Why Have a Good CV Presentation?


Have a think about some of the following points when it comes to direct marketing:

·         The type of font used has increased response rates

·         The colours used have increased response rates

·         The type of paper has increased responses

  

These are just a few “visual” factors from potentially dozens if not hundreds that can impact the percentage of customers that respond to an advert. 

 

The point to realise is that the presentation of the direct marketing material has a psychological impact on the prospect and affects the response rate. 

 

The presentation of an advert is part and parcel of the advert itself.  There is no substitute for good information and content on an application.  Great content needs to be presented well. 

 

The same applies for a job application.  This section focuses on helping you present your CV as best possible.

 

Whilst there are lots of these kinds of “shortcuts” that can improve the response rate, the fact is CV writing isn’t about a bunch of gimmicks and mind tricks.  It’s about knowing how to promote yourself as a strong candidate – your overall presentation is a key component of that. 

 

Imagine a restaurant that makes great food.  You hear about the food and decide to visit.  Now imagine you get there and this is what you see once inside:



Not very appetising! you’re likely to have doubts about placing an order.  The appearance of the place will impact on the perception of the restaurant. 

  

A job application needs to present a clean, professional look.  Appeal visually to an employer.  Remember the first impression counts.

 

It must invite them to read the application further.  A job application might have excellent content, but if the presentation is poor it takes the application down.  A good look starts the application properly. 

 

Much of the information about formatting and presentation below applies to the cover letter too.


Aspects of CV Presentation


There are many “smaller” components that make up the overall presentation, below is a summary of the main ones. 

 

Spelling


This is the number one source of CVs being eliminated from the application process.  A CV MUST be clear of spelling/grammar mistakes.  This cannot be emphasised enough. 

 

Spelling people/company names is even more important. 

 

Most people are aware of the importance of correct spelling, yet check their CV and it often will have an error. 

 

Imagine an application that stated one of the applicant’s quality was paying attention to detail, yet there was a spelling mistake – credibility evaporates straight away!

 

Once you’ve been working on something you become attached to it, its faults won’t be obvious to you.  You’ll automatically see it in a positive light.  Take a break if you’ve worked on the application for a while – do some exercise or relaxation to take the mind away from the CV.  

 

After the break go through each word carefully, then get a friend to do the same.  A fresh pair of eyes helps find any faults.



Don’t rely on spell checker, you wouldn’t want to write “shit” instead of “shift”! 

 

There are advantages of spell checker/grammar programs such as capitalising “I” or adding an apostrophe when needed, however these programmes aren’t flawless.  

 

Most spelling mistakes occur either in headings (where they are most likely to jump out at an employer) or in people/business names.


Grammar


Grammar is just as important as spelling.  They both are simple if you take your time and be vigilant.  A fresh pair of eyes reading the CV helps too.  Again spell checker won’t pick up an error such as “then” instead of “than”. 

 

Double check for comma omissions, or unnecessary commas.  Check full stops are included where needed (not needed on bullet points)

 

Programs don’t pick up an inconsistent tense use, is the CV written in the past or present – double check for consistency.  Again another pair of eyes at this stage helps.


Upper/lower Case Errors


These tend to slip in un-noticed and often undetected by spell check programs.  However someone going through CVs all day will spot them straight away. 

 

Make sure you spot them before they do!

 

Names of places including streets need to start in capitals. 

 

People names, titles should start with a capital.  Job titles usually start with capitals but consistency is key.  Don’t write one job in a capital and then another all in lower case, see below: 

 


The errors stand out, someone looking at lots of CVs will spot them straight away.

The same text without any case errors:



It looks more professional and is proof of attention to detail.


Fonts


Type:

Avoid odd or hard to read fonts.  Times New Roman works well offline, but isn’t good for reading online.  

 

Sans-serif fonts tend to be preferred for this.  These are fonts that don’t have any fancy lines on the strokes.  An example would be Arial or Verdana.  The font for this page is Arial. 

 

Arial is best for both online and offline viewing. 

 

The only downside – it’s used so much it can get boring.  Verdana is a good alternative but takes up more space. 


Don’t mix font types within the same paragraph or sentence – see the difference. 

 

All the words in the previous sentence are in size 11 but the font type also impacts the size as some fonts are larger than others.

 

It gives an unprofessional look.  Having a different font for a heading and a different font for the main text is fine providing the overall look is good and the fonts complement each other. 

 

The aim is to have a consistent pattern throughout that helps to create a solid overall presentation.


All the words in the previous sentence are in size 11 but the font type also impacts the size as some fonts are larger than others.

 

It gives an unprofessional look.  Having a different font for a heading and a different font for the main text is fine providing the overall look is good and the fonts complement each other. 

 

The aim is to have a consistent pattern throughout that helps to create a solid overall presentation.

 

Colours:

Avoid using different colours, it’s the sign of an amateur.  Black font on a white or very light background is best.  It will be easier to read. 

 

Your letter heading might have a certain design (like a company letter headings) with different colour text, that’s fine.  The rest of the letter needs to be in black.

  

Emphasis:

There are other font styles such as italics and bold.  Bold can make a good impact but overuse defeats the purpose.  Having bold headings with standard text is a standard look. 

 

Italics is another option.  It’s not as in-your-face as bold.  Again overuse defeats the purpose. Italics can be more difficult to read on a computer screen.

 

Size:

Font size – aim for between 10 to 12 points.  One factor that has a big bearing on the font size is the amount of space the CV takes up.  A larger font might mean the CV goes over 2 pages.  With trial and error you can use the font size to keep to the 2 ages.

 

Just like with font types, don’t mix and match font sizes during a sentence or paragraph.  Its amateur style. 

 

The whole CV doesn’t need the same font size throughout.  For example your name at the top can be size 20, followed by other text at size 10 to 12. 

 

You might decide on a set size for headings such as experience or education with the text for that section in a set font size.  See below:

 


Consistency of font size is key to a good presentation. 

 

Do not mix font type, colour or size in the same sentence – it’s amateurish. 


Spacing and Layout


Good use of space is crucial.  You want to avoid cramming information in for a “squashed” look.  Spacing also needs to be consistent throughout the document. 

 

Remember to stick to 2 pages maximum.  If you are struggling to do this a functional CV might be worth considering. 

 

A big block of text is never appealing to read and breaking it up into manageable chunks surrounded by some space makes a major difference. 

 

Bullet points could be another option for where there is a list of information. 

 

Make sure spacing between sections is consistent i.e. decide how many lines spacing will be between a heading and its content, then between the different sections.  An inconsistent pattern looks odd and stands out for the wrong reasons, see below:

 

Alignment


Most CVs have contact details in the centre, it generally appeals more than contact details to the side.  Have a look at the 2 examples below:



An alternative is to split the alignment, (see below), this will also save 2-3 lines in space.



Whether you should use the justified text alignment is another point worth mentioning.  Justified text means where all the lines in a paragraph (except the last one) are of equal length by changing the space between words.

 

The best way is to try creating the CV in both justified and unjustified formats and ask people for a preference regarding which one looks better. 


There is no hard or set rule about this, it’s a personal preference over which one looks better. 

 

Below is an example of the last 2 paragraphs written in both justified and unjustified format:


Paper Format


This relates to when a hard copy of the CV is needed.  If an employer has asked for applications in person, or you’re making a speculative approach in person then the final presentation of the paper is important. 

 

A folded, messy application won’t do you any favours. 

 

Carrying an unprotected CV exposes it to the elements and increases the chance of creases or stains appearing. 

 

A plastic wallet or envelope can avoid this.  These will protect the CV from the elements.  Also avoid smells or stains on a CV – it’s amazing how many people hand in a CV that smells of last night’s dinner!

 

Good quality paper is a must.  No need to go overboard and buy the most expensive paper. However ordinary recycled paper vs decent quality paper is like a donkey vs a thorough bred. 

 

As previously mentioned the type of paper used has been known to improve direct marketing response rates.

 

Paper colour – white is tried and tested, alternatively a very light colour (light cream) can suffice. 

 

Never back a CV (print on both sides).  Keep printing to one side.


Technicalities of CV Presentation


You’ve put a great application together and sent it.  But how do you know the employer is receiving it?


A large chunk of job applications never get anywhere because of the employer not being able to view it.  Technical/software compatibility issues can cause this.


Before sending your curriculum vitae to employers, email it to a trusted friend or family member.  This is to make sure it opens properly on a different computer.  It also helps to test that the formatting still looks the same.


Ask family and friends to test hyperlinks to blogs, websites and social media profiles.  If they can open the links then it’s safe to say others can too. 

 

Email addresses with inappropriate words in them can get blocked by junk mail filters.  Safest option is to use your first name and second name with a Gmail account.  Most junk mail is sent from Hotmail so spam filters block these emails more readily.



The most popular software for business documents is Microsoft Word. These have a “.doc” extension.  Unfortunately .doc is not always compatible with every Microsoft Word version. Create and save files using .doc but as Word 2003 option.


Word 2003 files work using later Word software but not necessarily vice-versa.  Not all people have the later Word versions.  Avoid .docx as this relates to Word 2010 onwards.


Adobe Acrobat is also becoming popular.  The files save as a .pdf and the document looks the same across different operating systems.


However pdf documents can stop applicant tracking software from scanning a file.


Open Office is also available as a free alternative to Microsoft Office.  The word processing software ends in a .odt extension.  Open Office can also access .doc files.  There can still be some compatibility issues and a .odt file won’t always open 100% using Microsoft Word and vice-versa.


Even if it’s going to be an electronic CV, print it and show it to people for their feedback.  If it looks good on paper, it will look good online. 

 

Always ask for feedback from people you know, it will help.  When you’re not know sure between 2 different styles or changes, do a copy of the CV with each change.  Then ask people for an opinion.

 

Video CV Presentation


We discussed a video CV in detail on the Curriculum Vitae main page.  Below is a summary of the key aspects of the presentation for a video CV:

 

How you hold and present yourself is a key aspect of your video.  Just like a standard CV, small subtle differences can make or break the video CV. 

 

·         Think about surroundings – you need decent lighting, avoid a messy background. 

·         Film in a quiet room, put your phone on silent, switch off the TV and other noisy distractions. 

·         In terms of clothes make sure they’re professional and appropriate for the job/industry

·         Body language is the majority of your communication, so you must portray confidence

·         Good posture is very important

·         Eye contact – look into the camera without staring.

·         You need a steady video throughout

 


If someone is holding the camcorder/phone then there is still likely to be some shaky movements.  Use a tripod for the recording device. 

 

Overall summary of the video CV presentation is to present yourself as you would at a job interview.

 

Social Media CV Presentation


It’s one thing to say what you’re like, and then there’s what you’re “really” like!

 

Employers know applicants can say anything to further their own cause.  So they have been known to view applicant’s social media profiles to find out more about them.

 

This means you need to make sure there is nothing derogatory or inappropriate on your social media profiles.  Controversial or childish comments won’t do you any favours. 

 

Comments made can easily go viral in minutes and once a comment is in the public domain you can’t take it back.  So don’t write anything you might regret later. 

 

A good way to measure profile suitability is imagine if an employer showed you your profile.  Ask if there would there be anything in there that would reduce your credibility as an employee or cause embarrassment.

 

It’s extremely important not to put anything on any of your social media profiles that contradicts your CV.  Again, it will reduce if not destroy your credibility. 

 

Another important thing to think about is your social media friends, connections and people you are following or following you.  Obviously it’s outside your control what others put on their profiles. 

 

But have a think about the impression some followers/friends might make on an employer.  They could reflect badly on you by association.

 


Make sure photos are suitable, they don’t have to be of you suited and booted, as long as you look presentable and in a good light. 

 

It goes without saying this applies to all social networks as a company could use any network you’re using to find out more about you. 

 

It’s also worth considering restricting access to your account by keeping settings private.  However employers have still been known to be able to access accounts (especially law enforcement agencies or big companies).


Summary


We’ve discussed how important it is to put your best foot forward.  How you display your CV content is crucial. 

 

Excellent content combined with the BEST presentation possible will let you put the best foot forward.  It’s not about manipulation or gimmicks but recognising presentation impacts perception.  Gimmicks won’t show the employer how you will benefit their organisation, only the content can do that.

 

The presentation includes many things such as the font size, style, colour, alignment, spacing, grammar, spelling etc.  Making small changes to these components adds up and has a major impact on the overall look.

 

If there is a job you really want then the effort is needed to get the presentation right.  Time spent is well worth it.  Even if you don’t get an interview you know you tried your best rather than apply for the sake of it. 

 

An excellent job application also sticks in people’s minds.  They will keep you in mind for future opportunities, rather than remember you for the wrong reasons. 


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