There are many different résumé formats. There are also many free templates on the internet that you can build off of. This is not a bad place to start if you are new to writing résumés. However, as you continue to refine your résumé and customize it to certain job postings you come across, it will become more and more important that you understand general résumé formatting conventions. Then it will be important to learn to apply them in ways that suit your needs.
Choose an Acceptable Font
This day and age, there is a seemingly limitless amount of fonts to choose from when it comes to customizing a design. Indeed, recent estimations put the number of available fonts well above the 100,000 mark. With so much variety, how could you possibly narrow down which ones you should use on your résumé?
An important thing for you to consider is how universally accepted and accessible all of these fonts are. The styling of a font may look really professional and powerful, but it also may not be very scannable or easy to read (by human eyes or by computer). For this reason, Monster.com has actually ranked the top nine fonts that are sure to get your résumé noticed (see "The Best Fonts for Your Résumé Ranked" by Julia Gaynor). These fonts include:
- Times New Roman
- Book Antigua
- Trebuchet MS
- Arial Narrow
If you are wondering what size of font you should be using on your résumé, most experts agree that somewhere within the range of 10–12 point font is the universally accepted size.
Ponder and Record
Based on your unique field or industry, which font should you choose to stand out?
We’ve talked a lot about customization and creativity, but there is one important thing that you should remember—be consistent. With so many fonts, designs, and colors to choose from, the temptation can be strong to experiment and diversify. This can actually work against your desired design more than it will help it. As the staff of Monster.com, cautions, “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” (see "How Your Résumé Should Look so that You Look Good" by Monster Staff).
The same goes for your usage of things like bolding and italics. While it’s okay to bold and italicize at certain times—to draw attention to a job title or the beginning of a new section—using these tools too much can actually detract from the résumé's readability. The same goes for underlining. Indeed, multiple studies have shown that most readers find underlined text difficult to read.
Include Section Headers
There are many things you can do to overdo your design. There are also many things you can do to under-design. One of those things is to fail to put in section headers.
One of the primary objectives of the résumé is to provide potential employers with an at a glance look at those five basic criteria they are looking for (for instance, contact info, summary, skills, professional experience, and education). Your résumé should make this information as obvious and accessible as possible. One of the best ways to do this is through section headers that are carefully formatted in a clean and professional way. According to Indeed.com, simple ways you can stylize these headers are in the list below (see "Top Resume Formats: Tips and Examples of 3 Common Resumes" by Indeed Editorial Team, August 31, 2023).
- Use a bold font on your section headers.
- Increase the size of your section header font by 2–4 points (for instance, 12, 14, or 16 point font).
- Underline section headers with a long line.
You can also apply these methods to the contact information section.
Ponder and Record
What method will you employ to make your section headings stand out?
Create White Space
Another formatting design feature you need to be aware of is the need for plenty of blank or white space. While the natural temptation will be to try and cram as much information onto your one page résumé as possible, this approach could actually ruin the overall look and feel of your design. It could make section headers difficult to see and, therefore, specific skills and professional experiences hard to pick out.
A good rule of thumb for you to follow is to do what you can to create at least one inch margins around the edges of your résumé. Another best practice is to leave some blank space between the various sections of the résumé’s text so that distinct bits of information can be more readily seen.
Ponder and Record
- In what sections of your résumé can you create some natural blank or white space?
- What bits of information would you like to particularly stand out? How can you use white space to naturally draw the eyes to those sections of information?
Use Bullet Points
Bullet points, like blank spaces, can be used to highlight bits of information and improve readability. Most potential employers don’t have time to read through dense paragraphs of information. They want to be able to scan your résumé and have a clear picture of who you are and what your background is within seconds. Bullet points can help you to achieve this.
Most of the time, they are best used in either your skill section or your professional or educational experience sections (depending upon where you choose to include your high-impact statements).
Ponder and Record
- How could you effectively use bullet points in your own résumé? In which section would it best serve its purpose?
Watch Your Length
The last thing you’ll want to watch as you build out your résumé is its length. While in the past the two page résumé was deemed acceptable, more and more hiring managers are pushing for polished, well-designed, one page résumés. Do what you can to keep your résumé within a single, one-sided page. Unless you have more than ten to fifteen years of relevant experience, most job recruiters advise that your résumé fit on one page. Most of these formatting issues will be resolved in your assignment because we will provide you with a template, but you are still required to apply the principles on your résumé.
Having said that, one of the best ways to get a feel for how to write a résumé is to look at examples. A careful internet search of resumes pertaining to certain fields can help you see good examples.