How to format a resume

How to format your resume professionally and get noticed
 
Andrew Fennell photo Andrew Fennell

Your resume could contain the most impressive skills and experience in the world…

But if it’s not formatted correctly, it could still get rejected.

Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people, who see tons of resumes every day – so you need to present the information in a clear and digestible way.

This guide will show you everything you need to know about resume formatting from layout to font-size and more.

Follow these tips to create an eye-catching resume that will land you plenty of job interviews.

 

 

 

Overview

Formatting your resume correctly is key to making a good first impression with a potential employer. This means taking all of the following factors into consideration:

  • Font – You’ll want to use a professional, clean font to make your resume easy to read.
  • Color scheme – While you can pick a color other than black, it’s best to stick with muted color schemes, such as green, navy, or blue, to keep the document looking professional.
  • Page margins – In general, keeping your page margins to one inch on each side will keep your resume professional-looking and give you plenty of space for content
  • Resume length – Your resume should always be around two pages long, to provide enough detail without boring readers.
  • Split the page up – To enhance the readability of your resume, it’s a good idea to split up the sections in your resume.
  • Clearly defining sections – Clear section titles, borders, and bullet points can all help define your resume sections and make it easy for recruiters to skim-read.
  • Structuring jobs – This means separating roles, responsibilities, and achievements for each of your roles.
  • Resume heading – Create an attractive heading that gets recruiters’ attention and provides easy access to your contact details.
  • Document – To make sure it’s easy to find and read, save your resume in a PDF or Microsoft Word document, with a professional-sounding document name.

 

Example resume formats

Check out some examples of professional resume formats below for guidance and ideas.

Resume format examples

 

Font

Your font could be decisive in whether a recruiter can even read your resume or not. To make your resume attractive, readable, and legible, try to stick to the following tips:

 

Resume fonts

 

Font type

In general, you should opt for a simple and clean font for your resume.

Fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Times New Roman, Cambria and Baskerville are all clear, professional fonts that you can use for free when you create your resume on Microsoft Word.

Elaborate fonts should be avoided because they can be tricky to decipher at times.

The reason you’re going to want to keep your resume font basic is simple: the readability of your resume is one of the most important – if not the most important – factors at play when sending off your resume to potential employers.

Recruiters receive hundreds of resumes every day, so anything that is difficult to read might get skipped over.

 

Font size

Stick to 10pt to 14pt font on your resume in the body of the text.

This is important for two reasons: one, you want to make sure that your resume is readable. And secondly, anything bigger is going to limit the space on your resume – you might find it difficult to squeeze in all your important achievements and previous roles.

 

Font color

You don’t always need to stick to black for your resume color, but you should ensure that the text contrasts the background of the document.

You can switch things up by opting for a dark grey shade, or navy blue, or a very dark green. The key is to ensure that the color remains readable and doesn’t require endless squinting.

Black text on a white background is the safest bet to provide a pleasant reading experience.

 

CV builder

 

Color scheme

Your color scheme needs to be easy-on-the-eye an look professional.

To achieve this look, you’re going to want to avoid anything too bright, wacky, or unprofessional looking; the pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges can sit this one out.

However, using a muted dark shade (for example, navy, sage, or dark green) can actually make your resume look more interesting and unique, while remaining professional and easy to read.

The key is ensuring that your text remains readable, and that the color scheme isn’t a distraction.

Take a look at some of our examples below if you want to get an idea of what makes a good color scheme (and what makes a bad one!)

 

Resume font colors

 

Page margins

While this may not have been something you’d considered when it comes to writing your resume, your page margins are incredibly important when it comes to formatting.

You want your resume to appear professional and well-written, without cutting off important space for your accomplishments and work history.

So, what’s the best page margin for a resume?

Typically, narrow page margins of around one inch are best for resumes. This gives the document a clean look, while ensuring that you have maximum space to include important, key information about your work history and skills.

Take a look at some of our example images below:

 

Resume margins

 

Quick tip: Formatting a resume to look professional can be difficult and time-consuming. If you want to create an attractive resume quickly, try our Resume Builder and use one of our eye-catching resume templates.

 

Resume length

The length of your resume is another factor that can have a big impact on whether you get hired or not.

Ideally, you should be aiming for two pages for your resume.

If it’s too short, you’ve probably not included enough information.

If it’s too long, you run the risk of important information being skipped over when busy recruiters are skim-reading it.

 

Resume length

 

Split the page up

Your resume can’t just be one long block of text; and if it is, you can be guaranteed that the recruiter or hiring manager will pass directly onto the next one.

Your resume needs to be readable, so splitting up important information into sections is key to getting your message across.

You should split your resume up into the following sections:

 

Resume layout

 

  • Resume heading. The top of the resume, where you include your personal details, such as your email address, phone number, and full name.
  • Resume summary. The summary is your resume’s introductory paragraph to reel recruiters in.
  • Key skills. Here, you should highlight a list of your most valuable skills to employers.
  • Career summary. Beginning with your most recent role, this is where you’ll highlight your job history.
  • Education and other qualifications. Your grades from high school, college and grad school will go here, where applicable.
  • Additional  (optional). This section isn’t necessary for all resumes, but you can include hobbies and interests, or anything else that is relevant to your target jobs

 

CV builder

 

Clearly defining sections

Aside from splitting up your resume into sections, you’ll also want to make it easy for recruiters to find the info they need, by clearly defining each section.

You can do this by;

  • Adding borders to divide sections
  • Enlarging heading font so that it stands out above body text
  • Bolding your subheadings (such as job titles) to define sub-sections

By clearly defining the sections of your resume, you’re breaking down complex information into bitesize, easily readable, and easily memorable information.

As already mentioned, recruiters and hiring managers are often seeing hundreds of resumes a day. If you go out of your way to make your resume enjoyable and easy to read, you’ll more easily get into the recruiter’s good books.

Have a look at the example image below for ideas on how to clearly define each section on your resume:

 

Resume format sections

 

Structuring jobs

If you want the information on your resume to be understood by  a recruiter, it’s essential to structure your jobs into three sections:

  1. The job outline
  2. Your responsibilities
  3. key achievements

 

Role descriptions

Nobody enjoys reading a big unbroken paragraph of text, so it’s essential to structure your roles in a more digestible way.

By splitting up these key factors in your jobs history, it will be much easier for the recruiter to retain important information and be impressed by your achievements. Here’s what you should include for each section:

  • Outline – This section should simply outline the overall goal of role was within the company, and what department or area of the organisation you worked in.
  • Responsibilities – This section should include a summary of your day-to-day activities and duties within the organization, who you liaised with, who you reported back to, what functions you were responsible for etc.
  • Achievements – This is the part of your resume that you should focus on the most – show off to a potential employer your value as an employee. Highlight your achievements and successes, preferably using quantifiable data such as numbers, sales figures, etc.

 

Resume heading

Your heading is going to be the first thing the recruiter notices about your resume, so it’s a good idea to make sure it’s formatted correctly and structured professionally. Typically, an effective resume heading will include your full name, phone number, location, and email address. You don’t need to add your physical address; this makes your heading appear too cluttered and will take up too much space. Just include the city or location where you’re professionally based.

You can add symbols to your resume heading to save space and make it look more professional, for example, a phone icon and an email icon.

Don’t forget to save some space underneath your resume profile to separate your heading from your other resume sections. White space on a resume really isn’t a bad thing: it helps declutter the text and doesn’t overwhelm the reader with an endless stream of information.

 

Customer service CV headline

 

Should you use a photo?

Whether or not you use a photo on your resume is entirely up to you, although some industries (for example, entertainment industries) might require that you include a professional photograph when applying to work for their organisation.

However, for most jobs in the US, a photo on your resume isn’t mandatory, nor necessary. In fact, many experts advise against using a photograph on your resume, as it may lead to unwanted bias or discrimination in the hiring process.

 

Good CV photo examples

 

If you are going to use a photo on your resume, make sure it’s a professional one. No selfies – your photograph should include your head and shoulders against a uniform background (preferably white), and you should be wearing professional work clothes. If you can’t get a professional headshot done, you can take a photo against the wall in your home and remove the background using an editing app.

 

Document type

Once you’ve finalized your resume and proofread it for the fourth time, it’s time to save it in a word document or as a PDF file. Don’t save your resume as an editable Google doc – you want to send something that is downloadable to a computer, so a recruiter can hang onto your resume if they’re interested in your profile.

For your resume to be memorable and easily found, make sure that you don’t save it as a generic name like “resume draft 5.doc”.

When it comes to naming your resume document, make sure you name it something that identifies you easily.

The best name for your resume document is your full name – accurately capitalized – followed with ‘Resume’ – this makes it easier for a recruiter to search for your saved resume on their PC or laptop.

For example “Fred Benson Resume.doc“.

 

Conclusion

In general, formatting your resume is easy when you get the hang of how to structure and section it correctly.

The key is to remember that readability is your number one aim with any resume you create: getting it read by the recruiter is half of the work.

By following the above tips, you’re sure to improve your response rate and finally bag that interview.