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Top 7 Considerations for Professional Resume Design

Pamela Fay
August 234 min read
Hands above a resume with a pen in hand

It’s true. A good looking resume gets all the attention. But when it comes to resume design, less is more. Make sure that your enthusiasm for flash doesn’t land your resume in the trash. Before the recruiter or hiring manager reads a single word, the design will be the thing that captures the eye. If you’ve thrown in every design element under the sun, it may never get a second look. On the other hand, if you put too little effort into your resume’s outward appearance, you may end up with a similar fate.

We’re going for professional, skimmable and easy to read on any device. Some 60 percent of hiring managers read resumes on a mobile. So you’ll need to make sure that your resume comes across on the small screen. If you can’t read it, neither can they. Also, many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes. If the computer can’t make sense of your resume, it won’t make it to the hiring manager’s mobile, in any case.

Here are key resume design principles that will help you design a professional resume.

1. Effective White Space

Leave enough white space in your resume to facilitate a quick skim. A page that is dense with text is difficult to read and causes eye fatigue. When the hiring manager or recruiter is in the initial stages of the search, there is no easier way to get your resume tossed aside than to use every available spot on the page.

Make the margins a generous 1 to 1 ½ inches. Single space your document, but leave space between sections and after headings. A good rule of thumb is to leave a blank line between sections and 1.5 pt between section headings and the corresponding text.

White space isn’t just limited to the margins and the spaces between sections. Remove unnecessary information. Omit your street address and the names of cities in which you’ve worked. Shorten your degree titles and use common abbreviations. However, avoid leaving orphans on your page, i.e., one or two words on a line by themselves. Edit your bullet points to eliminate the orphans.

2. Bullet Points

Favor bullet points wherever you can over paragraphs. This helps the hiring manager scan and digest the information quickly. You don’t need complete sentences. Turn dates into numbers and abbreviate when possible. Of course, you want your bullets to be understandable, but remove all of the unnecessary words like a, the and that.

Whether or not you include paragraphs, avoid blocks of text exceeding two or three lines. If you have a dense paragraph, try using bullet points instead. If your bullet points are too dense, use sub-bullets. Even if the information requires the same number of lines, the presentation will be easier on the eye.

3. Clean Fonts

Some fonts are made to read on screen. Consider a sans serif font like Verdana or Arial. Calibri is also a good sans serif choice with the extra detail of subtle rounding on the corners, giving it a bit more of a friendly vibe than the others. Keep your font size at 11 or 12, the bigger the better for visibility.

Are there fonts you should avoid? Absolutely. Don’t use fixed width fonts like Lucida Console or Courier. They tend to look too computer-like. Of course, don’t use script fonts even for — or maybe especially for — your name. It’s unprofessional and difficult for humans and machines to read. Even for headings, you’ll want to avoid fonts that are too bold and heavy, as well as those that sacrifice legibility for style. Use boldface sparingly, not for entire sections. If in doubt, get Arial out. You can’t go wrong with a classic.

4. Simple Layout

Columns, sidebars and other design elements may not seem all that fancy. But when you try to read them on a mobile phone, you’ll realize that they don’t work well at all. Things overlap, run off the page and appear out of order. Forgo these fancy inclusions and stick to a simple format that is easy to read with clear sections.

If you are applying for jobs in creative industries, like graphic design, there is more leniency on your resume design. In this case, you can include more design elements, but be sure not to overdo it.

5. No Headshot

Think twice before you use valuable real estate for pictures. They may not appear as you intended and in most cases add no real value. Unless you are doing an international resume, do not include a headshot. In the US, Canada and the UK, your resume may be discarded due to anti-discrimination law. In France and Spain, however, employers like to see a picture. If you are unsure, leave it out.

Don’t include company logos on your resume. In addition to being an ethically questionable practice, it takes up real estate you can’t afford to lose and could confuse the ATS.

6. Use Hyperlinks

If you have a website or a digitalized portfolio you’d like to include, use a hyperlink. It’s easier for the resume reviewer to click on a link rather than having to copy and paste a web address.

7. Avoid the Unexpected

Researchers found that recruiters spend only 7.4 seconds before deciding on a job candidate. They look at the current title and company then move down the right side. Don’t confuse them by putting things in unexpected places. Put your name and contact information at the top. Align the dates that correspond with your career progression on the right-hand side. This is where the resume reviewer expects to find them. Make sure your bullets are indented equally, particularly if your resume includes a second page.

Get Started with Your Resume Design

Certainly the content of your resume matters. But if you have the right skills and experiences and you have presented them poorly, you’re not likely to get beyond the first-round review. You don’t need a flashy design. What you do need is solid content in a professional resume format. This signals to the recruiter or hiring manager that you are a serious contender. Moreover, it helps them locate the information they need to make a critical decision: Interview or not?

If you’re unsure how to get started, visit Rocket Resume and browse our templates that already incorporate these resume design tips. Let us help you put together a smart, attractive resume … one that gets you noticed.

Sources: Flexjobs - In the Process of Writing Your Resume? Don't Get Fancy The Ladders - You Have 7.4 Seconds to Make an Impression