CV template layout tricks

Whether you’re using a free CV template or trying to design one for yourself, these free CV template layout tricks will help you get a professional result.

Which version of MS Word do you have?

Before you start, make sure you’re using a relatively up to date version of Word. You can find out which version you are running by going to File > Help. These examples were created using Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010. Click here to view the best offers on this and more recent versions.

An example CV template

We’re going to use our free MS Word Contact icons CV template as an example for some of these tricks, which you can download without registering. Here’s what the template looks like when you download it:
Contact icons Word CV template

What we’ll cover

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Editing CV templates that use tables
  • Replacing pictures
  • Adding drop caps
  • Showcasing information using text boxes
  • Smart Art
  • Using charts
  • Arranging elements

First things first…

The first thing you’ll see when you download this or any of our CV templates (or any other Word file from the internet, for that matter) is a slightly scary-looking warning telling you the file has been opened in protected view.

MS Word Protected View

Although we take care to ensure the files we create and store on our server are free from viruses and malware, you should always ensure you have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your PC, even if you are downloading files from a trusted source such as our site. Nowadays there is fantastic antivirus software available for next-to-nothing – click here to see some great deals.

Assuming you’re safe and secure, you can safely click ‘Enable Editing’ to begin working on the file.

Working with tables

A lot of free CV templates available to download on the web are built using tables because these help lay the information out beautifully on the page. However, you won’t be able to see the table as the borders will have been set to white, so it can be tricky to modify an existing template. Our Contact icons CV template uses tables – in fact, it uses a number of tables within tables. Here’s what it looks like with all the tables revealed:

CV template with tables revealed

When you’re working with a CV template that uses tables and you need to adjust the layout, it can really help to add in borders just while you’re adjusting things to your liking. To do this, right click on an area of the table, choose ‘Borders and shading’, and on the borders tab choose ‘All’. For the purpose of editing this CV template, we’ve kept the borders in to show you what’s happening.

Replacing the picture

In this CV template, you’ll either want to replace the picture with one of yourself, or you’ll want to get rid of it altogether. Both are simple to do.

To replace the picture with one of yourself, right click on the picture, choose ‘Change Picture’ and find your own photo. If you hover over the corners of the photo you inserted, you will see that you can drag them to adjust the size.

To get rid of the picture altogether without the template looking odd, click on the picture and hit enter to delete it. You’ll see that the contact information underneath automatically moves up to an acceptable position. Optionally, you could:

1. Highlight the rows that are now above the contact information:

Highlighted rows in CV template

2. From the table layout tab, choose ‘Merge cells‘:

Merge cells in a CV template

3. Highlight the name and title with your cursor and drag it into your newly merged cell:

Moving the name in a CV template

Adding drop caps

If you’re working with a less complex CV template that doesn’t use tables (of which we have many!), adding a drop cap is a really neat way to make your CV stand out. These are large initial capital letters that just look a bit more swanky. To do this:

1. Place your cursor at the beginning of the paragraph of text.

2. In Microsoft’s INSERT menu, choose Drop Cap:

Drop caps in a CV template

3. Hover over the corner of the drop cap and resize it to suit – e.g.:

Drop cap in a CV template

Here’s an example using Times New Roman – this type of font works really well with drop caps:

Drop caps CV template

Showcasing information using text boxes

There’s a really easy way to showcase certain parts of your CV in a very neat way – text boxes. These are perfect for showcasing achievements that you really want to draw to the attention of someone who is flicking through a large pile of CVs.

In MS Word, put your cursor in the general area you’d like to create a featured section, and click the Text Box icon in the Insert menu. This brings up a menu with several pre-formatted text box options:

Inserting a text box into a CV template

Choose an option and you’ll see it appear in your document, probably in the wrong position. Hover over the edges and the cross-hair appears, allowing you to drag the text box where you want it. You can also adjust the font and size – for example:

Using a text box in a CV template

Hover over the edges so that the cross-hair appears and right click, then choose wrap text. This allows you to decide how the box should fit into your CV layout. You might choose to have text flow around the box, or you may instead choose to have it above and below.

Smart Art

There are an endless amount of design elements that you can add to your CV template using a little known aspect of Microsoft Word – Smart Art. You’ll find this under the ‘Insert’ menu:

Inserting smart art into a CV template

Using Smart Art in your MS Word CV template is really quite self explanatory. You simply choose the type of list or diagram you want, then fill in the text boxes. Afterwards you’ll be able to click on each text element to match the font to your CV. Here’s an example:

Using Smart Art in a CV template

Use graphical elements sparingly – whilst you do want to draw attention to certain key facts and make your CV stand out, too many graphical elements can make it look like a school project.

Using charts

Another really useful element you can include – especially if you’re trying to show some sort of progression such as sales growth – is a chart. You can find ‘Chart’ on the Insert menu:

Insert chart on a CV template

For our example, we’ve chosen a line graph. When you click OK, MS Word opens up MS Excel side by side and you can edit the values. In our example, we’ve deleted two of the columns so that the graph produced is a single line:

Line graph in a CV template

Arranging elements

When you’re using the slightly more advanced features of Word such as those that we’ve included in this article, you might notice sometimes things just don’t go as you’d like them to. There’s an incredibly useful section under ‘Page Layout’ called ‘Arrange’ which can really help with this:

Arranging elements in a Word CV template

Click on the element that you’re having trouble with, then go to the Arrange menu under Page Layout. You’ll be able to see straight away which options are available for that element – for example, Wrap Text allows you to choose how the text close to that element behaves. As you hover over the available options, the page changes ‘Live’ so you can see how a particular option will look.

Now you know some great tricks for editing your CV template, it’s time to choose the perfect template! Click here to view our free CV templates collection.

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