to quickly decide whether to advance your application to the next round. Choosing an appropriatedesign and maintaining a consistent theme can enhance your story and make the recruitment manager's selection process a much simpler task.

Related: 10 graphic design courses (With skills and career options)

Examples of occupation-appropriate design

Different occupations require different styles to visually convey the aspects of their professions. While style can be subjective, there are numerous options that give all professions a solution that best represents their skills, experience and career objectives. Here are some tips that demonstrate the how considered design might enhance your CV:

Accountant

Persons dealing with calculations and numbers benefit from choosing pared-down, yet sleek, design templates. You might like your CV to allude to a meticulous, no-nonsense individual with a diligent work ethic using a limited palette and a minimal number of columns and fields their CV can present an efficient, pragmatic persona. A modern, sans-serif font, like Futura, also works to deliver a crisp, unfettered appeal to your document.

Social worker

Those working within the care industry complete their work with professionalism and compassion. Choosing a template to reflect both these traits is key to reflecting your abilities accurately. Many templates provide an area to place a photo, so choose one that expresses both warmth and sincerity. Neutral colours like brown and orange tones could complete the palette, while a more traditional layout and a serif font, such as Garamond help convey a sense of earnestness.

Graphic designer

This profession can give you a lot of freedom for creativity in both the work you do and how you present your CV. Try always to remain mindful, that no matter how creative the CV appears, the content still takes priority and clear, easy-to-understand information remains paramount to employers sifting through applications.

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