K: KEYS to formatting your resume.
It’s no secret that the content of your resume is very important. After all, including good content, i.e., information that markets you as a viable candidate, can definitely help you win more interviews. Conversely, including bad content, i.e., personal information, dated technical skills, or reasons for leaving past employers (see earlier post for the letter “I”) can hinder your job search and keep your resume from making it to the top of the stack. Just as including the right content is important to writing an effective resume, the formatting of this content is equally important. A visually appealing resume is easier to read and a well formatted resume helps make information on your resume easier to locate. Keep these five keys in mind when arranging the information on your resume.
Margins: Living on the Edge
Keep your page margins between 0.5” and 1.0” all around. The tendency is to reduce page margins if you have a lot of information and you want to keep your resume to one or two pages. The opposite tendency is true if you are struggling to come up with information to include on your resume. Increasing margins will spread out your information, making it appear that you have a longer resume than you really have. If you find yourself at the lower or upper margin limits, tweak your font size (see below). One additional point to note about margins: using margins that are too small can cause printing problems and your resume may not print correctly. This can be a major problem for an employer trying to print out your resume; they may decide that it (and you) are not worth their time.
Bold Text: Too Much of a Good Thing
The use of bold text is great for making important information standout in your resume, like figures, names of employers, and position titles. It is also great for your name and section headings. However, do not make the mistake of using bold for everything! Doing so defeats the purpose and you end up not highlighting anything at all. I have actually seen resumes written entirely in bold text and with only one font size! Use bold to your advantage, but do not over do it.
Bullets: Use a Revolver, not a Machine Gun
Bullets are another way to set off information in your resume. They are typically used to set off information in a list (skills, associations, activities, etc.) as well as to set off accomplishment statements in your professional experience. Just like with the use of bold, I have seen resumes that use bullets everywhere. This is what I refer to as the machine gun approach. Use the revolver approach, being very strategic about where you use bullets. Again, since bullets help set off information, be very selective in where you use them or the opposite effect will occur; nothing will stand out. Also, do not use more than two different types of bullets on your resume. Using more than two types of bullets will take away from the design and cause the reader to focus on your bullets as opposed to the information the bullets are intended to highlight.
Font Size: Too Big, Too Small, Just Right
Invariably, font size problems tend to occur on the smaller size of the spectrum. It typically happens when you have a lot of information to convey and you have either bought into the “one-page” resume myth or your resume is just too wordy and could use a good editing session to remove superfluous words. My general rule of thumb is to never adjust font size below 10 pt font and to never go above 12 pt font for “non-heading” text. It is acceptable for your name to be as large as 18 to 25 pt. font and headings to be as large as 12 to 16 pt. font depending on the font type.
White Space: Elbow Room on the Page
White space on the page breaks up the reading and helps the eye find information easier. This is important between the various sections of your resume as well as with margins (see above). The key here is consistency. Keep space before and after similar sections such as headings, paragraphs, and bullets, the same throughout the resume. This will improve readability and the visual appearance of your resume. Instead of entering in hard returns everywhere, make use of the MS Word’s format/paragraph setting to tweak the space between text.