Break the rules to get your CV noticed

“Look, that's why there's rules, understand? So that you think before you break 'em.”
― Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

Write a CV following all the conventions and you risk not standing out among your peers. A CV that fails to get enough of what makes you, you across to recruiters, HR departments and employers is a liability.

Understand the rules and then you’ll be able to intelligently bend or break them to get noticed.

The CV format
Don’t break any formating rules that will make it impractical for computers to extract information from a CV if you intend to submit it to a computer. Instead, enhance a CV without breaking the simple format that computers can handle.


  • Place icons against key information such as locations, phone numbers and dates
  • Use coloured text to emphasise company names and key sections
  • Add a chart or graphic to highlight an achievement, such as sales

Breaking the rules
If you intend to bypass computers and send a CV directly to an individual then more avenues are opened up. Rather than using a different approach for difference's sake, tie your chosen layout to show off your experience in a role or industry. 

Consider your target audience. People working in the creatives’ industries may be more open to a non-standard layouts and fresh takes. If you are targeting a single company you could layout a CV to mimic one of the company's advertising campaigns.

Choose this route and you're diverting a lot of energy to getting an interview at one company that could be used to tailor a standard CV to many companies. But this approach can get you noticed and get your CV noticed leading to an interview. Don't neglect the content when going for a tailored layout - a fresh take get you attention but it's content still needs to pass muster to get that interview.

All CV tips