The rules for resume formatting seem to change with the seasons as career experts weigh in with their preferences. Creative companies may count you out for having a boring layout, while traditionalists would run in terror from a resume with bright graphics, charts and fonts in multiple sizes. While you can't please every hiring manager, you can improve your chances of making the shortlist by presenting an orderly, visually optimized resume. Follow these tips to get your resume in shape for your next job search.
1. Limit Your Fonts
Stick to basic fonts in legible sizes, and limit yourself to two whenever possible. Choosing two complementary fonts for the headings and body sections can make your resume easier to scan, but fonts should not overshadow the important information. Hiring managers are more likely to toss your resume than struggle through a messy word jumble.
2. Choose Simple Formatting
No matter how creative you are, reign in your formatting elements when creating a traditional resume. Bold and italicized fonts are suitable for offsetting small portions of text, such as job titles, but avoid overusing them. Every style decision you make should draw a reader's eyes to the most impressive details, so avoid unnecessary distractions, such as colorful fonts and underlining.
3. Balance the White Space
Dense blocks of text are dizzying to the eyes, so resist the urge to pack every inch of the page with words. Start with 1-inch margins, and only adjust them if you need to accommodate one or two straggling lines. To maintain balance, picture your resume as a grid with four equal quadrants, and make sure the amount of text and open space is roughly the same in each section.
4. Create Readable Sections
Assume that most hiring managers are not willing to dig around for relevant qualifications before moving on to the next resume. Your layout should be concise and organized with natural breaks that help the reader quickly move from one point to the next. Use bulleted lists, and choose efficient words that convey a clear image of your accomplishments. Ask a friend to check your resume. She should be able to summarize your qualifications after a 20- to 30-second read-through.
5. Use Parallel Structure
Hiring managers have to sift through high volumes of information. Use a consistent grammatical structure in your statements to make it easier for readers to retain information. If one bullet starts with a past-tense verb, they should all follow the same format. For example, use "coordinated volunteers," "reduced profit loss," or "designed a marketing plan."
6. Use Consistent Spacing
You may be tempted to tweak the spacing in some areas if your resume is too empty or too full, but experienced hiring managers can see through your most clever formatting tricks. The spaces after headings and descriptions should be the same throughout, creating a neat and professional layout.
7. Include a Career Summary
Objective statements are out, and career summaries are in. While objectives are bland and formulaic, career summaries let you create a narrative that frames the rest of the resume. Use it to pitch your value proposition, and connect the dots between your qualifications and work history if you are making a career change. The summary should be roughly five sentences or less, and you can tailor it for each application.
8. Use Keywords
Prepare for the possibility that an employer uses applicant tracking software to generate a preliminary list of compatible candidates. Mimic the language from the original job posting, and incorporate relevant keywords into your job titles and descriptions.
9. Include a Profile Link
Hiring managers are curious about who you really are, and the Internet is a readily available tool for investigation. Show your eagerness to share more information about yourself by including a website or profile link with your contact information. You get an opportunity to showcase your work or testimonials while ensuring that recruiters find the correct information. You don't want to lose out on a job because the recruiter read someone else's profile.
10. Avoid Images and Headers
Unless you are crafting a graphic resume for a creative position, keep embedded images and objects, such as charts, out of your document. Applicant tracking software may process these elements incorrectly (“Should You Customize Your Resume Layout For Each Position?”), turning your carefully formatted resume into a chaotic mess. The same holds true for headers and footers. Keep your contact information in the body of the document to make sure your resume is easy to mine for keyword matches.
A resume isn't meant to be a novel, so don't feel frustrated by the limited space. Hiring managers use it to gain an immediate sense of how well you prioritize and articulate information. Cut out anything that doesn't strengthen your story, and keep editing until your statements are descriptive, impactful and to the point. A clean format can get you through the early recruiting stages and land your resume in front of a company's decision makers.
Photo courtesy of Orange Resume at Flickr.com