The English application: Curriculum vitae

Format and layout

Employers look at your CV for only a few seconds; therefore, appearance is very important. Take the time to consider what information you would want on your CV. This would affect the choice of layout. It is crucial to impress the recipient with a simple, clear and concise presentation.

Bright colours are unsuited to a CV layout. Avoid overloading your CV with different colours, fonts, boxes, graphics and other such items that are available in modern text-editing programs. Of course, it would be another matter if you were applying for an artistic, creative or graphic job. A clear and concise presentation would still be important, but you could incorporate colours and graphic elements to a slightly greater extent.

Clearly differentiate each part of your CV. Create a logical structure by ensuring that your CV has a beginning, a middle and an end. Highlight headings by using a different font size or bold letters to differentiate them from the other text. Thin lines between the different blocks help the reader to quickly and easily note your most important skills and knowledge. You can also use different fonts for headings and for the text. Applicants frequently use Helvetica for the headings and Times New Roman for the other text. The most frequently used fonts are Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri.

In the US and in Canada, a different paper size is used: the so-called letter format, which differs in size from the common European A4 format. Therefore, it is recommended to set up the CV in this format, from the beginning. In the UK, the standard A4 size is used.

Font and size, quotation marks, capital letters

An appropriate font size facilitates reading your CV for the potential employer. Choose a font size between 10pt and 12pt. You can highlight your name by choosing a font size of 14pt or 16pt and capital letters. However, avoid frequent capitalization. Capital letters should be used only if you want the reader's eyes to be directed to important informative words.

Meaningful keywords for each activity can be listed as well. Well-placed quotation marks draw the reader's eye to important information.

Different software programs

You cannot predict which programme will be used to open your CV. Your layout might shift or even be destroyed if the recipient uses another program. Therefore, it is recommended to use common software and formatting options. Font colours or lines may look different on the reader’s device. If the reader uses a different programme to view your CV, it might destroy the entire layout and create a distorted impression of your application. Therefore, abstain from using symbols or graphics that are not supported by other programs. Converting your application into the PDF format will improve the chances that your reader sees everything free of distortion, just as you want it to be.

Final follow-up

At the end, check whether you have applied a consistent layout throughout the document. The layout of your CV and your cover letter should be the same. Use the same font for all headings. Avoid the temptation to switch back and forth between multiple fonts. Spaces between headings and text must be the same everywhere. If you use dividing lines, check whether they always have the same length, thickness and colour. The margins must also be the same on all pages. If you state the country after the city while naming past employers and your academic background, do so everywhere. Watch out for inconsistencies in terms of design and format.


The résumé is a shortened CV and is no longer than one A4/letter page. Only relevant experiences and meaningful keywords that are directly related to the advertised position are listed here.

On the other hand, the CV lists your past activities and is a maximum of two pages long. An exception is the academic CV, which may include five to seven pages, and sometimes — as in the case of some professors — even 20 pages.

Short and sweet

  • Simple and clear structure
  • CV is a maximum of two pages
  • Résumé fits on one page
  • Quotation marks only to highlight information
  • Consistent font and layout
  • Selection of an appropriate font size (10–12pt)
  • No bright colours or graphics

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Curriculum Vitae

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Cover Letter
(covering letter)

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Cover Letter   &
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