Why CV formats matter
Your CV’s formatting determines whether or not your document will make it pass an applicant tracking system (ATS).
Many companies use ATS to prescreen candidates to see if they’re qualified for a job. So, you must nail your CV format in order to win the job!
Read on to learn the following:
Standard CV format:
sections to include
A CV “format” refers to how the document is structured and organized. A standard curriculum vitae (CV) format includes the following sections:
Key skills and qualifications
Did you find this sample CV helpful? We’ve got more well-written CV examples.
These sections are necessary on a CV: Contact information, Personal statement, Work Experience, Education and Skills.
These sections are optional on a CV: Industry awards, Professional certifications, Publications, Professional affiliations, Conferences attended and Additional training.
Only include additional sections relevant to your role or background. For instance, “Publications” may make sense if you’re applying for a university or journalism role, but leave it out if it’s unnecessary or you have nothing to list in the section.
Now, if you’re ready to skip straight to making a CV in under 15 minutes, use our CV Builder. It guides you through every section, step by step!
Otherwise, we’ll walk you through what to include in the main CV format sections:
In your contact information, you need the following details:
- Full name
- Professional title or headline
- Email address
- Phone number
- City/state location
- LinkedIn profile (optional)
CV summary (personal statement)
A CV’s professional summary should include:
- A two-to-four-sentence introduction to your CV.
- Your most impressive professional accomplishments.
- Your most relevant hard and soft skills.
If you’re still gaining experience, you might want to use an objective statement instead. It’s a bit shorter, one-to-two sentences explaining what you hope to achieve in your career.
Try to make a CV summary demonstrating what makes you perfect for the role.
“Human resources manager with 9+ years of experience problem-solving and attracting top brass. My track record handling all employee relations in an 80+ person firm includes a 27% reduction in recruitment time and increased employee retention by over 23%. Active listening, intuition and culture creation are the keys to my success.”
Start with your current or most recent role. Then, list your previous role(s) below your current position in reverse-chronological order.
Only list jobs that are relevant to your desired post. The standard is to include your last three-to-four roles or past 10 years of employment history.
Go longer if it’s for a high-level role or the length of your career warrants it!
Include the following:
- Your job title
- The company’s name
- City/state location
- Years of employment
Below each entry, add up to five bullet points explaining your responsibilities and achievements.
- Include numbers whenever possible. They speak louder than words!
- Add more bullet points for recent jobs and fewer for older jobs.
- Start each bullet point with an action verb.
Here’s an example:
Administrative Assistant I Elusive Technologies I Ann Arbor, MI I 8/2018-current
- Led daily administrative tasks, such as filing, data entry and calendar management.
- Reduced supply costs 11% by establishing and maintaining inventory systems.
- Answered and directed incoming phone calls and responded to 12+ emails per day.
- Assisted executive staff, including travel arrangements and scheduling.
Education is pretty straightforward. You should list any institutions you’ve attended, starting with your most recent experience and going backward. If you have college experience, you don’t need to list high school or anything before it. Doing so may hurt your job chances!
Format your CV education section the following way:
- Institution name
- City/state location
Listing the year you graduated hints at your age, which can lead to hiring bias issues. You should only include the date you graduated if it has been less than two years since, in this case, it explains why you lack work experience.
If you have yet to finish school, clarify that by listing an expected graduation date.
Here’s an example:
Ph.D. in Microbiology, expected graduation June 2025
Willard University, Cambridge, MA
BS in Biology
Worcester College, Worcester, MA
Add skills to your CV format in three easy steps:
- Carefully read the job ad looking for skill keywords.
- Identify which of these skills you possess and feel strongest about.
- Include these necessary skills on your CV in a dedicated skills section, your professional summary and your work experience section!
CVs and resumes are very similar; one of the main differences is that CVs often include more information than resumes do.
For information relevant to your career that doesn’t fit into any of the above sections, list them as extra sections in your CV format. Such sections include:
How to format a CV
Here’s a checklist for how you should format your CV:
Set one-inch margins on all sides of your CV.
Use 1.0 or 1.15 line and paragraph spacing.
Pick a good font for a CV that is easy to read and a size of 11-12.
Add your contact details in the header.
Divide your CV into clearly labeled sections, using a larger font size and/or bold.
Add one paragraph space before and after each heading
Follow the steps above, and your CV will be much easier to read and more likely to pass the scan of applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Moreover, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS to prescreen resumes. As AI advances modern recruitment methods, many other industries are also getting on board with this automation.
That means a human may only see your CV if it passes the ATS!
CV templates: autoformat your CV
CV templates are preformatted documents designed to save you time because the formatting and design elements are ready. All you have to do is add your information!
We feature professionally designed CV templates, one of which is sure to fit your style. Find a template that fits your personalized style and is eye-pleasing. It will help you land the role!
Click to edit and personalize these or any of the 25+ CV template options in our Builder!
Here are some of our top CV template styles:
The straightforward design of these traditional CV templates is perfect for roles in classic professionals like academia, medicine, science or law.
The best CV format for you:
skills-based versus chronological
There are two main CV formats: chronological format CV or skills-based (functional).
The most common CV format is the chronological CV. That’s where work experience lives higher up on your CV so that it gets the most focus and attention. It’s better for seasoned job seekers who have 10+ years of experience.
For those with little experience, a functional format is better! This type of format emphasizes your skills rather than your work experience.
Here’s a chart that breaks it down:
Now, when it comes to the file format of a CV –– to send it to employers –– your best bet is a PDF or Word document.
Those are the most popular file formats for CVs! Be sure to read the job post or ad and submit your CV in the file format requested by the employer.
CV format tips
For an easy recap, here’s how to get the perfect CV format:
- Make your CV easy to read using a professional font, proper margins and clear headings.
- Consider using a CV template if you want a preformatted document.
- Match the style of your CV to the culture of the organization you’re applying to.
- Find 25+ preformatted CV templates in our CV Builder!
CV format FAQ
How do I make a CV format in your CV Builder?
Our builder can help you with all your CV formatting needs by giving you tons of customization options and tools!
Follow these steps to format a CV in our builder:
- Click on the “Create My CV” buttons. On the appearing page, select “Create a New Resume” to begin. Follow the prompts. The builder will guide you through creating the summary, adding your work history, skills and education.
- To add extra sections: After writing your resume summary, you can click the box next to the section(s) you want to add to your CV, or click “Add Your Own” to manually type a section not on the menu.
- To reorder sections: When you finish, you’ll see your CV. Go over any section with the mouse to select it, an arrow icon will pop up on your right. Click it to reorder sections by moving the selected area elsewhere on your CV.
- To change the names of any of your CV sections: Hover over the section title “Summary,” “Education,” etc., until the “Rename” button appears. Then put your new title in the space provided and click “Enter.”
- To change your CV’s formatting: Use the menu at the bottom of the page. Click the arrow next to “Normal,” press the “Custom” button. A new menu will appear, where you can adjust the margins, font size, font style, and spacing. To change the color, a menu with different options will appear when you click the “Color” tab.
- To finalize your CV: Click “Spell Check” at the top left to ensure there are no grammatical errors.
- To save in any CV file format: Once satisfied with your CV, click “Download” and save the document as a PDF, Word Doc or SVG file. If you don’t want to download it yet, press “Save and Next” so your work isn’t lost.
Is a CV right for me?
CVs are most commonly used in the following job titles and industries:
- Professors and other academics
- Scientists and researchers
- Medical professionals
- Specific jobs in entertainment, travel, library sciences, engineering, military, architecture, publishing and government work
The CV is popular in these fields because hiring managers seek a lengthy education, relevant outside skills, or a helpful background. Adhering to a consistent format that fits your industry becomes essential because you display your information on several pages and want something that fits the role and is easy to follow.
How long should my CV be?
A standard CV can be anywhere from 2-to-10 pages depending on your industry, supplementary information, and what the employer or job posting has cited for you to provide.
The most important thing for your CV is to showcase your full career profile and background through relevant experiences in and out of the workplace.
Should graphics be used in a CV?
Depending on your industry, graphics and photos may be required to be on your CV, especially if you are in the arts, an actor, or a model.
In some European countries, the UK and the U.S., a ‘no-frills’ CV is preferred, so photos should not be included unless specifically requested.
Other countries like Germany, South Africa and Asia may require not only pictures but personal information such as your date of birth and personal ID, so it’s essential to make sure you meet the requirements set in the job posting.
What countries widely use CVs?
CVs are applicable for a variety of jobs in most countries. The top countries where CVs are the main form of job application are: the UK, New Zealand, Germany, France, India, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Chile and the Netherlands.