So you’re ready to write your resume. You have all your information, from your work history to your education and goals, neatly organized and ready to summarize into a professional and impactful resume. Now it’s to consider resume layout. How your resume looks and reads is just as important as its content. Consider this: the most appropriate and deserving applicant in the world will absolutely not get an interview if the resume is messy, cluttered or hard to read. The resume is a reflection of your ability to organize and communicate effectively in writing. It’s not just a summary of your skills; it’s one of the initial methods used to evaluate your talent. This is why resume layout is so important.
Here are the basic guidelines for resume layout:
- A resume should be short. One page is a good guideline. If you just have so much experience that one nice-looking, uncluttered page is impossible, you may use two pages.
- A resume needs bullet points. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous guideline. Do not use paragraphs to explain job duties, accomplishments or details of your education. Summarize each individual piece of information in a brief sentence and move on. This is the most important aspect of resume layout. It makes your resume easy to read, and employers appreciate that.
- A resume needs white space. Consider white space as “room to breathe” for the reader. Short points, summarized nicely, should leave open space on the paper. Wall-to-wall writing filling a page is intimidating and many employers will simply throw away a resume like that. If this article were just a one-page block of text, would you read it?
- Your layout should be applicable to the job. Does your education match the job duties better than your work experience? Or is it the other way around? You need to lead with your strength. The most important information that you want to express simply must be listed first. The first half of the page should be enough to convince busy resume readers to call you right away.
- A resume must look neat. You need to use a clean, professional font. Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman are uncluttered and easy-to-read fonts. You would never see something like Comic Sans in business communications. Next, print your resume on good paper, not thin, recycled paper with the watermark of the paper company on it. Use a good laser printer, not a messy inkjet. While you’re at the laser printer, go ahead and use it to print an envelope. This looks so much more professional than a hand-written envelope. Everything counts.
Top of page: contact information. Name, mailing address, email address and telephone number(s). This goes right at the top so the human resources person has this information handy straight away.
Header: career goal or professional objective. This can be short- or long term, but please note that this must be related to the job. If this job is not tied to a goal you can easily state, it’s better to leave this section out.
Next sections: Professional experience; education. Whichever one of these applies better to the job should go first. Briefly summarize all job duties, accomplishments, education details, and certifications if applicable.
Referees: if the job listing specifically requests references, list them here (be sure you have contacted these people ahead of time!). If the job doesn’t request them but you have extra space to fill on the resume, feel free to list them. If the job listing does not request referees and you have no space, simple write “references available upon request.”