Recruiters see a lot of CVs with bad design but interestingly some of these come from people trying to show off their design skills. CVs are a very specific type of document and rules do still apply. Here are some to consider when flexing those creative muscles:
Communication is Priority #1
All design starts with communication and your CV is absolutely no exception. While you may be tempted to show off your artistic flare, keep in mind that this is not a portfolio. At their first glance, most recruiters are just looking for your name, your current and previous role (but only job title, company and duration) and your education. CVs can get rejected just from this cursory glance of a few seconds – how easy is it to find this information on your CV?
Once you’ve ticked the first few boxes, the recruiter will next spend maybe 30 seconds understanding your employment history: how long you were in roles, any gaps in employment etc. and check that you’re suitable for the location. How easy is your history to understand? Is your design helping or hindering?
Know your Audience
Is your CV going to be read by other creative professionals or will it go through an HR department? Is your design ability actually going to impress anyone or will it just get in the way? If you’re not sure, be conservative and keep things simple.
Recruiters look at a lot of CVs so don’t make them work harder to understand yours. If they’re used to finding information in a certain layout then this is not the time to fight convention.
Embrace the .doc
Many HR departments and recruitment agencies import CVs into a database. This normally works well with Word documents but is a nightmare with PDFs. Agencies also like to remove your contact details before sending to a client which normally involves having to convert PDFs to Word documents. Have you ever tried this? Give it a try on your CV and try to hold back the tears. Yes, InDesign gives you lots more control but can you make it look good in Word as well?
Show Off in Other Ways
All this doesn’t mean you can’t show what you’re capable of, just that you need to do it differently. Applying by email? Add a portfolio file as well (size dependent). You could even send a database-friendly Word version with your well-designed PDF. Applying online? Create a website with your work on and link to it in your CV or just link to a shared folder e.g. Dropbox. Just keep all these things in mind and make the best impression.