Resume Design: Setting Up Resume Formatting

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The resume design you use encompasses resume formatting, and both are important in making a good impression. Most resumes are scanned for less than 30 seconds, so making a visual impression on a resume reviewer can help you stand out from other applicants. A variety of factors come into play in creating the look of your resume, including:

  • Paper type
  • Margins
  • Font
  • Bold, italics and underlining
  • Bullet points
  • White space
  • Visual check
  • Spelling and grammar

What paper to use

The quality of paper you use is as important as your resume design and formatting. Choose a high-quality paper stock, preferably a cotton/linen blend or parchment blend. Some experts recommend using white or off-white paper, but using a subtle-colored paper stock is acceptable as well. However, avoid overly bright colors. Quality paper can be the first step in getting your resume noticed, so choose wisely.

Margins for resume formatting

For most resume designs and resume formatting, one-inch margins are common. You can use a margin larger than one-inch if it suits the overall look of your resume, but keep in mind that it may restrict the amount of information you can include. When it comes to making smaller margins, never, under any circumstances, expand the margins beyond a half inch to cram additional information into your resume design; it clutters the page and makes it more difficult to read. Instead, consider using a two-page resume.

Fonts for resume formatting

The fonts you use in your resume design are important. There is not a specific font resume formatting requires, but you should select easy-to-read fonts. Times Roman Numeral, Arial or Calibri are all solid choices.

One font is sufficient for your entire resume design, but if you feel it necessary, use up to two fonts total. If you use two font types, make sure they complement each other, and use one for headings and the other for details under the headings. In addition, make sure the font is large enough to allow reviewers to read your resume easily, but not so large that it is unnatural.

Use a larger font for your name at the top; between 18-pt font and 24-pt font usually works well. This makes your resume stand out from other applicants.

Bold, italics and underlining in resume formatting

While using some bold and italicized text in your resume design is acceptable, use it sparingly. For example, you could use bold text for the title of previous jobs, or italicize section headings. However, use both minimally.

Unlike bold and italics, underlining should not appear in your resume format. Underlining can make text difficult to read, so avoid it altogether.

Bullet points in resume formatting

Incorporating bullet points into your resume design is a great way to draw attention to key points, so using them in your resume formatting is a great idea. Bullet points allow resume reviewers to scan your resume quickly while hitting all the important aspects of it. For example, using bullet points in your accomplishments and skills section works well to highlight those areas of your resume.

White space in the resume design

Margins, font choices, text formatting and bullet points all play an important role in the overall look of your resume design; the placement of each creates white space that makes your resume easier to read. Use white space liberally throughout your resume. For example, create blank spaces between different resume sections to ensure the distinctiveness of each section gets noticed.

Visual check of your resume design

Once you have your resume formatting set up, perform a visual check for the overall look. Make sure the design of your resume is visually appealing. A quick way to check this is to turn your resume upside down, and look at it from a distance. Ask yourself a few questions on the overall design:

  • Is the information too condensed?
  • Is there more information on the top than on the bottom?
  • Is there enough white space?

The overall impression you get from doing this should be a positive one. Prospective employers reviewing your resume often take notice of a resume design that stands out because of the way information is presented—which can make a difference in landing an interview.

Typos, spelling and grammar

Resume formatting is only part of the equation, so double-, triple- and quadruple-check your resume for typos, spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. A beautiful resume design means nothing when these errors are present. In fact, having mistakes of this type on your resume is the fastest way to get yourself put in the “do not call” pile because prospective employers either assume you cannot write or you did not care enough to make sure your resume was error free.

All of these factors are important in setting up your resume design and in resume formatting. Ultimately, you want to avoid anything that is too busy visually, so sticking within these guidelines is a good way to keep the look of your resume clean and professional. Staying consistent with your design and formatting also creates a more professional look, so be consistent with fonts, margins and spacing.

Investing the time into both the content and the design of your resume gets you noticed by prospective employers regardless of the type of resume you use.