You’ve done the research. You’ve found a couple of irresistible roles. Now your CV needs to reflect the type of company you’re targeting.
You’ve probably heard mixed advice about CV design. Stand out, but fit in the box. How can you do both? How do you decide which design suits the employer? How do you reflect both the company and your personality?
There’s a sweet spot between standing out and fitting in. We recommend choosing a design that conforms to industry expectations and lets your work experience and written voice set you apart. If you’re using VisualCV, you already know how easy it is to change templates to cater to specific roles.
Here’s the low-down on choosing the right CV design for your industry:
Understanding the needs of the company and role is an important aspect of good CV design. Take the following steps to make sure yours reigns supreme:
Put on your researcher’s hat and review the content your target company shares online. Check out their website, especially the careers section. Review their Glassdoor, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn profiles one more time for insight into the company culture.
Your CV is your ticket to your next dream job, and you’re competing with people who want it just as much as you. Browse through some professional templates. Are you in Marketing or Customer Service? IT or HR? There’s a layout for every field.
You’ve chosen your design, filled in your details, and you’re ready to roll. When you apply, make sure you’ve saved your CV as a PDF (or the employer’s preferred format) and contains relevant keywords. Learn a few tricks about beating the ATS to make sure your CV doesn’t accidentally get filtered out.
If you’re applying for marketing or agency jobs, don’t be afraid to show your creative side. Use color, carefully-placed visuals, and content that supports the position’s required skills. Many creative roles—especially in marketing—involve working with people, so it’s important for your personality to shine through (even in a PDF). An old-school CV might work in other industries, but send one as a PR pro or app designer and you risk being overlooked. Here’s an example of how one marketing professional highlighted her story on her CV.
Even traditional companies are starting to have a little more fun, so research the culture before you update your CV. Here’s another awesome example of a marketing CV from Christopher that sells one candidate’s brand and story to a potential employer. It looks professional, but its friendly design and bright accent color makes it clear that it was created by modern technology instead of Microsoft Word.
Whether you’re a programmer or an IT expert, your CV design should mirror the expectations of your industry. You shouldn’t opt for something too flashy unless it aligns with both the company and your personality. While your CV should generally reflect the tech field as mature and logical, it should also cater to your sector (like retail or SaaS).
Going the extra mile doesn’t work for every company or every applicant, of course. Most prefer simplicity over excess. Opt for a classic and simple design with a pop of color, like our Avant CV template. Over 85,000 VisualCV users—like IT project manager Jezza—rely on this template to get their foot in the door.
Sometimes we forget that recruiters, talent acquisition specialists, and HR people can be job-hunters themselves. If you’re in the business of finding talent or helping others find work, your CV should be phenomenal. You know what to look for when you’re reviewing thousands of resumes in an ATS and when you’re sorting through online applications. Show your next employer that you practice what you preach.
Most recruitment positions are in corporate roles, so the look and feel is likely going to be on the standard side. This template is a perfect example: it’s simple, easy to read, and avoids distraction. Be flexible and willing to adapt your CV so it reflects not only the HR role, but the specific industry as well.
Check out this case study on Cecily, a manager of convention staffing in Florida, who needed to adapt her CV to fit different types of roles. Because of her diverse background, Cecily now uses a clean, corporate template and has multiple versions to pull from depending on the situation.
As the 21st century workplace evolves, so does the workforce. More people are choosing the freelance and consultant life, and more companies are hiring for part-time remote or contract positions. Freelancers might be sending in a CV to multiple roles in multiple industries simultaneously.
So how do you convince a hiring manager or recruiter that you’re the best fit for the job? Make sure your CV shows off your personality and relevant experience. Doing your research is especially important for remote work, since the employer may already be skeptical about hiring a contractor who doesn’t come into the office. Show that you want the job because you like what the company stands for, not because you want to work in PJs.
Consultants should apply the same basic principles as other job-seekers and make sure their story is reflected in their CV. Maybe throw in a testimonial from your last contract role. Take a look at Steve’s choice—he used the Air template for its modern feel and its ability to highlight his skills in an easy to read fashion.
Some modern resume designs (like Onyx and Brooklyn) feature header blocks and professional headshots. When should you use banner design elements and photos, and when should you leave these behind?
Outside of North America, Australia and the UK, employers expect a photo with your CV (read here what to include in a CV). Otherwise, you should only include your photo if you’re applying for a real estate, entertainment, sales, PR, or other public-facing role. Employers in these industries are less likely to consider it a detriment. Plus, it’ll make it easier for hiring managers to remember you (and match your face to your CV) after your interview. Your photo should make you look trustworthy, friendly, and professional. But it’s absolutely not necessary to include one.
Related: UK CV Format, Examples and Requirements
In North America, employers in most industries—especially traditional ones—may not respond well to a photo on your CV as they don’t want to subconsciously discriminate based on an applicant’s appearance. Including a photo may be seen as a distraction from your experience. Unless you’re applying to be a TV journalist or a model, your appearance doesn’t matter as long as you’re a stellar employee.
We don’t recommend using a banner image unless it benefits your design. For example, you’re wasting valuable space if you include a photo of trees but aren’t applying for work in Forestry. However, a clean block can look sharp in contrast with a simple text CV padded with lots of white space. It also highlights your contact information, making it easier to look for when the employer wants to get in touch or follow up.
In the end, choose a design that works for you. Rather than push the envelope, make sure you have a simple and easy-to-read CV that can work for most industries.
Industry aside, most CVs have a similar look and feel and you won’t be disqualified if you decide to go with the tried, tested and true. The standard CV format (explained here) meets most employers’ expectations--it’s up to you to exceed them. Show off your experience and your professional growth over the last few years. The only time you should consider something extraordinary or unusual is if you’re applying for a position in the creative industry or with a company who’s proven to respond positively to wild or unique applications.
If you aren’t getting the responses you hoped for, you might have to go back to the drawing board. VisualCV makes it easy to change up your design and try different layouts. And if you’re stuck, get inspired by some of these success stories.
Co-Founder & Director
James is an entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.
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