Should you save your resume or CV as a .pdf or MS Word .doc file type? Does it matter what document format you choose? Here's the answer.
What makes the CV format so important? Proper formatting makes your CV scannable by ATS bots and easy to read for human recruiters. In short, it makes all the difference between the hiring manager reading your CV in full or never seeing it in the first place.
In this guide, we'll cover all you need to know about formatting a CV in 2020. Here's what you'll get:
Table of contents
- CV Format and Structure: Sections to Include on a Standard CV
- Well-Formatted CVs You Can Make Yours
- What’s Best In 2020: Skills-Based CV or a Classic Chronological CV?
- Ready-to-Use Layouts and Templates + CV Formatting Tips & Ideas
Here’s a sample CV, properly formatted in accordance with current UK hiring standards. We’ve created it with our CV maker.
Want to save time and have your CV ready in minutes? Use our CV creator. Pick a blank CV template, fill it in with your information, and download a perfectly structured CV. See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.
CV Format Example (UK Layout)—See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.
This article explains how to format a CV for a job in the UK or other European countries.
If you’re more interested in formatting a US resume, switch over to: Resume Format: How to Format a Resume for the Greatest Impact
Not sure what the difference is? Find out from our guide: The CV/Resume Difference Explained
For an in-depth breakdown of the proper format for a CV for academic purposes, see: Academic CV: Template, Samples, Writing Tips
Finally, if you’d like to learn not only about formatting a CV but about writing each section too, see our CV 101: How to Write a Curriculum Vitae (CV) for a Job in 2020
CV Format: Overview
A standard format of a CV for a job should include the following sections:
- Contact Information.
- Personal Statement.
- Professional Experience.
- Academic History.
- Key Skills and Qualifications.
- Industry Awards.
- Professional Certifications.
- Professional Affiliations.
- Conferences Attended.
- Additional Training.
Let's walk through these sections step by step:
A CV personal statement is a brief (100 words tops), snappy paragraph at the top of your CV that provides an overview of your qualifications and skills. It works as a “trailer” for the rest of your CV. Fill it with keywords relevant to the job opening and explain why you’re the perfect candidate.
If you have years of relevant experience, write your personal statement as a CV summary: highlight your best professional achievements.
Not much experience yet? Go for a CV objective: summarise what skills you’ve mastered so far and how well you’d fit in.
Whichever one is right for you, don’t focus it solely on what you want out of the job. Instead, emphasize what you have to offer. For instance:
Dependable licensed NMC Registered Nurse trained to work in high-stress environments and stay calm under pressure. Seeking to leverage meticulous record-keeping and analytical skills to help St Francis Hospital with your upcoming challenges.
- Start with your current or most recent job.
- Below, list your previous jobs chronologically descending.
- List: your job title, the name of the company, dates worked.
- Below each entry, add up to 5 bullet points explaining your responsibilities and achievements.
- Quantify whenever possible. Numbers pop!
If you’ve got any post-secondary education, limit your CV education section to just that. Don’t mention your high school, unless it’s your highest degree of education.
Format your CV education section the following way:
- Graduation year (if you’re still studying, enter your expected graduation date)
- Institution name
- Sub-honours (if applicable)
Don’t have a wealth of job experience? Place your education section above your work history and mention the coursework you’ve completed, as well as extracurricular academic achievements.
Here’s how to list skills on a CV step by step:
- Start with a spreadsheet with a master list of all the professional skills you’ve developed.
- Read the job ad carefully and look for skill-related keywords.
- Those skills from your list that match the job description go on your CV.
- Instead of just listing skills in a separate skills section, mention them in your CV personal statement and in the work history section.
If you’ve participated in any activities relevant to your career that don’t fit into any of the above sections, list them in extra sections of your CV. Some examples of such sections include:
- Industry awards
- Professional certifications
- Professional affiliations
- Conferences attended
- Additional training
The above template is an example of a classic, reverse-chronological CV. But, according to many a career expert, there is an alternative. A skills-based CV format, also known as a “skills CV” or a “functional CV.” Read on to find out what the right structure for a skills CV is.
One more thing to keep in mind when formatting a CV is to make it skimmable for recruiters and hiring managers.
If potential employers cannot extract the most important information about your skills and expertise in a flash, it’s game over. So—
How to Format a CV?
- Set one-inch margins on all sides.
- Use 1.0 or 1.15 line spacing.
- Pick a good font for a CV and stick to it on the whole document.
- Create a professional CV header format for your contact details.
- Divide your CV into legible sections: Contact Information, Personal Statement, Work Experience, Education, Skills, Additional Information.
- Make section headings slightly larger than the rest of the contents.
- Add a blank line before and after each heading.
- Save your CV in PDF to keep your formatting intact.
Follow the steps above, and you’ll create an eye-pleasing CV. Recruiters will appreciate a well-organized layout and you’ll give yourself a good chance of passing the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) CV scan.
And trust me—the latter matters a lot nowadays. According to the worldwide report on recruiting automation trends, 75% of talent acquisition professionals claim that AI-based technology will play a larger role in their hiring processes in 2020. And ATS is the cornerstone of modern-day recruitment technology.
Well-Formatted CVs You Can Make Yours
I know. All the information above might be hard to digest (and even harder to put into practice). It happens to all of us—the moment we start working on a CV, our word processing software turns into a torture device. Nothing looks the way you want it to, random fragments of text spill over to the next line, and keeping a uniform design is little short of impossible.
But there's good news. Our builder takes care of CV formatting. You just need to write the contents and let us make them always look great. Have a look at some of the best CV formats available in our builder, choose the one that fits your needs, and have a CV ready in minutes.
A simple CV format that makes all the key information visible at first glance. Tons of white space will make this one easier on recruiters' eyes (and they'll thank you for it). We recommend Nanica to everyone eying traditional, corporate jobs.
Yet another simple and clean CV format. The timeline on the left makes your work history easy to navigate through. A column for your skills helps squeeze more onto a one-page CV. Plus, you get a nice piece of personal branding thanks to the initials in the header. This one will surely stick with recruiters!
Perhaps the proudest piece of CV art we've created so far. Cubic has it all: a nice-looking header for your name and job title, a shaded side column for contact deets, skills, and extra information, and an elegant main area for all the "beef:" work experience and education. One of the most creative designs on our offer, will work great for candidates eying jobs with modern companies.
This one has been the favorite of Zety's users working in business and finance. Diamond uses some bold, dark elements to make a visual impression but, overall, it's very elegant and traditional. You can stick with black-on-white or play around with colors for a more relaxed look.
Newcast is a great CV format for candidates across all professions and levels of experience. Basic and traditional on the one hand, in line with modern, minimalistic design trends on the other.
What’s Best In 2020: Skills-Based CV or a Classic Chronological CV?
Some candidates with unorthodox work histories might want to consider using a skills based CV format.
Skills based CV (also known as a functional CV or simply a “skills” CV) focuses on the candidate’s skills rather than work experience. It’s usually used by job seekers in creative industries who have done a lot of small freelancing gigs or by career changers.
Have a look at an outline of how to format a CV in a skills-based template.
Skills Based CV Structure
- Contact Information
- CV Objective
- Skills Summary
- Work Experience
- Additional Skills
See what a “skills” CV looks like. We’ve created the sample in our CV generator.
Skills Based CV Example
Use our CV creator to get your ready-to-download CV in no time. Pick a blank CV template, fill it in with your information, and download a perfectly structured CV—See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.
As you can see, the central part of the skills based CV format is the Skills Summary. Work Experience and Education sections are limited to lists of former employers and academic institutions, respectively.
While this might sound tempting to some candidates with flaws or gaps in their employment histories, a skills based/functional CV format is a risky choice. For years, creating a skills based CV has been recommended as the best way to camouflage employment gaps or lack of job-relevant experience. As a result, this CV format has become a flashing neon that basically screams “I’m trying to hide something.” Finally, skills-based CVs, due to their peculiar layout, might not be ATS-scannable.
If you still think creating a skills-based CV might be right for you, see the table below for a detailed comparison of the reverse chronological CV and the functional CV formats.
Skills Based CV
Work history and education
Work history section
At the top
At the bottom
At the bottom
At the top
Professional and traditional
Non-conventional and creative
Easy to read, universal
Very common, might require tweaking
Suggests you’re trying to conceal something
Good choice for
Virtually all candidates
Creative industries, Career changers
Bad choice for
For information on writing a skills based CV, see our guide: Skills-Based CV: Sample and Writing Tips
Ready-to-Use Layouts and Templates + CV Formatting Tips & Ideas
Choosing a good format for a CV is a matter of highlighting your best professional strengths as well as following the rules of the HR etiquette. However, that doesn’t mean your Curriculum Vitae format cannot reflect your individuality to a certain degree. You should choose a CV format you’re fond of, personally, and match the CV design with the company you’re applying to.
Below, you’ll see some CV format and design ideas available in our CV maker.
Professional CV Format
We called this CV layout format “Crisp,” and crisp it is indeed. The side column on the left is for your personal information and skills, allowing you to save space. Big section headings draw recruiters’ eyes to what’s important.
This CV format is universal: it will work well for candidates in traditional, conservative fields, as well as those applying to more relaxed companies.
Simple Curriculum Vitae Format
If you agree that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication then the “Nanica” CV format will be just right for you. It’s a basic CV design utilizing lots of white space which gives recruiters some breathing room as they review your CV.
Modern CV Format
An all-time favourite amongst our readers, the “Cubic” CV format is our take on the modern CV.
With a three-tone background depending on the section, different areas of your CV stand out easily from each other. The header is sharply distinct from the rest of the template, making your name and job title more prominent and, thus, memorable.
A perfect resume CV format for tech, graphic design, and creative jobs.
Academic CV Format
Whether you’re a seasoned academic teacher, or a student looking to format a CV for graduate school, be sure that academic selection committees will appreciate this elegant, uncluttered CV format. Available in our CV builder along with 20+ other format templates.
Need more inspiration for formatting your CV the way that works best for you? We’ve got you covered.
CV Formatting Ideas, Inspirations and Examples
We’d love for you to give our builder a try, but if you insist on messing around with MS Word layouts, at least pick the best of the best: Free MS Word CV Templates and Formats (15+)
Want to give Google Docs resume formats a shot? Check out: Google Docs CV Format Templates
Going to an interview or a job fair and need to print a CV? Make sure your formatting will look good on paper: CV Paper: How to Choose The Best One (10+ Photos)
Finally, see some of our galleries and compilations of the best curriculum vitae formats you’ll ever find online:
- Ready-to-Download Creative CV Formats
- Ready-to-Download Infographic CV Formats
- Ready-to-Download Simple CV Formats
Here’s all you need to know about formatting a CV in a nutshell:
- Make your CV elegant and easy to read: use a professional font, big section headings, and a lot of white space.
- Divide your CV into the following sections: Contact Information, Personal Statement, Work Experience, Education, Skills, Extra Sections.
- If you’re changing careers or working in a creative field, you might consider writing a skills-based CV.
- Match the design of your CV with the culture of the organization you’re applying to.
Questions? Concerns? Other queries? Great! I’m here to listen and respond. Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get back to you straight away.