How to make your CV look impressive (no graphic design degree required).

No Indesign skills? No problem. You can still have a visually attractive CV.

There’s a long list of things you’d expect to achieve virality on the internet: cat videos, awkward Tinder exchanges, basically everything Beyonce does… someone’s CV?! Not so much.

Yet, sometimes job seekers go so above-and-beyond with their CV, they demand attention. Do you remember the CV that was set out like a Facebook profile page; the one that was printed on to fabric handkerchiefs; or the one that resembled a horror movie poster? Someone even turned their resume into one of those paper chatterboxes we all used to make with our friends in primary school.

Sabrina Saccoccio modelled her resume on her Facebook profile – and the Internet loved it. (Image via Business Insider)

There’s one thing all of these ‘viral’ CVs have in common: they’re incredibly creative.

How can a humble Word document possibly stand out next to a resume that looks like it should be hanging a gallery?

For many jobs, that level of visual creativity probably isn’t necessary, but a little care with your resume can go a long way. You don’t need to be a design pro or have expensive programmes to nail the basics; even choosing the right font can make all the difference.

I asked Mamamia’s resident design experts to share their key tips for making a clean, readable resume in your average word processor. Here are their thoughts:

1. Choosing your font.

Clean and legible is key here, so it’s generally best to choose a sans serif font over options like Times New Roman. “A sans serif font is a font without the little blobs or ‘feet’ at the end and tips of letters. They look clean, fresh and modern. My first choice for my resume is Helvetica,” explains Carla, one of our creative heads.

Helvetica is enormously popular among designers and businesses, so you can’t go wrong using it. Arial, Verdana and Century Gothic are also easy to read. According to another designer, Caitlin, it’s wise to avoid fonts that are too thin or script-like, because they can be hard on the eye. And, look, it probably goes without saying that Comic Sans is best avoided. We’re all grown-ups here.


2. Keep it simple.

Yes, there are a lot of fun typefaces and functions to play with… but that doesn’t mean you should use them all at once. “Using too many different fonts make your resume look messy and confusing. Stick to one font ‘family’ – within each font is a range of fonts in Italic and Bold combinations. Use those liberally!” Carla says.

Caitlin also recommends using a bold version of your chosen font for key words. Size-wise, graphic designer Cecilia advises keeping your font size between 12 and 16pt, and leading spacing between 1.5-2 for ease of reading.


3. Make your name the headline act.

It seems logical for the first word on your resume to be “Resume” or “CV” – but what you really want your potential employer to remember is your name. So if your name is Insert Name, Carla recommends putting “INSERT NAME” right up the top, then ‘Resume’ under that in a smaller size type. You are the headlining act, after all, so own it.

4. Make it easy to read.

You want your achievements and skills to leap off the page when your prospective boss is scanning your resume, so anything that makes it clean and easy to read will help. Caitlin suggests using dot-points, rather than sentences, to create some space and avoid having too much block text filling the page. “Putting information into a table can sometimes look nice and easier to read,” she adds.


5. Be careful with colour and pictures.

Yes, colour is eye-catching, but where resumes are concerned you want to use it with discretion. Carla swears by the monochrome approach: “Design your resume in black and white, so that your accomplishments – and not your colour scheme – stand out. If you want to use another colour, use grey.”

Same goes for pictures – some resumes require a headshot, but otherwise limit yourself to text. And for the love of good taste, stay right away from Clip Art.

6. Check out Word templates.

“Graphic designers will kill me for saying this, but the Word templates for resumes are actually not bad,” Carla says. “Just be sure to tweak them a tiny bit, change the font and change the colour to black, just to add your own touch.”

To select a template, click New and scroll down to see your options. Recent versions of Word will have a resume-specific template that can serve as a good starting point. When submitting your resume digitally, Carla says a PDF is the best format to save it in – and companies will often request this – because a PDF will look cleaner than a regular document. This is easily done when you save your document; just select PDF in the save as type drop-down menu.

7. Explore your online options.

If you want to try your hand at something slightly more advanced than a word processor, there are a number of free online programmes, such as ResumUp and ConnectCV, that allow you to create a resume that’s a little bit more out-there.

Do you have any resume tips to add? What program do you use to make yours?

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