How to make your CV stand out by giving it a makeover using free online tools

THE first impression you give an employer is from a CV so it's important to make yours stand out from the crowd.

Thousands of jobs have been axed following the coronavirus pandemic making the market very competitive – even more reason to go the extra mile on your application.

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While some industries have suffered, such as travel and hospitality, others have been busier than ever, like supermarket retailers.

For example, Tesco is hiring 16,000 new staff after its online orders have doubled since the start of lockdown.

Asda also looked to expand its team while Lidl previously advertised for 2,500 roles.

Figures published by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) show that as many as 50 people chase every job in Covid-19 stricken areas of the UK.

It's worth spending some time giving your CV a makeover to get your application noticed – it could be the difference between you getting the job or continuing the hunt.

Use free tools to create an eye catching design

You don't have to be an designer to achieve a good-looking CV (unless you're applying for a job as a designer) and there are a whole host of of free tools out there that will help you do this.

Websites like, Canva and have a range of different templates you can adapt to suit your own application.

"Hiring managers will likely be sifting through CVs even faster than usual, so initial appearances mean everything," said Menno Olsthoorn from

"How a CV appears is just as important as the information it provides.

"Keep your CV concise with a mix of formats and the important information obvious – this visual balance will mean the reader focuses on what matters the most: your credentials."

We've included two examples in this article of how a CV can look before and after you've given it a revamp using one of the online tools.

The first draft is bland, with a lot of white space, and could easily be overlooked in a pile of other applications.

The second version of the same CV is more noticeable and adds a pop of colour.

Laying out your work experience like a timeline is interesting to look out while the contact details are easy to pick out.

Your eyes are also drawn to the skill set too, which will help future employers see immediately what you are capable of achieving.

In both examples, the job seeker has added a photo of themselves, as well as their age.

It's not necessary to include these sorts of personal details when applying for a job, nor do you have to specify your nationality, marital status or political or religious beliefs.

Daniel Ball from creative recruitment firm Wiser said: "Ultimately, the purpose of a CV is to convey your skills and attributes – not your appearance.

"A high quality employer won’t hire based on looks, so why include a photo?"

Build an online portfolio

An online portfolio of work may give you the edge you need over others applying for the same job, even if you've only been asked to supply a cover letter and CV.

This will give you more opportunity to shout about your achievements and for potential employers to find out more about your skills.

These can be done for free too and one of the easiest ways is by signing up to LinkedIn – a social network for the jobs world.

Top 20 CV faux pas

THESE are the top 20 CV faux pas that you want to avoid when applying for a job:

  1. Telling lies
  2. Spelling errors
  3. Including a selfie as a picture
  4. Having a rude or inappropriate email address
  5. General typos
  6. Punctuation or grammar mistakes
  7. Using clichés such as 'always go the extra mile'
  8. Including a picture generally
  9. Never holding a single job for more than three months
  10. No contact details
  11. Getting a company's name wrong
  12. Suspiciously long gaps between jobs
  13. Going across more than two pages of A4
  14. CVs which aren't CVs, such as a website or blog instead of a printed CV
  15. Layouts which are hard to understand/read
  16. Having hobbies which don't constitute as hobbies such as 'hanging out with friends'
  17. Including social media profiles/handles/links
  18. Not having any references included
  19. Using big fonts or strange layouts to make the CV look longer than it is
  20. Including part-time jobs which are no longer relevant

Here, you can add extra details about your work history and achievements, and you can upload videos too.

Mr Olsthoorn added: "Regularly update [your profile] by showcasing the latest research as well as personal achievements – shouting about your success is a sure-fire way to grab someone’s attention, especially if it’s in refreshing ways like promo videos, collaborations and more."

Some tools, like will let you add hyperlinks on your CV that takes you to online content, such as LinkedIn.

In the second example CV above, some of the white space has been replaced with screen grabs of samples of their work.

You'll want to make it clear that they link out though or else the images will be too small to read.

What you should avoid

Other things you'll want to bear in mind when going the extra mile to make your CV look eye-catching is to keep the fonts professional.

Avoid using "fun" ones like comic sans because they're hard to read and don't give a serious impression.

Ifyou do opt to use a free template, make sure you mix it up a bit otherwise you risk making it look the same as everyone else's again.

Tools to help you write your CV

HERE are some tools and apps that can help you put together your CV:

  • Resume app: If you struggle formatting your CV, you can choose from 21 templates in the Resume app to help you. And once you've put it together, you can export it as a PDF directly to your email. Resume is free to download and use, but has additonal premimum options that you can pay for.
  • Grammarly: It's important to get your spelling and grammar accurate, so run your CV through a tool such as Grammarly to check for any errors. It's free to download straight to your desktop.
  • If you've got an exisiting LinkedIn account, takes the data and turns it into a timeline of your employment history and a breakdown of your skills. The free tool has six different themes so it's a good option to make your CV look visually appealing as well.
  • VisualCV: As well as making your CV look eye catching, VisualCV also makes sure it can be read by electronic systems that some recruiters use to filter CVs. It's also free to sign up for.

Mandy Watson from jobs site Ambitions Personnels adds: "Making a CV stand out can go too far the other way.

"Reconsider any overcomplicated fonts, design features or unnecessary elements on your document.

"Remember one or two sides of A4 equivalent is all that is needed, any more will likely not be read, imagine all the CVs that employer will be looking through."

Are you struggling to get to grips with starting your CV? We've put together an eight step guide on how to rewrite yours.

If you're in need of some inspiration, one recruitment expert has revealed the "world's best CV" and promises it will land you a six figure salary.

Previously, we've reported how bosses have admitted that they take just 34 seconds to reject applications based on their CV – here's what you should avoid on your applications.

Here are our tips on how to make up for a lack of work experience on your CV.

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