Catch the recruiter's eye with a banging CV that's formatted to perfection!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the proverb says. Which loosely translates as, what looks stunning to one person could be a right turn off for another. It's subjective. The look of something, that first impression, is so important.

There's also another famous saying, this time from William Morris, the famed craftsman and poet, who said in 1882, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

But what if a certain document could achieve both? We all know what we're talking about here, don't we? Your CV, of course!

Having the right CV format, so it's simultaneously functional and easy on the eye, is the trick to getting seen by recruiters. It could mean the difference between landing an interview or being put on the “no” pile straight away… and that's something you want to avoid at all costs.

The difference between format and formatting

Before we delve any deeper into this article, let's clear up the difference between what format means and what formatting is. It can be confusing, and we want to make it clear which means what, so there's no confusion further down the road.

Format - “the way in which something is arranged or presented,” and “the shape, size, and presentation of a book, document, etc,” as defined by the Collins English dictionary.

Formatting - from the same tome, formatting is described as, “to arrange, or put, into a format.”

Essentially, both come hand-in-hand i.e. you can't have one without the other. The main thing to remember is that the format refers to the overall layout and look of a CV, while the formatting relates to specifics such as the type of font, choosing between paragraphs and bullet points, and whether or not to use graphics.

How to format a CV in 2024

How can it be 2024 already? It sounds so space age. Yet it's here, so it's time to face reality.

If you're looking for a spanking new role this year, you've got to get the basics right first off, and that includes the CV format. 

There are key areas to address here, so follow the guidelines below and you won't go far wrong.


It can't be emphasised enough how important this is. We've talked about first impressions, and how your CV looks is the first thing that a hiring manager will notice. If it's clean, neat-looking, and set out in an orderly fashion, chances are this will work in your favour and the recruiter will start to read it. Furthermore, if they see that everything is spelt correctly and your grammar is spot on, all the better. On the other hand, if your CV is poorly presented, looks confusing, and the recruiter has to really work to get any good points out of it, then be aware that your CV might get no further than being given a quick glance, before being dismissed without further ado.

You might have spent years honing your skills, gaining relevant certifications, and obtaining the appropriate experience, but if none of these are presented correctly you're never going to achieve your potential because you won't get past the first hurdle.

Consistency of the layout

This leads onto being consistent throughout your CV. This is another area that might get overlooked as not that important - but it is. For example, your layout should have the same spacing throughout, and the same font and font size. Too often, CVs have errors in formatting, where some lines are indented and others aren't, or some of the sections have more spacing between them than the others. This can end up looking shoddy, as it shows that you haven't bothered to make it look presentable. And if you can't be bothered to do that when applying for a job, why should the busy hiring manager even bother to read your CV?

Top tip: If you're including a cover letter in your application, ensure this matches in style with the CV so you present a fully coordinated image of your professional self.


While including colour on your CV was frowned upon a few years ago, times have changed and a sprinkling of blue or green is now seen as acceptable. A word of warning though - don't go mad and use two, three, or even four, different colours. Stick to one, and only if it's appropriate for the type of role you're going for - usually a creative job such as a Graphic Designer or Artist.

White space

White space is the term used to describe the areas of a page which are left blank. On a CV this will be the areas between sections and the margins around the outside of the text. While you want to make the best use of the two pages that most CVs need, you don't want it to look crowded or be difficult to read.

What about graphic CVs?

In most circumstances, it's not advised to use a graphic CV containing logos, tables, and text boxes.

This is because it's difficult for applicant tracking systems - or ATS - to “read” logos, images, graphs, or any other design elements.

Seven formatting tips to make your CV stand out

1. Font type - it might sound obvious, but pick a font that's easy to read, such as Arial or Calibri, while  steering clear of fonts that might give the recruiter a headache.

Top tip: Use the same font throughout for a clean, professional look. Mixing and matching fonts will make the document look messy and unprofessional.

2. Font size - choose either 10, 11 or 12 point sizes for the main body of the text. This can depend on the font itself, and what looks right once the CV is complete, so judge this as you go. You can make section headings slightly bigger - i.e. if you choose Arial in 10 point, your headings could be in 12 point.

3. Margins - set 1 inch margins around all four sides of the CV to maximise white space and ensure the CV doesn't look too dense.

4. Spacing - set the line spacing to whatever size font you use between each section.

5. Contact details - you want these to stand out as much as possible, so place them at the top of the CV either to the left or in the centre. You can put your name in bold and make it a bit bigger than the rest of the text if you want.

6. Bullet points - to use or not to use? That is the question. Bullet points are great at drawing the eye, so use them for achievements while day-to-day responsibilities can be written in a paragraph format.

7. Justification - this means aligning the text to both the right and left margins, which adds extra space between words where necessary to give the CV format a clean look.

What about ATS?

Ah yes, we can't forget about that, can we? Those dastardly applicant tracking systems like to rear their heads every so often when talking about CVs and how to land interviews. 

As previously mentioned, ATS concentrates on the text within a CV, so steer clear of any design elements.

Top tip: Including key words and phrases picked out from the job application will boost your ATS score as well.

Should the CV format be in Word or in a PDF?

In 2024, should you send your CV in Word or as a PDF? There are pros and cons of both. Check the job remit to see if it mentions a format of choice. Otherwise, Word is the favoured format as it maintains its formatting when sent and is also easily read by ATS.

UK CV format examples

It's all well and good discussing the best CV format and what it might look like, but there's nothing quite like having some CV format templates so you can truly see how to approach this task.

Below are three UK CV formats that will get you noticed, at whatever stage of career you find yourself.

The professional CV format

This CV format introduces a little colour to make it stand out from the crowd.

The student CV format

Note how the education section is just below the Professional Profile in this graduate CV. The applicant has limited work experience that isn't relevant to the jobs applied for, so highlighting academic achievements is key here.

The functional CV format

While most CVs follow a reverse chronological format, in some cases it's a functional CV that's required. In this example, note how the Key Skills section is lengthened to showcase transferable skills, while the Career Summary is shortened, so the emphasis is on the skills of the job seeker rather than their career.

The takeaway

If this is your first foray into crafting a CV, the best advice is to keep it simple. You can then build on that once your confidence grows. Try different ways of approaching it while sticking to TopCV guidelines, and see where that takes you. You never know, it might take you to your next big job!

Are you certain that you're using the best CV format for your job hunt? If the answer's no, help is at hand. Check out TopCV's free CV review, available 24 / 7 at your convenience. It will provide you with the answers you need to set you on the path to success.

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