Best Practices For Formatting Your Resume
As you embark on a job search, your resume is your main asset—one which you’re using to get noticed. Sloppy resumes aren’t getting you anywhere. To be successful, your resume should be framed, structured, and cleaned up to project the image of a professional who means business.
You need to be both intentional and disciplined about the way you develop your resume. We offer a summary of the best practices for formatting your resume to help you get your plum job. They are based on the experiences of long-time recruiters and successful job-seekers.
Submitting a resume to a recruiting agency or a prospective employer is like handing your passport to an immigration officer when crossing an international border. To gain entry, your papers must be in order, and the stated purpose of your visit must be clear and persuasive. There’s no room for clumsy explanations.
Similarly, you can’t afford to settle for a clumsy format of your resume. Cutting corners is not an option when your goal is to stand out in a crowd of multiple applicants. Take time to invest in putting together a resume that recruiters will find impossible to snub.
As a rule of thumb, you start off by studying your potential employer. Make sure you don’t submit the same resume in response to all vacancy advertisements. Employers vary and so do their requirements. There’s no one-size-fits-all template, so make sure you customize your resume to the priorities of each employer and the key qualifications listed in the advert. Moreover, you may also consider best time to mail your resume.
The vacancy announcement and the related job description are your main references. You can also browse through the website or outreach materials of the company. These resources will give you clues about which keywords to use throughout your resume.
Here are the top 7 tips for formatting your resume that will make you look smart, consistent, and professional.
Your goal is to fit all the details in one page. Recruiting agencies, especially at the initial screening stage, are loath to spend much time reading long resumes. The average human attention span is somewhere between 8 and 12 seconds, depending on generation. This is all you have to make a positive impression, so long resumes won’t cut it.
Even when you can’t fit everything on a page, still be economical with the space you use. There’s no point in having long-winded sentences or descriptions. Try to be as concise as possible. You can play with the selected font, spacing, and margins (without compromising the visual effect) to keep it short.
The reverse chronological resume is the most common type, in which you list your jobs starting with the most recent one. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here unless you have large career gaps. If you do, you might want to opt for a functional resume focusing on your skills.
Another option is a hybrid version as a middle-ground between the two. Whatever your choice, make sure you have clear sections (e.g., a header with minimal contact information, professional experience, education, and skills) with proper spacing and 1” margins.
Select one that is easy to read. Choose a font size between 10 and 12, and use it consistently. You can use a different, slightly larger font for your header. Times New Roman, Calibri, or any other traditional font would be a safe bet.
No need to overdo by choosing a less commonly used font to look artsy or cool. That might put people off. It is OK to capitalize the headings.
Responsibilities vs. Accomplishments
Somepeople choose to describe their responsibilities in their resumes (mostly in the present tense). But this does not really tell much to recruiters about the degree to which they have been able to achieve anything.
Our recommendation is that you focus on your accomplishments listed as bullet points and described in the past tense (e.g., “developed a new staff development strategy,” “raised company profits by X%,” etc.). Make them specific and use numbers to illustrate the achievements. We also recommend using a free plagiarism checker to make sure your resume is not inadvertently perceived as fraudulent.
Grammar & Spelling
This is an obvious one lest it be so common for people to have typos and simple mistakes in the documents that matter. Check, double-check, and check again. Use an online writing assistant to make it mistake-free.
Make sure you don’t use the first-person pronoun. This makes it artificial and a bit untidy, especially to the native English speakers. As noted above, use verbs in the past tense to describe your achievements.
These are important to catch the eye of recruiters. Read the job description or the vacancy announcement carefully, focusing on the required qualifications and skills. They will give you important clues about your choice of keywords to be used throughout the resume.
The goal is to use the selected keywords when describing your accomplishments. This will induce reviewers to make linkages between your qualifications and the required ones. Some companies expecting large numbers of applications, use automated screening software to shortlist the received resumes. This makes the use of keywords even more important.
Your goal is for your resume to have an inviting, appealing visual impression on reviewers. To that end, white space is your friend. Make sure you strike a balance by avoiding overcrowding the resume with too much detail.
When done with your resume, take about 8-12 seconds to have a quick look at it and see if there’s anything that looks awkward. Don’t hesitate to show it to your friends or colleagues to solicit their feedback.
We hope these will help you to format your resume to get it up to snuff. It matters to invest in developing a resume that looks professional. Make sure you are smart about producing one that gives you a higher chance of getting through shortlisting. It will pave the way for an eventual interview with the desired employer that might land you the desired job.
About the Author
Nicole Garrison is a seasoned human resources expert and researcher with vast experience in research, recruiting, and coaching. She holds multiple awards and certificates from the world’s leading recruiting companies. Nicole is a regular contributor to numerous recruiting websites and research institutions. If you’re thinking ‘I should hire someone to write my research paper,’ you will benefit from her professional reviews and advice.