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Before an employer even picks up your resume from the top of the pile, the first thing they will notice is the formatting. If it looks like this, they will probably just skip over it without even giving the information contained a second glance. In a sea of hundreds of resumes why should they spend their time straining their eyes on an unprofessional, poorly formatted and designed resume? A resume that is hard to read says a number of things to a prospective employer. It could make the reader think that the resume creator is disorganized, careless, unprofessional, and unconcerned about the reader.
Your resume is speaking for you, and as your marketing campaign designed to get you in the door for an interview, the last thing you want is for the resume to give the wrong impression of you. Let's look at some resume-formatting guidelines and things to keep in mind when designing a resume. Let's face it. We are by nature visual beings. Your resume is the employer's first impression of you and your resume's format is most likely the first item that the employer will notice. Upon first glance, your resume should provide a positive visual first impression.
It should be professional, visually appealing, easy to read, and inviting. Therefore, it's very important not to use cookie-cutter templates or resume wizards. Most often, these templates and wizards do not provide correct formatting and layout, even those resume templates that come bundled with some of the most popular software applications. And many certainly won't fit the bill of making you look like a competent professional. If you decide to use a template or a wizard as opposed to starting from scratch, be certain to change the formatting.
Make it look as professional as possible and make it your own style. You don't want a resume that looks as if it came off an assembly line. Make sure it represents you. Don't try to stand out by using a cutesy font like Comic Sans. You will stand out all right, and not in a good way. And it's important to use a font that will be available on all computers. Standard fonts across both Windows and Mac platforms include Arial, Times New Roman, Tahoma, and Verdana. Why should you use standard fonts? Well, the reason is is if you use a nonstandard font and the recipient of your resume doesn't have that font installed on their computer, the computer will make the decision of what font to replace it with.
You may have used an elegant and stylish-looking font that looks great on your computer, but the font their computer substitutes may very will be just plain ugly. After all your hard work, you don't want to send your resume out not knowing what the end result will be. The computer could pick a larger font than your original, making a one-page resume two pages with only one line or even a few words on the second page. This is because fonts differ in height and depth, and even the amount of spacing between characters.
No matter what font typeface you choose, make sure it's professional looking and standard. If you do choose a nonstandard font, make sure you send as a PDF or snail-mail a hard copy to be sure that font and your formatting will remain the same. As for typeface, consistency is important. In other words, don't use 20 different fonts in your resume. You might want to use two fonts to provide contrast. This resume uses Times New Roman to highlight the sections and the rest of the resume is in Arial.
Another nice contrast effect can be created by using the same font but making the headings larger and bold to make them stand out. You may consider highlighting information such as the company name by using the same font, but in small caps, as you can see here. As far as point size for the body of your resume, don't use anything less than 10 points or larger than 12 points. Less than 10 in the resume will be hard to read; more than 12 will make the resume look unprofessional. It's all about you baby.
It's your marketing campaign. The name should be between 16 points and 22 points. Make sure it stands out. Use white space generously throughout your resume. It will make it easier to read and more inviting. Ideally, try to make your margins one inch all the way around, but no matter what you do, left and right margins should always be the same size. This will make it more welcoming and visually pleasing, and make sure you also include plenty of white space between your paragraphs and lines.
As far as the bullets go, they can add a lot of flair to your resume, but like nonstandard fonts, nonstandard bullets may not be available on the employer's computer. For example, if you use an arrow, check mark, picture or anything other than a standard bullet, your work of art may be redesigned by the employer's computer with funky symbols or some other random character replacements. If you want to use nonstandard bullets, make sure you are snail-mailing the resume, handing them a hard copy, or sending as a PDF document.
But be careful not to create a resume that is solely based on bullet points. Use a blended approach of both paragraphs followed by bullets to highlight your achievements and your accomplishments. Whatever you decide to do in your resume such as bolding your section headings, putting a period at the end of your bullet points, or using italics for job titles, be sure to repeat consistently throughout your resume. Consistency plays a vital role in creating a positive visual appearance. It's important to use the correct formatting options in your resume.
For example, use indents where needed instead of the spacebar. If a recruiter opens your resume with a different software application than the one that you used to create it and you failed to use the proper formatting, your resume may be a mess when they try to open it on their end. Take advantage of the Styles feature of most word processors such as Word to make sure your formatting remains consistent throughout your resume. Check out my course in Word 2007 Styles in Depth for more information on creating styles. Repeat your header information if you run onto a second page.
Subdivide your resume into sections to make it easier to read and understand. Left-aligned text is easier to read than justified. Once you've completed formatting your resume, print it out. Send it as an attachment to an email to yourself. How does it look? Step away for a while, then come back and look at the printed copy. Does it have enough white space? Is it visually enticing? Does it have a simple clean-looking design? Is it symmetrical and balanced? Is it consistent and uniform? Next, give it to some other people for constructive criticism.
Your resume is your work of art; make it a masterpiece.
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