How Should I Format My Resume?

Updated on February 12, 2017

You might have an impressive professional background, skill-set or list of qualifications, but it could all be worthless if your resume lacks style or substance. If you’ve tried to beef it up with the wrong formatting methods, it will only serve to detract from showcasing your professional profile. Really, besides profiling your awesomeness, the first thing your resume needs to do is make someone want to read it.

Before an employer engages in reading the content contained in your resume, the first thing they will notice is the formatting, or more specifically, lack of it. Let’s look at some of the key formatting mistakes people make:

  • You’ve used large font to try and fill up the page/s and give the perception of having extensive experience, skills, etc.
    The only time it’s ok to use large font is if your resume is being provided to a senior citizen. The perfect sized font for printed documents is a size 10 to 12. If you’d like to make your headings more prominent, it’s ok to go up a few sizes, but don’t use it for the whole document. The other thing is: you might have used a large font size because you really don’t have enough to put in your resume. Don’t worry, there’s ways around that which I’ll discuss in next month’s column about Resume Content.
  • You’ve used fancy fonts (OR WORSE, COMIC SANS) to try to make it look snazzy.
    It’s ok to use a different font with your headings, in fact, it’s quite appealing to the eye to use two contrasting fonts throughout a document – but you need to make sure you’ve chosen one that looks clean and professional. What’s a professional font, you might ask…? Well, it’s any typeface that doesn’t look like handwriting, or something medieval, or something from a comic book.
  • Your resume looks more like an essay.
    As a guide, the ideal resume should be approximately 2 pages long. Ask yourself – what’s the point of giving someone a resume? The answer: to win an interview! While your resume should be fairly comprehensive, you want to leave the reader wanting MORE. A good writing technique is to capture your message in as few words as possible. Look at a sentence or phrase and think about which words you could probably do without. This method is also one used in a powerful poetry style called “Haiku”, which is essentially a very short poem that uses limited words to capture the desired message or emotion.
  • You haven’t made enough use of the page and you’ve got a lot of empty white areas.
    Your resume is prime retail space! One of the underlying principles of “Feng Shui” is to utilise a space to its greatest advantage – why not apply that same rule to your resume by making use of every available space to promote yourself? A good way to achieve this is to use tables. Not only will you be able to utilise more of your document, but the content will be laid-out nicely. A little trick we use in our documents is to structure the content using invisible tables or, if you want to have lines, use a soft grey as the colour – it’s not as visually harsh and frames your black text nicely.

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