CV/Resume formatting – what works best?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 - CV Writing

Charles asks: Has anyone ever heard of anyone doing any research on fonts, type size and other formatting in regards to resume submittals? If so, what was the outcome? If not, what are your thoughts? Is there a preferred font, type size, color or format that you would consider a competitive advantage for resumes? Also interested in thoughts about standard formats and logo headers from agency recruiters – do they help or hurt the value of the resume to the client?

In answer:
The primary issue of any CV/Resume is that it should communicate to the reader that the candidate more than addresses the skill and competency requirements of the specified job.

Part of that communication is met in the form of presentation of the CV/Resume, which primarily should be neat, well organized and easy to read. Only in the creative fields should it vary from black font on white paper with no photograph; while in the educational format a Curriculum Vitae is a formalised presentation of information, which would extends beyond the most effective format of two pages.

What research has been done on font types relates to business letters and communication, where Times New Roman is seen as more professional, while Arial is seen as more creative and personal. Both are forms of serif fonts, which in general have little lines that come off of tops, bottoms and end of each letter, thus making them easier to read.

Which ever your choice, use standard serif fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, Mariandra) and avoid fancy bullets (arrows, stars …). Most HR/candidate management systems use scanning technology, and resultant font degradation is better coped with by the reader using these standard type fonts. With this in mind, which ever font you choose I wouldn’t go below a 10-point font, and don’t over vary font type, scale or use excess bolding/underlining throughout your CV/Resume.

However, this doesn’t mean that every commercial/non-creative candidate CV/Resume looks exactly the same in layout, with clear variances in Skills based versus Chronological, and others in information/skill order – if you have served half you career in one field, and the other half in another, you place the most relevant piece to that job at the top. Things that should be addressed should include: Summary, Skills, Certifications, Professional Experience, Educations& training; and Affiliations – thus giving a step by step approach to your career.

You can’t get around an “irrelevant to this post” skill set or poor work history by making a CV/Resume look pretty: you will only help an employer remember a bad work history by calling attention to it with bright colors, fancy fonts and slick graphics – at this early stage it is more of exclusion decision by the employer/recruiter over an inclusion exercise.

Hence, the same candidate for the same position can be presented in multiple ways, and the best layout/format of the resultant CV/Resume is the one that gets the employer to pick up the phone and ask the candidate for an interview.

Good Luck!

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One Response to “CV/Resume formatting – what works best?”

  1. Rita Says:

    As a job search coach for executives and technology leaders with 16 previous years as a recruiter, I found there is only one hard and fast rule for resume style. The resume format should not distract from the content. Therefore, a resume that looks (format wise) exactly as the hiring authorities expect it to look is more likely to be read. No blocks around sections, fancy fonts or color. This is one time when out of the box thinking will hurt.
    The Job Coach

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