First impressions in the job world are important. The same rule applies to the look and feel of your resume! Employers can make a quick judgment about the type of candidate you are based on the resume that you email or hand them.
So let’s dive into resume formatting. Since resumes are read quickly, having a solid format is key in communicating your credentials to employers. If you're just getting started, be sure to glance over 50 Resume Writing Tips, too!
State your most recent experiences first and don't forget to add dates! Also, note that you should state your experiences before your education unless you are new to the workforce. This formatting style communicates the most important information first, making your resume easily readable.
2. Font & Style
Make the resume font and style match the industry you’re applying for. Going for a professional service job? Keep the font and style conservative. Applying for a design job? Showcase your creativity through the font and style of your resume.
Generally, stick to basic fonts like Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, or Calibri for readability and clarity. If you’re itching for a bit more style, fonts like Georgia, Bell MT, Goudy Old Style, Cambria, or Garamond may quench your thirst without sacrificing clarity. Simple is best, so stick to one distinct font and utilize the classic black and white style will benefit you most.
Not sure about which font to use? Check out our list of the 5 Best Resume Fonts.
3. Headers & Subheaders
Organize your experiences under headers such as Education, Work Experience, Professional Experience, etc. Tailor the headers to match the required skills for the job you are applying for. Make subheaders slightly smaller to distinguish between the two categories.
4. Contact Information
Make your name pop at the top of your resume in a bigger, bolder font than the rest of your text. This way the employer can easily identify you. You should also have your address and contact information at the top so the employer can contact you.
Pro tip: hyperlink to your email and social media profiles when emailing a resume so that they can be quickly viewed by hiring managers.
5. Jobs / Experience
In these section(s), include the name of the company, location, dates, and relevant accomplishments. While these pieces of information are important, try to keep the details to a minimum – remember, stay focused!
Much like the job experience section, schooling should be formatted chronologically with all dates, locations, and certification received. Add in any awards given that will highlight your qualifications for the job you are applying for.
Remember to list relevant skills for the job you are applying for. Don’t forget technical skills such as computer programs or languages.
8. No pronouns
Don’t use “I” or “me.” Instead, stick to action verbs. Why, you ask? It is already implied that this is your resume and ditching such pronouns offers a more professional tone.
9. Dense, but short, sections
Most people will tune out a resume that has no pertinent information within the first few lines of text. Keep each section of your resume substantive by breaking down information into short sections. By doing so, you will keep your reader interested!
10. Use bullet points to emphasize
Hiring managers generally spend 10-20 seconds reading a resume. You know what that means? You have a very short window of time to make a big impression. Bullet points will help you do that. They make it easy to scan information quickly and will lead the eye to key points.
Show your potential employer the most important information on your resume; don’t make them search for it!
11. Limit your bullet points
Keeping in mind the importance of packing a punch in a short amount of time, bullet points should be no more than two lines of text. One is even better!
Give the hiring manager enough information about you so that they want to call you in, but keep the suspense so that you have plenty to say when you meet face to face.
Spend time on aligning the various components of your resume (name and address, headers, experiences, dates). This makes your resume easier to read and demonstrates your attention to detail.
Also, align margins to ensure successful printing. You don’t want critical information to be cut off if they decide to print your emailed copy. A good rule of thumb is one-inch margins all around the page.
Use space between major sections of your resume. Crowded resumes can give an employer a headache. Aim for wide and calm margins. Also, manage blank space to highlight the words on your page and create distinct sections of information.
14. Bold vs. italics vs. underlined
Bold text to highlight what is most important, like headers and job titles. Italicize items that are less important than those in bold, like subheaders and company names. Underline sparingly, if at all. Many readers find underlined text difficult to read, so avoid it when you can.
15. Guide the reader’s eye
With the rise of the Internet, a new form of reading was born. People are more likely to read by skimming across the page now than they are to read from top to bottom. Use this to your advantage by highlighting important information and creating a balance across the page of each section.
16. Consistent and parallel structure
Keep the structure of your bullet points consistent. Stick to using the past tense for all of your job experiences and if you use a period for one sentence, use it on all of them. This will make information easier to read, process, and remember. Use bold, italics, capital letters, and any other tools consistently throughout the entire resume.
17. Limit the length
Although this is continually debated, play it safe and stick to one page. Try to make your resume fit neatly on a single page without tiny font sizes or crowding.
Need help condensing your information? Use more efficient words to tighten up your sentences. Use numbers to quantify your accomplishments instead of long-winded qualitative descriptions.
If the type of font that you use on your resume is important, it shouldn’t be surprising that the type of paper you print it on is important too. If you are required to turn in a physical resume, find a printer that will produce high-quality results.
Use paper that is slightly heavier than printer paper, 24lb is great. Stick with white paper, but if you must, neutral paper tones such as off-white, ivory, or light gray will suffice. Be sure to use 8 ½ x 11 paper since it’s the standard size.
Back in the day, references were a must. Nowadays, they don’t belong on a resume. However, that does not mean you don’t need them. Create a separate sheet of references (using similar formatting tips like these) and bring it to an interview, just in case. Your ability to provide them with a copy will show your responsibility and preparation.
20. Spell check
Avoid typos at all costs, especially since computers can do it for you these days. Also, have someone else read through your resume before you send it off. A different reader can give a first impression of the overall format and let you know if something looks off.
21. Proofread a printed copy
One last tip! Print out a copy of your resume to test its readability. This will help eliminate font errors before it reaches the hands of your future employer.