Everything You Need To Know About an Effective CV Format

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 November 2022 | Published 17 August 2021

Updated 22 November 2022

Published 17 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for a job, most recruiters expect you to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) as a basic requirement. The professional document gives employers an effective mental picture of the skills and experience that you could bring to the role. Thus, understanding the proper CV format can help you enhance your CV to make a memorable first impression. In this article, we cover what the best CV format is, explain how to write one and share a few CV examples for your reference.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Writing Your CV

What is the best CV format?

Usually, the best CV format presents your skills and experience in a clear and concise format. Since recruiters receive dozens of CVs each day, it's important to employ the most legible format so that you can maximise your chances of being shortlisted for an interview. Paying attention to the format of your CV shows your genuine interest in the role. It can help you establish yourself as a top talent. Here's a list of sections you need to include in your CV to achieve the best format requirements:

  • Contact information

  • Personal statement

  • Work history

  • Academic history

  • Key skills and qualifications

  • Awards and recognitions

  • Publications

  • List of references

  • Hobbies and interests

Related: How To Write A CV (With Template and Example)

How to format a CV

Considering the font style and size of the content on your CV may seem like minor decisions in the CV writing process, however, they are tools you can use to boost its readability. Job candidates that put in this effort not only enhance the appearance of the information on their CV but also stand out among equally qualified candidates. Review the following guidelines to understand how to format your CV properly:

1. Set one-inch margins

Before you add content to your CV, set up your document properly so that you don't need to make too many adjustments later. Browse through the page settings options on your word processing document to find more customisable tools to format your page. In your margins settings, set one-inch margins for each side. This standard margin size looks more visually appealing. It can help recruiters focus on the content of your CV, rather than the way it's formatted.

2. Use single line spacing

As a job candidate, your goal is to make your CV as detailed as possible. However, it's important to avoid cramming words onto your CV. Setting up your document with single line spacing ensures your content is more readable. This technique ensures your recruiter doesn't feel exhausted when reading about your professional background. Considering the reading habits of your recruiter can help you secure their attention so that they read your CV in its entirety.

3. Pick a legible font and text size

Often, recruiters form their first impression about your candidacy based on the appearance of your CV. This can influence their motivations to read your CV and their judgement about your character. Thus, it's essential to select a professional font for your headers and main body. Some examples of legible fonts include Calibri, Helvetica or Georgia. Try to avoid generic fonts, such as Arial and Times New Roman, as they can appear uninspiring. Use a standard black colour font in size 10- to 12-point to ensure your words are legible.

The format of your CV may change depending on your profession and industry. If you're a creative professional, experiment with different fonts, colours and layouts to show employers your talent. However, make sure to keep your format simple and readable so that it doesn't distract recruiters from the purpose of your CV.

4. Create a professional header

Create a header with your name and contact details at the top of your CV. This way, the document will automatically include your key information on every new page. This is a great navigational tool for recruiters. It allows them to find your contact details easily so that they can reach out to you with their questions or invite you for an interview.

5. Divide your CV into obvious sections

Plan the structure of your CV in advance so that you can use the space in your document efficiently. Make sure your content flows logically. Think of a CV as a story of your professional life that begins with a concise summary of your ambitions and develops into your experiences so far. Review examples of other CVs to gain a deeper understanding of an appropriate structure for yours.

6. Use your chosen format consistently

Consistency ensures your CV appears neat. Thus, remember to use the same font and text size for your headers and main body text. Use formatting tools, such as colour, spacing and other stylistic elements, similarly throughout your CV. This way, the recruiter can stay focused on the content of your CV.

7. Save your CV in the requested format

Review your job description for any specific requirements on the format of your CV. If you find no specific requests, save your CV in either a PDF format or as a word processing document. These standard file formats are available on every computer operating system. It ensures that the recruiter can open your attachment with no errors to the document's structure.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out

CV examples

Here are some examples of CVs that adhere to professional formatting conventions for your reference:

Simple format for a CV

The following is an example of a CV with a simple format:

Angus Lai

Hong Kong I 9999 6666 | a.lai@email.com

Masters of Communication, 2018
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The Chinese University of Hong Kong Center for Computational Chemistry
Research Assistant, 2018–2021

  • Conducted physical and chemical laboratory tests to assist research scientists in qualitative and quantitative analyses.

  • Operated experimental pilots and assisted in developing new chemical engineering processes.

  • Maintained all laboratory equipment to ensure a clean and safe work environment for students and faculty.

Key Skills Project management
Curriculum planning
Fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English

Awards and Honours Wolf Foundation
Wolf Prize in Medicine, 2018
Awarded to up to three individuals globally, each year, for achievements in medical science.

Publications and Presentations Understanding Auditory Sensitivity Issues in Children with Autism
2016, World Autism Organisation Conference

Professional Associations Asia-Pacific Society of Journalists and Authors, Hong Kong (2018–Present)

Grants and Scholarships The Chinese University of Hong Kong Grant for Equity and Cultural Diversity, 2016
Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Licenses and Certifications Certificate in Sociological Practice, 2015
Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology

Academic format for a CV

An academic CV is a good option for young graduates with little work experience or professionals who work in the field of education. The following is an example of a CV that's format highlights your academic achievements:

Regina Lo

Hong Kong I 2345 2345 | regina.lo@email.com

Bachelors of Social Science, 2021
Major in Sociology
Minor in Criminology
City University of Hong Kong

Volunteer Experience
Young Adults Support Group
Program Coordinator, 2018–2021

  • Designed and implement short courses to educate students on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse

  • Led support groups to counsel students from grassroots families and help them develop future career goals

  • Created and published content on company social media channels to engage with students and to build a supportive online community

Key Skills Research and analytical skills
Curriculum planning
Public speaking skills
Data-entry skills
Fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English

Awards and Honours City University of Hong Kong
Dean's List, 2020
Awarded to up to 10 university students each year for excellence in studies, exam performance and extra curricular activities.

Publications and Presentations An Investigation into Childhood Trauma and Criminal Behaviour
2021, World Sociology Journal

Professional Associations Future Leaders Association, Hong Kong (2019 - 2020)

Grants and Scholarships City University of Hong Kong Grant for Excellence in Learning, 2016

Licenses and Certifications Certificate in Research Skills, 2019
Diploma in Counselling Basics, 2018

Skills format for a CV

The following is an example of a CV with a format that highlights your key soft skills and technical skills:

Michael Tiu

Hong Kong I 6543 6543 | michael.tiu@email.com

Bachelors of Business Administration, 2016
The University of Hong Kong


Administrative support

  • Performed administrative and secretarial support for the Vice President of a large logistics company. Coordinated and managed multiple projects.

  • Provided discreet secretarial and reception services for a bust family counselling center. Scheduled appointments and maintained accurate, up-to-date confidential client files.

Customer service and reception

  • Registered patients in hospital emergency room. Demonstrated ability to maintain composure and work efficiently in a fast-paced environment.

  • Conducted patient interviews to elicit necessary information for registration and to assist medical professionals in their triage process.

Team management and supervision

  • Promoted rapidly from admin to accounting assistant administrator at an upscale logistics firm. Oversaw all operations including payroll, invoicing and tax declaration forms.

  • Taken part in staff recruitment, hiring, training and scheduling. Supervised junior receptionist staff.

Employment History

Accounting Assistant, Growth Logistics Company, Hong Kong
Patient Services Administrator, South Bay Clinic, Hong Kong
Receptionist, Eastern Hospital, Beijing, China

Awards and Honours
South Bay Clinic
Employee of the Year, 2019

Awarded for excellence in administrative support and employee relations management.

Grants and Scholarships The Hong Kong University Student Scholarship, 2015

Licenses and Certifications Certification in Customer Service in the Healthcare Industry, 2019

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