Hiring managers often comb through dozens of resumes at a time. So how do you, as a recent grad, make a great first impression with your resume design?
Here are our tips for layout, design, fonts, spacing and everything you need to know about creating a beautiful and eye-catching first resume layout to land that first job out of school.
Putting together your first resume can be overwhelming. Do you have enough experience to make a good first impression and get an interview? Should you list your experiences chronologically when you don't have that many jobs to include? What about your GPA? Is that worth including?
Figuring out the format and what information to include is the most important first step. Chronological and functional are the two main resume formats but, for recent grads, a hybrid chrono-functional format might be your best option. This format allows you to highlight your education and skills, along with a brief work history.
Once you have a handle on what information to include, it's time to get down to creating your first resume design. But what's the best resume layout for a first job? Here are a few guidelines for creating a clean, efficient layout that gets the hiring manager's attention and makes a great first impression.
Keep it clean
Clean design means making precise choices when it comes to fonts, spacing, alignment, bullet points and the use of white space. The best resume format for your first job should be simple, so the information is easy to scan. There's a statistic floating around the internet that says hiring managers only spend six seconds looking at resumes. While that statistic probably isn't exact, it's good to keep in mind that you need to make a good impression immediately. A poorly designed resume is one that's cluttered and hard to read.
Because many resumes have to pass ATS (Applicant Tracking System) scans to get to a hiring manager or recruiter, you'll also want to make sure that the design you choose isn't so complex that it can't be processed. One way to make sure is to use our Resume Builder – all of the built-in templates to use with our builder are ATS compliant.
Choose the right fonts and font size
Font choice is an essential step. The number one rule of font choice is to never use Comic Sans, the font of church secretaries and lemonade stands. It's unprofessional and just downright goofy.
There are two types of fonts to pick from: serif and sans serif. Serif is a font that has tiny lines coming off the letters and is more traditional. An example is Times New Roman, but that's such a standard font you might want to find another one to set your first resume apart. Sans serif fonts are clean without extra serifs coming off the letters and convey a modern, creative vibe. The most famous and most used is Helvetica (Arial is the Microsoft equivalent).
When designing your resume, use a slightly larger sans serif font for headers and titles and a smaller serif for body copy, but never use more than two fonts. For legibility, type size should be between 11 and 13 points and never larger or smaller.
Pick an efficient font that allows you to get all the information you need to include on a single page.
Serif fonts that work well on most computers:
- Book Antiqua or Palatino
Sans serif fonts you can't go wrong with:
Watch the margins, spacing, and white space
White space is literally the empty spaces on the page. White space is good. It allows the copy to breathe and makes it easier to scan and read. Keep your margins about one inch all the way around to keep the copy from feeling crowded and cluttered. Don't go below 0.75 points. Simplify your content or expand to two pages if absolutely necessary.
Line spacing should vary. Single space the entire document but add extra spaces between sections to provide more breathing space.
Columns and alignment
The underlying format of your first resume should follow a layout that keeps headers and bullets aligned.
- A single-column layout is the most common and traditional. Hiring managers are accustomed to scanning them quickly and ATS systems can easily and accurately process them. They do take up more space, particularly when using brief bullets to describe skills, experiences and accomplishments.
- A well-designed two-column layout is easier to read. You know how newspapers are set up in columns? That design makes it easier for people to process the information. They also force brevity, as you write fewer words to fill the space correctly. On the negative side, they can be incompatible with ATS systems, meaning it may not be able to pass through the automated review.
Regardless of which design you use, everything should be aligned correctly and be easy to consume. Be sure to include some white or empty space to let the content have room to "breathe" and give readers' eyes a chance to rest. Depending on the program you use, you'll have to experiment with tabs and indents to make sure the document is set up correctly for the copy to stay aligned.
See these templates for some examples on how to use columns effectively.
Use bullet points to break up information. Instead of writing a paragraph about each job you had, write two or three bullet points that demonstrate what you accomplished or learned on the job (or in an internship). Use and make it as concise as possible. Also make sure you use the same verb tense for all of your bullets.
Color is another way to set your first resume apart. Inject a color that reflects your personality or the job to which you're applying. Red is bold and energetic; orange is confident and friendly; blue is trustworthy and dependable. Don't go overboard with color. Use it in headers only, or as a light background behind your name and contact information. Remember that your resume might be printed out at some point, so you should keep most of the background white. If you're not feeling adventurous in the color department, keep your font color simple, and use basic black.
Mobile, links, and file name
When it comes to sending your resume, there are many formats you can send it in. Be sure to follow the requirements of the job for which you're applying (translation: if a particular file format is specified in the job ad, use that file format). Generally speaking though, a .pdf is the best format because it preserves your fonts and layout and can be read on a phone or computer. Before you send it, be sure to test the resume on a mobile device to make sure it works.
Include links to your LinkedIn profile and any other online references you might include, like a portfolio. You don't want the hiring manager to have to hunt for that information.
One final tip: when saving your first resume, name it something other than "resume." Incorporate your last name, so when it's saved in a folder with a bunch of other resumes, they can find yours quickly. For instance: "Brian_Smith_Resume.pdf."
If you're still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of writing your first resume, consider starting off the work with a resume template or resume sample, and pull your document together in a snap. Not only will you not have to fool around with laying out your own design, but you'll also get help in the writing department, with pre-written bullet points that are easy to customize, plus step-by-step guidance with nailing the writing of all key resume sections.