How to write an inclusive CV

As we think of inclusivity in hiring these days the top thing that springs to mind is how companies ensure their hiring practices are inclusive, accounting for accessibility, etc. Which is a fair thought to have.

However, the opposite is equally valid. As candidates how do we ensure our application is accessible to others?

Lets take the CV / Resume (I am using those two interchangeably for this article). It's no use having the best CV in the world if it cannot be accessed by everyone.

With the premises of using Word to write it, here is a list of things you can do TODAY to make your resume more accessible:

1) Use "Styles" to clearly mark your headers and sub headers and other types of text. 

You can find Styles under "Home" as a section on the main ribbon. Why are styles even important? For people using Assistive Technology such as screen readers, it can help navigate from one section to another more easily if those are correctly marked with "header" style as opposed to reading the CV as one block of text. As an example, they could jump from "experience" section to "education" without the screen reader having to read everything in between for them to access that category.

I found it useful to break the CV sections as following:

- Main categories such as Contact details, experience, education, courses to be formatted as "Heading 1"

- Sub sections or categories such as standard title, name of employer and employment duration to be formatted as "Heading 2"

- Bullet points to be formatted as "Lists Paragraph". 

When you are using headings, it's recommended you don't go further than 3 levels down - so using no more than Heading 1,2 and 3. 

2) Don't use color, fonts, bold or italics as a way of conveying information alone.

Screen readers don't reflect those elements so if you use them, use them with aesthetic reasons alone and not as a way to conveying information. Color blindness is all too common as well, according to internet research "in men, the prevalence of color blindness is around 5.0% to 8.0%, while in women the prevalence is 0.5% to 1.0%."

When it comes to color, make sure that text and background have sufficient contrast ratio:

  • 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text (14pt or larger bolded and 18pt regular)
  • 7:1 for normal text and 4:5:1 for larger text (14pt or larger bolded and 18pt regular)

If you are unsure of your color contrast you can use free software such as the C.C.A (the abbreviation stands for Colour Contrast Analyzer) or the Accessibility checker in Word which will prompt if a contrast is not suitable.

3) Flag links accordingly and with a comprehensive explanation. 

Avoid statement such as "click here for more".  Screen readers can pull a list of links from a  document, descriptions of "click here" don't make sense when you remove the immediate context. Furthermore, all users benefit from the descriptive text. You might also want to include an explanation of the type of content the link will lead them to - is a PDF, a website or something else? 

Here is an example: instead of "For LinkedIn profile click here" while hyperlinking just the word "here" state something in the lines of "You can access the webpage with LinkedIn profile on ..." and hyperlink everything starting from the word "webpage". 

4) If you have photos, make sure they have Alt Text. 

There are not many instances of photos in your CV, however if you do have one or more, make sure you add Alt Text. In Word you can do so by right clicking on the photo itself, then selecting "Edit Alt Text...". Make sure your description is comprehensive enough to convey meaning. You also have the option "Mark as decorative" if it's not meant to transmit information and is just a decorative ad-on. 

5) Sans-serif fonts are usually recommended as easier to read. 

6) You can use the built-in Accessibility Checker in Word.

It will flag most common issues such as insufficient contrast, missing Alt text, etc. However do not rely on it alone, as it won't prompt document logic or not using Styles to help with navigation.

7) Use document properties in order to store relevant data regarding your file. 

These are found under File - Info - Properties - Advanced Properties. As a minimum add Title, Author and Keywords. 

For the title the best practice is to use "CV + your name and surname". Don't use general titles such as "CV best version". Regardless of using Assistive technology or not, a generic name would make it hard for any recruiter or hiring manager to potentially find your CV. 

The author field should be auto populated with your name, ensure it is correct. 

Add keywords such as "CV", "resume" and others in order to make your CV searchable when people use the file search option.

I recently learnt it's easier to built with accessibility in mind than course correct, so once you have a great CV you're set to go and can always update as you gain other experiences.

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