Helping Sam with his CV – layout and presentation.

Earlier in the week, I asked you to think about your own CV writing skills by considering what advice you would give Sam, an undergraduate student, with his CV.

Unfortunately for Sam, his CV needs a lot of attention.  Since there are so many areas of concern in both presentation and content, I’ve made the decision not to tackle both at once with Sam.  We’ve agreed that a more effective approach is for Sam to work on some of the issues of layout and presentation.  Once we’re satisfied with improvements in that area, Sam will come back and we’ll look at the content of his CV. Stay tuned for part 3 on Tuesday…and do comment if you have suggestions for how Sam can improve the presentation and content of his CV.

Sam's CV marked up

You can read Sam’s marked up CV for specific comments but here are the main points:

Relevant information

Everything that goes into a CV should be telling the employer why Sam is suitable for the job.  The job description, person specification and research Sam did into the organisation and the role will tell him what the employer needs to know about.  I’ve pointed out some things to Sam that he should consider taking out of his CV for this particular opportunity.

Spelling mistakes

Sam’s CV is riddles with spelling errors. An employer might – might– be inclined to overlook one, but not 5, including 1 of the most common spelling mistakes in one of Sam’s headings.  You can read about the top 10 spelling  mistakes  to be sure you avoid them (and others) in the future.

Order of content

For a chronological CV like Sam’s, content needs to be in reverse chronological order – most recent first. Sam needs to reorder his experience.


Headings, like headlines, help capture the reader’s attention.  Headings also help organise information in a sensible and, sometimes even strategic, way.  Sam can make better use of font styles to make his headings stand out.

The Work Experience and Interests and Hobbies headings aren’t working as hard as they can to help Sam persuade the employer.  Sam has quite a lot of relevant, valuable experience scattered under these bland headings.  The first thing the employer is going to see under Work Experience is Sam’s experience in a pizza restaurant.  They may never notice his mentoring experience.  Under Interests and Hobbies, Sam has quite a lot of transferable skills, but the way he has presented the information makes it difficult for the employer to recognise the link between Sam’s experiences and the tasks and responsibilities of the role. By choosing heading titles that are more targeted at the opportunity, Sam can make his relevant experience really stand out and organise his experience in a more focused and strategic way. 

Using Times New Roman

Created specifically for newspapers in 1931, it’s narrower and more compact than many other fonts, which can affect its legibility (I would also argue readability – actual typographers may take issue with my opinion) in other contexts.   Some argue strongly that Time New Roman is the one font you should never see on a CV. I would argue that the other one is Comic Sans. #bancomicsans I’ve suggested that Sam explore other fonts and styles to improve the attractiveness, readability and legibility of his CV.

Slabs of text

On a related topic, Sam has presented his information in large unbroken paragraphs. He should look at different ways of expressing his information or perhaps even cutting some text, particularly if it’s not strictly relevant.  I’ve suggested to Sam that bullet points and judicious use of line spacing can make the CV easier to read and more attractive.

Tip:  Try the ‘arm’s length test’.  Hold a CV in front of you at arm’s length – you should still be able to read it.  If not, experiment with ways you can use fonts, styles and line spacing to help. This means when it’s in front of the employer (who has in all likelihood just already read 20), you’ve done what you can to make it easy for them to read.

This is Sam’s second draft. What do you think?

Sams second draft

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s