Finding the most effective way to portray yourself in your CV and résumé is incredibly important. It’s going to be the first piece of evidence an employer reads when they are thinking about hiring you. In fact, the CV and résumé is just there to get you an interview – just so you can even be considered for the job, let alone be hired for it. With that in mind then, this is the first opportunity to leave an impression and it’s imperative that you do it well and leave a strong personal brand from the get-go.
We have already discussed a range of techniques for adapting and framing your CV elsewhere on this site. We’re not going to repeat the content again, so if you’re just getting started with your CV and résumé, check out our previous post first before coming back to this one. To be succinct, previously our top tips were to; 1) communicate in a digestible way, 2) emphasise your skills and what you can do as opposed to your achievements, 3) list your skills as opposed to your previous job titles/roles and 4) keep it to 2 pages maximum.
Once you have your core structure/skills outlined it’s time to take your CV and résumé to the next level. One of the most popular design tools, that also happens to be free, is Canva. Canva comes with built in templates that are fully customisable, with a range of options to help support you achieve the message and branding you want to convey. The other great thing about Canva is that you can export the files as PDFs or shareable links which is important when it comes to adapting your CV to specific jobs. Best practice is to tweak your CV and résumé to fit the job you’re applying for. Due to Canva’s ease of use, you can effectively keep a ‘live draft’ open, edit it when needed, and export it.
Just don’t go overboard with Canva. It’s so easy to get caught up and lost with the number of graphics and images you could implement. Aim to have the persona you want to convey clear in your head before you hit the drawing board. Canva is also great for a range of other professional formats. Canva also has templates for LinkedIn headers, presentations, infographics, Instagram content, reports, organisers, invoices and more. If you want to add some additional professional flare to your CV, work, or content, Canva should be an essential part of your toolkit.
The second popular tool we want to emphasise is FlowCV, which is also another free to use customisable tool to help you edit and tweak your CV and résumé. This tool works by you uploading your data (your bio, a photo, your past experience etc), and then you can select customisable ‘blocks’ or ‘sections’ which will auto populate your data in a slick and aesthetic manner. Like Canva, no specific design qualifications or complicated knowledge is needed. You can literally jump right in and produce a stunning CV and résumé in no time. As above, you can save your template, export it as a PDF and then keep a running ‘live document’ ready for when you need to adjust things around for your next job application.
There’s plenty of different CV and résumé builders out there. Irrespective of the tool, it’s important to not go overboard with artwork and graphics. Sure, they look great, but it’s important that you leave enough white space also. Remember, the key message this document should seek to convey is your skills, previous experience whilst offering reassurance around your credibility and professionalism towards the role you’re applying for. Overkill on images is likely to be distracting from this message, requires more effort from the reader, and subsequently reduces the professionalism your CV and résumé seek to convey.
To emphasise white space even further, you don’t want to have a wall of text that pours across several pages. Again, this requires significant cognitive effort from the reader and starts to ‘hide’ your skills. Information overload leads to analysis paralysis and confusion in the message – making it harder for the interviewer to come away from the document feeling confident about offering you an interview or progressing you to the next stage. Generally speaking, this isn’t usually the problem with CV builders. The issue is that you really start to realise how much information you need to trim down in order for it to fit the template you like best.
This is an opportunity to really think about your writing skills. Aim for short, succinct, and explicit information that really hits home one core message. This will inevitably make your CV and résumé more digestible as things will be more organised in a manner that requires little cognitive effort for your reader. If you want tips on what to include in your CV and résumé, as well as the overall structure, check out our previous post.
Nonetheless, no matter what you go for, it’s best practice to invest a significant amount of time to refine your CV and résumé. This shouldn’t be something you can do in half an hour. You want to really put the time in to focus on the core message, identify what it is you’re trying to convey, format the document accordingly to adhere to good structure and information without overloading the reader.
Simply improving the overall readability and ‘feel’ of your CV and résumé will most certainly pay dividends and increase your application success rate. Your CV and résumé will be bound to stand out amongst those black and white applications submitted by the other candidates. And if you want to hit things out the park, look to supplement a professionally formatted CV and résumé with a cover letter to match.
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