Does a "Stand Out" CV mean that the person with the most impressively designed CV will win the job?

The point that I keep bringing my clients back to when responding to the question of using eye catching, fancy templates, is “put yourself in the position of the employer”.  You’re about to pay someone tens of thousands of dollars a year – do you hire them on the strength of an exceptionally colourful and striking looking CV format, or do you hire them because the content shows they can do the job?  It’s a no brainer – at the end of the day, overly fancy designs have very little impact on gaining interviews beyond someone perhaps thinking “wow, that’s a nice design”.  

You’ll be hired because you have demonstrated to a hiring manager that you have the skills, knowledge, experience and attitude that make you a good financial investment for the employer on an ongoing basis – you’re a proven performer, and words demonstrate this, not colours.

There are some CV services that design CVs with bright colours, custom typesetting, and fancy design elements. They’re beautiful — and they’re often a turn-off to employers.  I have personally sat in the room with a top level QC Barrister while he was looking at CVs while in the process of hiring a new Executive Assistant – he threw all the CVs with overly fancy layouts into the bin without even reading them with an exclamation of disgust!

Here’s the impression that an employer can get when they see some of these over the top “designer” CVs:  Does this person think that their skills and achievements won’t speak for themselves? Do they not understand what our business is looking for? Do they put an inappropriate emphasis on appearance over substance?

In my professional experience, job-seekers are told that they need to “stand out” in the crowd (and our website advertises this also).  But focusing on the “looks” rather than the “quality of content” is not the way to do it.  The way to stand out is by being a highly qualified candidate with a CV that shows a track record of achievement, the desired skills, a great cover letter, and having a great attitude and work ethic, along with a passion for what they do and a drive to succeed.

I read an article recently by a recruiter that stated: “Standing out” isn’t about sending in an aesthetically gorgeous document — although the companies making money from that idea would like you to believe it is. “Standing out” is about the strength of your candidacy, which is something you can’t buy or fake or promote through even the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful font choice.

Some hiring managers may respond to the use of “in your face” templates, but we have discovered that they’re in the minority.  The most effective CVs in our many years of experience are the ones that are well set out with the information employers are looking for readily available, free from grammatical and spelling errors, and rich in content.  Understated, classy formats and strong words will get you into your new job quicker in the long run.