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How to format your CV for digital applications: 5 simple steps

You’ve written a great CV, detailing all your education, skills, and job history. You’ve used the STAR method when talking about your accomplishments. You’ve checked and triple-checked your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You’re ready to press send. But before you do, it’s worth remembering that many applications are processed through automated systems before a recruiter even sees them, and when they do finally reach a person, yours may be the 50th CV they’ve seen that day! So, it’s worthwhile making sure your CV is easily readable by software as well as humans. Here are our top formatting tips to make sure your CV is always looking its best.

Reduce Margin Sizes.

In 2021, its likely anyone looking at your CV will be doing so on a screen, rather than in print, which means the default text margins can be reduced for less wasted space. In Microsoft Word, you can go to the ‘layout’ menu tab and select ‘margins’, then ‘narrow’ to give yourself more space on each page and ensure that recruiters aren’t looking at a large blank space when they first open the document. Make sure to put your name and contact details at the top, so they’re easy for both recruiters and CV parsing software to find.

Divide Sections Clearly

Each section of your CV should be clearly marked with a section header. You can add this in the ‘styles’ section of Microsoft Word, or by clicking the ‘formatting’ dropdown, then ‘paragraph styles’ in Google Docs. Adding headers makes your CV much easier to navigate for anyone reading; and formatting them this way also means that any software scanning the CV will immediately know which sections are which, minimising the chances of any reading errors.

Use Bullet Points & search terms

Another formatting tip which will help humans and computers alike to read your CV is using bullet point lists instead of long paragraphs. This makes the document much easier to scan for key skills and phrases. You should also aim to repeat specific words and phrases used in the job advert, as many CV-scanning programs are set up to filter for specific text. If the person description for the job you’re applying for mentions “project management”, for example, ensure you have used the phrase at least once in the relevant part of your CV.

Name it something Unique

We don’t mean you have to come up with a fancy title, “(your full name) CV (year)” will do fine. But just because you only have one file in your documents called ‘CV’, doesn’t mean a recruiter will. Putting your name and the year in your CV filename helps anyone who receives it to know they’re looking at something relevant and recent, and they can easily connect it to any details they already have for you.

Save it as a pdf

All that time you spent formatting can be easily undone if the person reading your CV is using a different word processor to you. A file formatted in Google Docs may look very different when opened in Word and vice-versa. Most word processing programs allow you to save your document as a pdf, which means the formatting won’t change, no matter what software it’s viewed in. This means you can be confident that your beautifully formatted CV will be seen exactly as you intend it to.

Once you’ve sent your CV off and received a response, the next step is usually preparing for an interview. Check out these top tips on interview prep from our recruitment expert, Eleanor.