In part 1, I looked at some general ideas about writing CVs, and said that my approach is to ‘roll my own’ format based on the standard article class. Here, I want to look at the process in a bit more detail. Most of this is about using LaTeX, and so the ideas I use apply to many other cases.

I make use of quite a few packages to get the appearance as I want. Rather than list all of them at once, I’ll take about the effects I’m aiming for, and include the package names as I go.

Setting up the appearance

Starting from the article class, the first thing to address is the overall appearance of the CV. The standard Computers Modern font is well designed, but I guess says ‘LaTeX’ in a may that many people don’t want for a CV. With the availability of XeTeX and LuaTeX, using system fonts is easy (using fontspec, of course), and that’s particularly useful if like me you have some non-Latin characters that you’d like to include in the CV but keep visually ‘matching’ everything else. For me, LuaTeX turns out to be a better choice than XeTeX (I want fully-functional microtypography as it helps with typesetting chemical names), so my CV starts off with

% !TeX program = LuaLaTeX

% Font set up
\setmainfont[Ligatures = TeX,Numbers = OldStyle]{TeX Gyre Pagella}
\setsansfont[Ligatures = TeX]{TeX Gyre Adventor}
\setmonofont[Ligatures = TeX]{Inconsolata}

Here, as well as loading the fonts I like, I’ve set up to use lower case (old style) numbers as recommend by Bringhurst. I’ve also included a ‘magic’ comment to let my editor know to use LuaLaTeX. You might wonder about the draft option: I’ll come back to that later.

As I say, I want microtypography set up, so do


(Using the final option here will override the draft one set for the document class.)

That sets up the fonts, but what about page layout? Well, the standard here is to use the geometry package


I have pretty small margins, as for a CV this seems to make the most sense. I’m also not going to use a header or footer (so set \pagestyle{empty}), and so remove the space normally reserved for those.

Before looking at the content of the CV, I’ll mention hyperlinks as these come up throughout. My CV usually gets sent electronically, and I want to be able to include links for my e-mail address and publications. So I have


    hidelinks = true ,
    pdfauthor = Joseph Wright ,
    pdftitle = Curriculum Vitae

at the end of my package-loading section. The hyperref package deals with the links, while the set up makes them blend in to the text and adds my name to the PDF information.

Lead-off: the address block

A very common way to start a CV is with basic contact details: what I’m going to call an ‘address block’. I do this very simply


% Title block
  \textbf{Joseph Wright}    \\
  School of Chemistry       \\
  University of East Anglia \\
  Norwich NR4 7TJ           \\
  Tel.: 01603 592902        \\
  Mobile: 0797 414 8180     \\
    {\texttt{}} \\

This therefore sits at the top of the first page, and comes out (to my mind) in a very pleasing style.

Also as part of the lead-off, it’s normal to have your name (never ‘Curriculum Vitae’), which again I do in a very straightforward way

  Joseph Alexander Wright

Sections and subsections

A CV needs several sections, for example ‘Employment history’, ‘Skills’ and so on. The standard LaTeX \section is the best choice of logical mark up for these, but the appearance is going to be wrong without adjustment. Taking some inspiration from the CurVe class, and using the abilities of titlesec and xcolor, the output can be customised to give something much more pleasing for a CV. I use

% Create some nice looking section dividers without too much fuss
\titleformat\section{\Large\bfseries\sffamily}{}{0 em}
    % This is put in _before_ the text so that an overlap is possible
      \titleline{\leaders\hrule height 0.6 em\hfill\kern 0 pt\relax}%
    \vspace{-1.2 em}%

which inserts a grey bar across the page, and places the name of the section (with no number) partially overlapping the bar.

For subsections, I go for a much lower visual impact

\titleformat{\subsection}{\large\itshape}{}{0 em}{}

which is enough to make them stand out from the body text, but keeps things flowing.

The main body: lots of tables

The normal layout for the body of a CV is to use something based on a table, with ‘entries’ on the left and ‘information’ on the right. This can be done in lots of ways, but the approach I take is to set up a fixed column width in the preamble, then apply this to all of the CV. That requires a bit of set up

% Semi-automatically set up the table width
  \settowidth\sidewidth{\textbf{Professional bodies}\hspace{0.75 em}}%
  \setlength\mainwidth{\dimexpr\linewidth - \sidewidth\relax}%

Here, I’m setting two lengths to control the tables, with the only hard-coded part being the text I use to set the left-hand side width. I use the longest entry I’m going to use: in my case this is ‘Professional bodies’.

I then need the tables themselves. As they are all the same, it makes sense to set them up as a new kind of environment


(this uses the array package). I also \renewcommand*\arraystretch{1.4}, as this spreads the tables out a bit and I think makes things look less crowded.

The new environment is then used for each (sub)section, and contains the body of the CV, for example

\section{Employment history}

\subsection{Current position}

  2008-- &
    \headline{PDRA -- University of East Anglia} \par
    Supervisor Prof.~C.~J.~Pickett \par
    Studies on [Fe]- and [FeFe]-hydrogenase active sites mimics \par
    Synthesis of novel ligands and model compounds \par
    Mechanistic studies using stopped-flow UV and IR spectroscopies

\subsection{Previous positions}

  2007--2008 &
    \headline{Senior Demonstrator -- University of East Anglia} \par
    Teaching degree level chemistry:
    tutorials and laboratory classes \par
    Preparation of M.~Chem.~third year practical course in
    organic chemistry

  2005--2008 &
    \headline{PDRA -- University of East Anglia} \par
    Supervisor Prof.~M.~Bochmann \par
    Use of zirconium phosphonates as heterogeneous catalyst supports \par
    Synthesis of novel ligand systems for early transition metals

  2003--2004 &
    \headline{PDRA -- University of Southampton} \par
    Supervisor Dr A.\,A.~Danopoulos \par
    Synthesis of novel N-heterocyclic carbene complexes \par
    Catalytic testing on novel systems

You’ll notice the \headline macro here: it’s another formatting shortcut. It’s for making effectively subsubsections within my CV table, and is defined as

    \llap{\ding{72}\hspace*{0.2 em}}%

making use of the pifont package to provide a nice-looking star for each entry. You’ll see in the above example that I use it for things like marking up each job I’ve had in the table of employment history.

Other refinements

As I mentioned in part 1, one of the advantages of using LaTeX is that you can store information in your CV as comments. That might be as simple as commenting-out lines that you want to miss out for a particular job, but you might also want to deal with longer optional sections. The comment package is ideal for this, as it lets you mark up sections for inclusion or exclusion in a pretty rapid way.

I mentioned earlier that I set the draft option for my CV, then override it on a package-by-package basis. The reason is that this will always include bars for overfull boxes: useful as you want to check for these.

In the academic area, a list of publications is an important part of a CV (it’s probably the most important part, actually). I’ve got a few things to say about that area, but this post is already long enough, so it will wait for the next part!