CV (Curriculum Vitae); Resume Design, Layout & Writing Guide in 2021

CV or Curriculum Vitae (resume) is one of the most important documents in the job application process. Many recruiters ask for it in addition to the covering letter.

Moreover, recruiters depend on the CV or resume quality to shortlist candidates for interviews.

In this article I am going to show you how to write a professional CV that stands out. A Curriculum Vitae that will help you get more calls for interviews. Isn’t that what you want?

cv, curriculum vitae, jobs in Malawi, resume

Firstly, have in mind that there is no perfect CV design or CV layout that fits all. Some information I have shared in this post is therefore generalized for simplicity.  

However, I encourage you to always tailor your cv to suit the job and organisation you are applying for.

Usually, in talking of a good cv, we talk of the three main things, namely; CV design, CV layout, and CV content. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of these terms before. Shortly, in the next paragraphs, I will give details for each of the three main components of a CV

What is a CV/Resume?

It is important we look at the definition of the Curriculum Vitae before we get any further.

Here is how experts define it

A CV is a summary of skills, knowledge and experience that a candidate writes to advertise themselves to recruiters

From the definition above, we notice that a Curriculum Vitae is an advertisement. It is a tool a candidate use to market themselves to recruiters. 

Always have it in mind, CV writing is the same as writing an advertisement. And the ultimate goal is to convince recruiters that you are the best person they should hire for the job.

As you would agree, it is highly competitive to have a cv that stands out among hundreds of applications recruiters get for any particular job advert.

Therefore, it is important for you to put in more effort in crafting a best selling CV each time you want to apply for a job.

I bet you, it is the quality that matters not the quantity.

What do I benefit writing hundreds of bad CV’s which all get rejected?

I swear,its exciting to write few crispy CV’s that keeps the phone ringing.

Lets now look into what is supposed to be on a good cv

CV Layout; A Quick Overview

  1. Name and contact details at the very top
  2. Head the CV with an introductory profile
  3. List your work experience in reverse chronological order
  4. Finish with your education and qualifications 
  5. Hobbies and interests are optional 

CV Header with your personal details

The head is the top most part of the page. Include a minimal amount of contact details and keep them tucked up into a small space at the top of your CV.

In the header recruiters want to see the most important information about you, your name and professional title.

Further to that put your contact details on the header. The contact details to include are your professional email address, phone number and location or city.

An email like [email protected] looks professional and nice. [email protected] looks nonprofessional and horrible.  

You can also include your social media link if its up to date and relevant to the job advertised.

Avoid putting any unnecessary details in the header section which may consume up more space.


John Smith: Web Developer

Email: [email protected] Cell:+265999xxxxx Lilongwe

Personal Statement or CV Summary

Just below your personal details, write your compelling personal statement in a paragraph or two in about five points.

The CV summary should be short and concise giving the overview of your experience, skills, competencies, and qualifications that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

Focus on your hard skills other than generic soft skills. Write using power words in four to eight sentences or bullet points

The summary answers questions like these;

Who are you?

What can you offer the company?

What are your career goals?

The goal of the profile is to give the human resource officer a positive first impression and encourage them to read your document further.  

Work Experience

Work experience helps recruiters to know your current abilities.

Write this section of the resume in reverse chronological order.

Start with the most recent and relevant experience.

Provide details with examples of the key responsibilities at the organisation you worked for.

Include the organisation name, because it matters too.

Also include the period you worked for at a particular institution. 

List more key responsibilities for the most recent job than order jobs.

Fresh college graduates can put experiences outside work such as volunteering, fellowship, church or community service experiences 

Month YearMonth Year

Company Name, Location

Role Title

Job Outline


Key responsibilities

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


List you qualifications in starting with the highest qualification. Education qualifications should come after work experience, unless if you are a fresh graduate.

Indicate the institution name, the year and qualification that you have.

Do not include the subjects that you studied for the program. Putting subjects covered at college will take up more space making your cv unnecessarily long.

Institution name – Dates attended (from – to)

Qualification/subject – Grade


Mzuzu University- 2009 to 2013

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry- Distinction

Core Skills

Under the core skills section only include hard skills like programming in java, proficient in graphic design using coral draw.

I implore you to leave out soft skills like hardworking, good communication skills, attention to detail as recruiters are uninterested in generic attributes. Soft skills do not matter much to the recruiters because everyone say them.

The core skills section should be split in two two three columns.Each column should have not more than five skills.

Take note to only list skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

Additional Sections

Under this section put optional details that you think can support your main CV content. This is an optional section.

I expect you to include this section only when additional details directly support the main document. Otherwise it is good to leave it out completely.

This is the section to put things like hobbies, Achievements, Conferences and Publications. Title the section appropriately according to the information you’ll put under it.  

We have looked at the main aspects to include on the cv layout.

So far so good,mmmh!

I now want us to consider other important aspects to consider when crafting a cv

CV Design 

The CV design is an equally important part of the CV writing process. Professional CV writers dedicate more time in coming up with a perfect CV designs because they know it counts. CV design cover things like font size, font type, color schemes, line spacing and CV length

CV length

Recruiters takes only six seconds to decide whether to continue reading a particular Cv or send it to the bin. This is where the issue of length comes in.

The less the pages the CV has the better it is for the recruiting personnel.

For easy read the Cv should be short, concise and straight to the point.

While there is no size fits all for a CV, a two paged CV is most preferred.

However, the CV should not exceed three pages.

I hope you understand, there are few exceptions to the rule, such as when writing a technical CV.

Fonts scheme

Use professional fonts, 1.15 line spacing, 1-inch margins and noticeable section headings. Font size should be between 10 t0 12 points for the body text

For headlines 14 to 16 points is ideal

Black and white text is easy to read. Stay away from fancy colours that may make your cv difficult to read.

Font type and size should be consistent

Common font types includes Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, Calibri, Verdana, Garamont, Cambria, Times New Roman and Georgia

Document Format

If sending the CV online like through email, save your document in formats that are common for most employers.

Many employers prefers PDF and Microsoft Word formats. Do not save your document as a picture.

After deciding the proper format, consider naming it appropriately.  

The file name should sound formal such as using your name or something that is clear enough.

Avoid fancy file names

Grammar Check

I always say to my friends, you are not finished with CV writing if you haven’t double checked on grammar. Proof – reading for spell mistakes, typos and grammar is a must.

A CV sent to recruiters must be free of grammar and typo errors at all cost. I mean it, every recruiter I have mate, hates reading a CV with poor grammar with tones of errors.

On the contrary, every recruiter tells one same thing; always spell check the document before sending for consideration.

Recruiters consider grammar and typo errors as an indication of lack of seriousness and lack of attention to detail.

When checking grammar I find Word processors and online grammar checking software useful.

Most importantly these grammar checking software helps me to write sentences with balanced active and passive voices. And write easy to read  short sentences.

Apart from online software, I encourage you to ask a friend to cross check your document. Make improvements where necessary.    

I also find reading the document loud to oneself a useful way to point out errors that needs correction; to improve grammar quality of the final document.

Things not to include on the CV

Lastly, we look at the don’ts. The things not to appear on the resume.

Certainly, sometimes the information we put on CV’s is trash to recruiters. See below things that should not feature when writing a CV because they do not influence recruiters decide whether to hire you or not.

  • Your date of birth
  • Sex
  • Full address
  • Marital status
  • Place of birth
  • Photos of yourself
  • Subjects covered at school
  • Religion
  • Salary history
  • Qualifications and achievements that do not go for the job
  • Unnecessary hobbies, interests, publications, achievements
  • Why you left the former job

CV Types

The three types of resumes are;


The most common type. Most preferred by employers.

Work history and education are arranged in chronological order, beginning with most recent. This blog has talked more of this type.

It demonstrates career progression, growth, maturity and stability.

And is best suitable when applying in the same industry or if you do not have a lot of achievements.

Typical structure:

  • Personal Details 
  • CV Summary
  • Employment History 
  • Education
  • Additional details

Functional or skill based

Focuses mostly on specific job skills, accomplishments, and qualifications  over chronology of work history. I deal for fresh graduates without experiences and people who frequently change jobs or those who want to switch careers.

Typical Structure

  • Personal Details
  • Personal profile
  • Skills or Competencies -starting with the most important


It is a mixed breed of the chronological and skill based CV.

Take home points

-Self market your skills and experiences to recruiters

-Present your skills and experience in the right way

-The less the pages the better it is. No longer than three pages.

-Understand the job description

-Research the organisation

-Tailor your cv to the current position

-Experience can be outside work

-Short powerful profile is necessary  

I would love to hear from your experiences on how to write the best CV for a job application. Share your thoughts on what are the most important aspects to include on the resume to make it stand out and noticed by employers.

Written by Chimwemwe Nuka

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