Styling your Resume appropriately can be challenging. Not only do you want to make sure you stand out as a good candidate, you want to make sure recruiters viewing your Resume can tell that you are qualified and professional.

There are plenty of obvious dos and don’ts when it comes to how you write your Resume. For instance, you probably know you should be including all your relevant education and work history and that you shouldn’t include unprofessional or irrelevant information, like explaining how you became your last office’s ping pong master.

From font and color choice to segmenting your content using bullets and headers, learn the dos and don’ts of formatting your Resume in this post.

How to Format a Resume

Resumes are personalized tools used to sell yourself to hiring managers. Based on your individual experience and qualifications, your Resume won’t look the same as your friend’s or family member’s—and, in reality, it shouldn’t.

It’s a snapshot of who you are and why you’d make a good employee, and you should use it to tell hiring managers why they should pick you out of all the qualified candidates.

In general, resumes include several sections:

  • Your contact information
  • Your career objective (a short profile that summarizes your experience or future career goals)
  • A list of your most important qualifications (the skills you think employers should know above all else)
  • Your education
  • Your professional work and volunteer history

With several sections of important information, how you format your document becomes critical and simple mistakes—like using the wrong font or titling your document with “Resume”—can give a bad impression, which may result in hiring managers moving on to a new candidate.

The Dos of Styling Your Resume

There are many things you can do in a Resume that will help encourage recruiters to read your application. For instance, you should:

  • Use a legible font. Your font choice says a lot about you—very quickly. And a hiring manager may not even consider your application if they can’t read or absolutely detest the font you’ve used. The best fonts to use on a Resume are basic: Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, and others. 
  • Use appropriate colors. The color scheme on your Resume should align with your profession: in some professions (like graphic and UX designers), the use of color and creative designs might be more acceptable, but in other industries (like accounting or law), a more conservative look may be considered standard. Other times, you may want to avoid using a lot of colors (or certain ones) simply because they can be hard on the eyes and may be difficult to print. In other words, even if neon colors are in this season, maybe avoid using them on your Resume.
  • Make your contact information clear and easy to find. Your contact information includes your name, address, phone number, email, and any other methods an employer can contact you (such as through your LinkedIn profile). This information should be in at least one place on your Resume:  at the top of the first page, with your name being larger or bolder than the rest.
  • Separate your sections with headers. Having your education blend into your work experience without a header or section break is not recommended. Recruiters are busy people, so you want reviewing your Resume to be effortless, by making it both easy to read and easy to skim. Skimming and scanning documents—including Resumes—is more common every day, especially as individuals sift through more and more content online, in papers, ads, and more.
  • Use bullets when appropriate. Nothing is more daunting to a hiring manager than getting a Resume filled with giant blocks of text. Again, make it easy for them to read and break your content into smaller chunks of information.

There are other things you can do to make your Resume stand out, including keeping sections brief and following the instructions set out in the job posting. It can be challenging but do your best and learn from the mistakes you may have made in past applications.

The Don’ts of Styling Your Resume

Some Resume taboos are straightforward: don’t include a picture of your dog or a funny meme, don’t use obnoxious colors, don’t make it pages long, etc. However, there are a few other unsuitable things that you should be aware of when formatting your Resume. For instance, you shouldn’t:

  • Use the title “Resume” or include “Resume” after your name (“John Doe’s Resume”). It’s just not necessary, and your name in large, easy-to-read font is all you need to head your document.
  • Include your picture. Not only does including your picture open you up to discrimination in the hiring stage, it’s just not necessary for most professions. That said, there are industries where your appearance may be a component such as if you are looking for work as a model or an actor.
  • Make your Resume hard to read. You might not have done this on purpose, but you can easily make a Resume hard to read by using the wrong font, inappropriate colors, poor contrast between your text and background, oddly-placed images or icons, dense blocks of content, and more. Aim for readable, then beautiful. Your style choices should never stop someone from wanting to learn why you’re the best candidate for the job.
  • Use too many bullets. A long bullet list is just as daunting as huge chunks of text. Keep it simple by including only the essential details you think hiring managers should know about you and save the rest for the interview.
  • Use white space properly. White space in a document is important and helps improve readability. It brings structure to a page and helps people navigate by showing where one section ends and another begins. It also gives a reader’s eyes a moment’s break, so that they can internalize what they’ve just read as opposed to feeling overwhelmed with information. Adding white space comes back to making your document enticing to read, and a Resume without white space is often not easy to review.
  • Use the right margin size. At times, you may have considered sacrificing your margin sizes in order to add more content while keeping your Resume at one to two pages in length, but you shouldn’t do this. Your margins are important, and not only do they make your document printer-friendly, they make it look clean and provide some white space for readers to rest their eyes on.

Styling Your Resume

Your Resume is a tool you use to impress hiring managers, recruiters, and potential employers and to encourage them to contact you for an interview. How you style your Resume—from what fonts you choose to whether or not you use bullets or section headers—can impact how you’re viewed at this stage of hiring. Although there are plenty of things you shouldn’t do, there are also many things you can do, like making your content easy to read and your contact information easy to find, that can help increase your chances of standing out among other qualified professionals.

Posted by Ashley Camarneiro

Ashley is an experienced researcher and writer with an interest in real estate, contract, and family law. Before starting at LawDepot in the summer of 2017, Ashley worked as a legal assistant in the corporate and family law sector.