Resume Design Considerations

Because a résumé is a personal introduction to a potential employer, it should convey a lasting, positive first impression. A well written résumé is clear, logically organized, and attractive - both professional-looking and easy to read. Keep in mind that this document may be the first impression the new employer will have of you - craft it carefully to make sure it's not the last! Your résumé won't be read if it is illogically organized, messy, difficult to read, too long or too short.

How you design your résumé is as important as how it's written, and affects how quickly and easily the reader can understand the value you bring to their organization. Your goal is to provide meaningful information in a format that is easy to skim quickly, but contains sufficient detail to substantiate your claims.

From an employer's point of view, the purpose of a résumé is to screen out applicants who don't fit their current needs. The average review time for a résumé is 20 to 30 seconds, and the first seven seconds are crucial.

To meet all these requirements, consider the following tips.

  • Keep it brief-2 pages maximum-but comprehensive enough to convey your important skills and significant accomplishments.
  • Leave ample “white space” for readability. Allow at least a 1-inch margin all around to create a visual border and leave room for notes; add spaces between bullets, paragraphs, and sections as well.
  • Choose a single typeface that is standard on most computers (or at most use two). Résumé writing experts recommend Arial, Garamond, Tahoma, Times New Roman or Verdana.
  • Use a readable type size, 10 or 11 point font depending on the type face. However, 10 point is too small in some fonts, like Times New Roman, while 11 point is too large in others, like Verdana.
  • Use headings to highlight the major sections of your résumé. Use boldface type and a larger font size for emphasis, not italics or underline.
  • If you're formatting your résumé for electronic scanning, use minimal formatting. For example, use asterisks instead of bullets and all caps instead of boldface.
  • Specific is better than general. Use bullet points to help the reader skim through the résumé. Limit yourself to no more than four to six per list.   If you have more than six things to list, consider grouping them into two subcategories.
  • Concise is better than verbose. Keep your bullets short, no more than two lines. If the text is too dense, readers will skip over it. Break the information up, summarize related items, or take out irrelevant information to shorten the copy.
  • Accurate is better than “creative.” This document must sell your capabilities clearly and honestly, so resist the temptation to exaggerate, overstate, embellish, or brag. Potential employers can verify your history; even the slightest misrepresentation can cost you an interview - or a job.

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