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Formatting and Typography

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Styling it

It is really important to get the typography, page layout, styling and formatting of your CV right so that it looks professional. It isn't just a case of "flower arranging", first impressions count, so make it look as clean as you can. It can take a long time to get the look right, because every pixel matters and you are highly constrained by space (one or two pages). Don't underestimate the importance (and time needed) to get the style looking clean and professional:

  1. WASTE IT Space is very valuable, you should use every pixel, millimetre and word to maximum effect. If there are big blank spaces this can look bad - fill space by providing more detail, increasing the font size, line spacing (e.g. try 1.5 line spacing) or reducing page margins & etc. Make sure you use all the vertical and horizontal space available without filling the page completely.
  2. SPREAD IT It can be tempting to cram things on - but this makes it hard to read if the text is too small. Rather than list EVERYTHING you've done EVER, show the most important or relevant aspects. The final document should be easy on the eye to get you an interview. If you get the chance, you can fill in details at the interview.
  3. BLANK IT Make sure you use all the space available, both vertical and horizontal. Two pages is the norm for a CV, though some employers ask for a one pager. You shouldn't have too much blank space on either type.
  4. TYPESET IT Word, Google Docs and other word processors are OK, if that is what you are most comfortable with. However, using LaTeX can make your CV stand out because the typography is usually much better. If you did COMP101, remember Why LaTeX? Despite the limitations of LaTeX, it is a very good tool for making professionally typeset PDFs (exactly what your CV should be). There are some good CV templates available from and Plenty of good generic templates are available elsewhere
  5. CONVERT IT The Portable Document Format is a more idiot-proof way to distribute documents than Word files, and PDF works on more platforms and devices. Beware of converting Word to PDF, it can be an unpredictable and lossy conversion which messes up fonts, page breaks and other important formatting. Some employers will use software that won't accept PDFs, and will insist on Word. Thankfully they are not too common.
  6. STYLE IT Don't underestimate the importance of style, formatting and typography. Badly formatted CVs will end up in the bin. Formatting can be tedious, labour intensive and time consuming, but it is worth spending the time to get it right. Use a template if it helps, see for example Bryn's CV Bryn is a final year student in Computer Science, who did a placement at Google during 2015/6.
  7. UNDERLINE IT Underline was designed for typewriters and should usually be avoided. Sometimes it is OK to use underline for hyperlinks, as it helps to show that they are clickable URLs. Fixed width fonts look pretty horrible too (for example default URLs in LaTeX). Look at any professional document, it is very unlikely that you will find underline. Fixed width fonts are usually reserved for code, not something you are likely to have on your CV
  8. PRINT IT Print out your CV to check what it actually looks like with different printers. Can you read it? Odd things can happen that make your CV look rubbish, so it is worth trying out a few different printers. Does it fit nicely on two pages? Are there any nasty page and line breaks that create ugly widowed & orphaned text? If you're using a fancy looking font, bear in mind that they may not be available on every device and printer. You might need to investigate embedding the fonts in the pdf to prevent any unpredictable font substitutions spoiling your hard work.
  9. BREAK IT splitting sections across pages is usually a bad idea and can waste space. If you have to split a section, make sure the title follows it. e.g. “EXPERIENCE (continued)” . Likewise, take care that the line breaks occur in sensible places, if necessary, adjust the text so it fits better into the space available. Bad line breaks waste valuable space and make it harder to read the document - they distract the reader from what you are saying.
  10. TABULATE IT Tables can be a good way to arrange information, but they usually look better, cleaner and easier to read WITHOUT a border
  11. PAGINATE IT One OR Two pages is the norm. Depending on where you send your CV, it can handy to have both a one page and a two page version. You could have a trunk version with two branches. It is usually much easier to write a two pager than a one pager, but some employers demand a one page. Whatever you do, don't write a one-and-a-bit page CV, this looks like you've run out of things to say. It is much better to fill all the space you have, no more than two pages maximum.
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