Four Resources to Spruce Up Your Resume or CV

Each week I meet with graduate students and recent PhDs to look over their CVs or resumes. In the space of about 30 minutes, we talk about their job search goals, visual design of their document(s), and ways to best highlight their talents, strengths, and skills.

Sometimes I see CVs and resumes that are visually striking, combining simple design features with a modern font to create an elegant, professional look. At other times, I see CVs and resumes that could use a boost; for example, the content may be arranged awkwardly, information may not align perfectly, or font choices are adequate but not eye-catching.

Although we may insist that the content of a CV or resume should outweigh its presentation, the truth is that visual design can determine whether a recruiter or a hiring manager will read through your qualifications or toss your document aside.

Here are four resources you can use to enhance your CV or resume’s design.

1. The Basics: Quick Tricks for Headers, Contact Info, and More

The Visual Communication Guy has five suggestions for dressing up your CV or resume and making information stand out. VCG’s tips are quick fixes you can do on any word processing platform (Google Docs, Word, Libre Office), such as making your name stand out at the top of the page, using complementary font styles, and breaking up information with lines, white space, and shapes. The article is from 2013, but the tips are still relevant!

2. Align Information for Maximum Readability

I often see CVs and resumes with graduation, employment, and award dates aligned with the left margin. Although aligning with the left maintains a clean design–unlike using the Tab key to shift text awkwardly to the right–putting all the dates on the left distracts from your degrees, work history, or accomplishments. My suspicion: most people do not know how to adjust their tabs so that information on one line can align with both margins. There are complicated ways to right-align dates on a resume, usually involving opening the Tabs settings and inputting adjustments, but the videos below show easy, fast ways to get the same result.

2a. For Microsoft Word Users

2b. For Google Docs and Open Office/Libre Office Users

3. Get Creative with Adobe InDesign

Frustrated or limited by word processing software? Hoping to enhance your CV or resume using some simple design skills? You can use Adobe InDesign to take your CV or resume design to a new level, and with or without graphic design experience! Click here for Adobe’s short, easy to follow tutorial.

4. Be Bold: Create with Adobe Photoshop

The days are numbered for the traditional, text-heavy resume (and the academic CV, but CV conventions can be stubborn). Some job seekers are combining resume and infographic formats to create new ways to display their qualifications and draw attention to key skills and accomplishments. This tutorial video can help you design your resume (or your CV!) using Adobe Photoshop. Get ready to put your design skills to work and break resume conventions!

There are many ways to format a resume or a CV, from simple tricks like adjusting your header, to design-heavy methods using Adobe Creative Cloud applications. Unsure where to start? Start simple: try a different font than Times New Roman or the default font for your word processing software (sorry, no Comic Sans). Swap one serif or sans-serif for another–what do you think of the outcome? Even a subtle adjustment can make information stand out on your CV or resume.

What tips or tricks do you have? Share in the comments!

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