How to layout and format Resume and CV Content
Resume and Curriculum Vitae writing is an art, they say, to the point that many businesses do just that. Resume is your first introduction or impression to people with authority and a certain power over future events. And thus, it has to be good communication, and more than good, it has to be influential.
Part 1: Understanding Requirement
Purpose to present a Resume or a CV usually account for two general conditions, Academic or Professional. These may further be broken down but the base understanding differs in only these two formats. There are other uses, but they can be understood in either of the two ways or both with mixed requirements. It is advised to study the requirement carefully. Further points elaborate on prioritizing and planning the content scheme based on such requirements.
Academic refer to the institutional requirements of the communication and evaluation of say, college admissions, internal selections, and such. The content for these communications is meant to focus more on the learning and growth of a person than on the skills learned. Numerical achievements like scores, ranks, GPAs, etc top the priority list. Next, comes the course works, certifications, experience and co-curricular. The content is taken as a whole but emphasis is given according to priority.
Professional refers to the organizational requirements in work related communication and evaluation as in the case of a job application, or a freelance contract application, where individuals need to be evaluated. The content for these should focus more on the experience, skills, and essential professional-social values. Note that, any in-house joining or internal evaluation resume/CV should emphasize on experience and then, skills in priority. While a third-party or external work (contract acquisition) should emphasize skills, then, experience in the priority. Further content should be prioritized as certifications, achievements, course works, and co-curricular.
Other requirements can be planned on either or a mixed priority depending on the requirements of the communication. Keep the most relevant part of the content in the highest place followed by closest related content and so on. For example, a professional sports club admission resume should focus more on skills, sports related achievements, prizes and ranks, certifications, co-curricular (sports and activities other than applied for), and course work. Starting off as a professional one but very similar to academic, emphasizing the sport as the education. A good point would be to start with prioritizing skills, experience, learning, and achievements and the remaining content in this order.
Part 2: Understanding Content
The content of a resume/CV is pretty static but has a hidden dynamic with the way it is presented. The dynamics come out of the proper segregation and inter-linked representation in the document. The basic classification of the content and its value is required to create the overall aura in the documents.
Skills refer to the smaller proficiencies that can be used independently and can account for a scalable undertaking when used together. Skills are of two forms, professional skills, and general skills. The former represents the ability to perform and the latter becomes essential to perform in certain environments and conditions. Their importance differs on the requirements, i.e. working in the office to working from outside, making a group presentation to individual reports, etc. They emphasize on the proficiency and efficiency of performance.
Experience is the reflection of previous undertakings and learning, and in general, reflects on the proficiency and trust on skills. Any form of undertaking that brings out any skills and/or sharpens them can be counted in the experience, even if they are not directly professional. Like in the case of volunteering experience in organizing a marathon, giving experience in event management, people skills, team work and such. It represents the maturity, understanding, commitment, and much more.
Learning is the set of processes in which skills are picked, tested and approved, knowledge is acquired and credibility is gained. Course works and certifications usually account for the documented learning. However, the field itself is not confined to anything and can be used with every other content in some way or the other and is the primary inter-linking mechanism to connect the content. Any skills that are known but under-development can also be specified safely as learning. These represent traits like consistency, progressive attitude, and awareness and open mindedness.
Achievements amount to the accomplishment recognized performance, results, scores and such. They are very factual and discreet. They are a direct representation of performance and its outcomes. Depending on the achievement itself, they may represent persistence, hard work, patience and other such traits as well.
- Elaboration on Inter-Dependency
All the content categories are inter-dependent on each other which should be carefully used to bring the ‘right foot forward’ and make the best impression while clearly conveying the information and the message. On the basic level, Experience brings Learning; Learning generates Skills; Skills produce Achievements. Although it is much more complicated, this flow is one of the best to use. Another flow that can be used is Skills applied in Experience brought Learning and led to Achievement. Similar simple flows can be used to interlink content and emphasize the different aspects of the presentation. These are especially advantageous to represent in the CVs, where descriptive details can be given.
An example of professional CV content would be:
- XYZ Company, Content Writer, Full-time
- Worked on the content for marketing and branding campaigns along with Social Media Engagement. Learned and tested the possibilities of content distribution and linking throughout the internet, and in turn, developed Content Management Skills and Social Media Strategy.
- One of the best results was a live Twitter campaign where we engaged the audience around the world for a week and received 20,000 website visits.
It is a short description that covers experience based learning and skill development and further goes on to represent results. The last part, however, is not recommended to be added. Or can be added as, “Specialization in Twitter based live campaigns for directing high volumes of traffic to websites.”
Part 3: Understanding Layout
Basic accepted formats for a resume/CV are of two kinds, Chronological and Functional. Also, there is a third more versatile format which is a combination of both. Each has its own properties and advantages and should be selected accordingly. However, they should be taken as a base reference to build upon and keep content in check.
The chronological format is the one in which the content is filled in a timeline manner, from recent to older. It is generally preferred for a consistent history and focuses on the experience and professional background. Preferable for professional communications with the similar level of the prospectus as presently held. The format doesn’t highlight progress in general but a persistent nature.
A Functional format is the one focusing on skills or learning giving the experience a sideline as the means to it. It is preferred for academic communications, or for professional prospectus in which the evaluation is to be carried out for a not-directly-related line of work or for the prospectus of upper ranks than currently held. This format highlights versatile nature along with progress.
Combinatory formats are custom formats that are a hybrid of both Chronological and Functional and are used to highlight aspects of custom requirements. They are recommended for creative and unconventional prospectus, be it professional or academic in nature.
Part 4: Final Layout and Design
After considering all the above, it’s time to select a Format, Pick and Prioritize Content, and start laying it out on a template. (You can find some basic templates according to requirements in the source links.)
- Layout for Resume
Since a resume is a short and non-descriptive document, not exceeding two pages (one preferred), the content cannot be laid out as per previous examples. In a general resume layout in either format, headings and bullet points are used. Depending on the content plan, fill in all the details. You can refer to another Wiki How article in the source links for more details, however, the templates are self-explanatory. The resume itself cannot exceed two pages, thus, make use of every line to compile all related points together, if possible, or categorize accordingly. Do not make complicated sentences.
- Design for Resume
The design for a resume should be kept simple and easy to understand with no graphical elements except border and tables (optional). Use either of the general fonts, Time New Roman, Arial, Georgia, etc in the font sizes ranging from 10–14 (max).
However, to be graphically more descriptive, as a workaround, a table can be made based on the order of priority. The left column can be filled Experience, Roles, and Responsibilities, Skills Developed, Accomplishments, with the subsequent rows filled in chronological order of experience. The details themselves should be headings and neatly placed for a good clutter free design. Other details may be filled in according to the planned content in general layout as in templates.
An example for a filled column as per a given example will be:
- Content Writer, XYZ Company (Experience)
- Content aid for Marketing, Branding and Social Media (Roles and Responsibilities)
- Content Management, Social Media Strategy (Skills Developed)
- High Traffic Volumes via Twitter (Accomplishments)
Layout for CV
Curriculum Vitae is a much more versatile format than the resume and is more expressive. They are especially useful for highlighting the learning process and dedication put into previous works. Thus, the layout can be inspired by a resume template to begin with, with content filled in with more descriptive details. Add a field right after the heading namely “Abstract” or “Personal Profile” or “Introduction” with a short two sentence description of self and goals. Avoid general adjectives. Then, begin with laying out the planned content in properly headed and sub-headed form.
Keep sentences simple and minimal. The breakdown in two or more points/paragraphs to emphasize on the profile and undertakings and such points. Do not repeat content. If say, the skills are already described with work profiles, try to bring the remaining in the same field (in a different heading ‘Misc’ maybe) and skip the whole field. Describe only the points that you wish to emphasize upon. Give a minimal description for others.
Design for CV
- Design for a CV differs from a resume in a few ways, otherwise, the rest is the same.
- Borders should be avoided, and visible or invisible margins should be added.
- Line spacing and Para-spacing should be differentiable but not too much.
- Use font size 14 for Main Heading, 13 for Sub-Headings, and 12 for the Descriptions.
- References at the end of a CV add real value to it.
- Use creative formats and content schemes for unconventional and creative prospectus, but don’t make it complicated.
- It is not recommended to use Chronological Format if your work/educational history has considerable breaks.
Content Coutesy: Aman