Thursday, October 8th, 2015

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Your Resume’s Look Is as Important as Its Content


  • Resumes should be visually appealing and quickly scannable.
  • Limit use of italics, bold and differing fonts.
  • Bullet points are key when highlighting accomplishments.

Imagine you’re an employer and you have two resumes in front of you. One is filled wall-to-wall with text and uses four different fonts. It’s also peppered with dozens of bolded, italicized and underlined words and phrases.

The second resume is much more visually pleasing. It, too, offers a lot of information, but you can quickly scan the document because it makes good use of white space, features clear and consistent section headings and uses bullets to make important items stand out.

Which resume would you look at first?

If you’re like most employers who may have to evaluate hundreds of resumes each week, you’ll proceed directly to the second resume. Why? Because it’s inviting to your eyes and your attention span, while the first resume is just the opposite.

If you want your resume to have a good chance of being read by prospective employers, you must invest time and energy not only in its content, but also in its look. If you’re creating your resume for the first time or in the process of revising it, keep the following design tips in mind:

Use White Space Liberally

Create at least one-inch margins on your resume. Also, leave some blank space between various sections of the resume’s text, so several distinct chunks of information can be seen.

Stick with Two Fonts at Most

It’s tempting to use all of the typefaces at your disposal, but having more than two fonts in any document only lessens its readability. One font is all you really need. If you use two, make sure they complement each other. For example, use one font for the headings and the second font for the body text.

Use Bold and Italic Sparingly, Avoid Underlining

It’s OK to use some bolding and italicizing in your resume text. Many resume writers may bold their previous job titles and italicize subheadings within each section of the document. As for underlining — don’t. Studies have shown that most readers find underlined text difficult to read.

Use Bullet Points to Emphasize Skills and Accomplishments

Bullets make it easier for employers to scan your resume quickly, since they’re intended to grab the reader’s eye and lead it to key points you want to make. Use them when you can, especially when you’re highlighting skills or accomplishments. For example:

  • Increased student organization membership by 25 percent.
  • Trained five new employees in restaurant operations and opening/closing procedures.

Be Consistent

If you use all caps to present the name of your most recent workplace, for example, use all caps to present the names of your previous workplaces as well. Or if you use bold, centered text to present the first section title of your resume, use bold, centered text to present the remaining section titles too. If you’re consistent throughout your document, you’ll subtly establish a reading pattern for potential employers that will help them follow your resume easily.

To see these tips in action, look at The Resume Center‘s sample resume for Maegen S. Jacobs. Notice how the white space on the sides of the resume and between the sections makes the document seem less overwhelming to the reader. Also, the resume features just one font. It makes good but not overwhelming use of bold and italicized text and bullets, and maintains consistency in its section headings and textual presentation.

In the end, you’ll still need solid resume content to really sell yourself to employers. Even the most well-designed resume won’t pass if the information it presents isn’t first-rate. Just make sure the content you feature is visually appealing and quickly scannable so that instead of passing it by entirely, employers will give it the attention it deserves.

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