Ch. 13: CV format - factors to consider

In this chapter you will learn:

• how to choose between digital and paper CVs

• about other non-standard CV formats and when to use them

Whenever you have a choice and the job advert doesn’t specify, send a paper CV.

Why paper?

Most studies show it takes people longer to read from a screen than from a printed sheet, so make it quick and easy. Paper can even encourage a recruiter to take your CV away from their desk and read it elsewhere, even at home. Your CV is likely to be paid more attention under these circumstances. Paper may cost a bit more than email, but it’s worth it to make life easier for the recruiter. Of course, a paper CV is not welcome if you are specifically asked to submit by email.

Advantages of a paper CV:

  • faster to read
  • layout and text cannot be altered
  • has a physical presence, is touchable
  • can be read anywhere
  • no compatibility issues
  • it can't be 'unopenable' (unless you decide to superglue the envelope) so it’s guaranteed to be right there in front of the recruiter’s eyes, whereas if someone has a problem opening your digital CV file, they might not bother asking you to send it again – especially if lots of other CVs do open first time.

Disadvantages of a paper CV:

  • more expensive
  • tempting to print bulk copies (instead of tailoring each one)
  • can get damaged
  • untraceable if lost: recruiter can’t go back and print another copy
  • post is slower than email – not ideal if you’re applying at the last minute.


Question: What kind of paper, print and envelope should I use for my printed CV?


  • Good quality paper: ideally 120gsm weight and slightly textured.
  • Very pale coloured paper: pale cream, pale blue or pale grey, with black text.
  • Print your covering letter on the same paper stock as your CV.
  • Unless requested, use paperclips instead of staples.
  • A4 envelope (remember to use a ‘large’ stamp) – brown or white irrelevant.


  • Good quality paper is less likely to be damaged.
  • Slightly textured paper feels nicer to hold in your hand.
  • Black text on plain pastel paper is easiest to read, especially for people with dyslexia. Black text on white paper can cause more glare and makes a CV harder to read.
  • Coloured text or brightly coloured paper is an absolute no-no. A4 envelopes are better than A5 or DL as you won’t need to fold your CV. If you do fold it, it can be harder to:
    • do automated scanning
    • photocopy
    • stack in a pile of other CVs
    • file.
  • This also applies to staples, which are awkward to remove for scanning, copying or filing.

When sending a paper CV ensure pages are clearly numbered and also named; then, if the sheets do get separated, it’s easy to see which ones belong together...

The extract above has been taken from 'Get That Job With the Right CV'
Copyright © 2010 Julie Gray

Get That Job With the Right CV

From Julie Gray, Senior Consultant at The CV Centre®, Get that Job with the Right CV will help to teach you how to write the best possible CV to land that perfect job.

It covers everything from layout and format, through to perfecting a jargon-free writing style, avoiding common pitfalls and tailoring your CV to different jobs.  Julie’s in-depth professional advice and friendly style will guide you through every step of the CV writing process with humour and practicality and give you real confidence to effectively showcase your skills to employers.

As a professional CV writer at The CV Centre®, Julie sees every single day which CVs really achieve results.  This puts her in an excellent position to help you to create a truly exceptional CV of your own.