How to Format Your Resume

How to Format Your Resume

If you're rewriting your resume—which you should do from scratch every few years—one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is how to format your resume. You want to get all of the important information on there, but it needs to be short and have enough white space to make it easily readable and attractive. If you're not sure how to format it, here are a few guidelines for formatting your resume that will make hiring managers notice it and want to take a closer look.

Get Inspiration

If there's someone whose work you admire, ask them if you can take a look at their resume. They don't necessarily have to be in your industry, but if you're an engineer and they're an artist, you're going to have drastically different styles, so keep that in mind.

 If their resume is attractive and makes you want to read on, think about why. Is there enough white space to make it comfortable to read? Is it organized intuitively? Are the descriptions short and succinct? Can I recognize industry-wide keywords?

Think About What You Want to Say

Sit back for a minute, and think about the style and tone of your resume. This will probably be influenced by your career—a lawyer's resume will differ from a hotel manager's resume. Once you know how you want your resume to come off to a potential employer, it will be easier to shape your thoughts into a cohesive summary of your working life.

Decide between Paragraphs or Bullet Lists

Inconsistency is a terrible thing for resumes. It shows you're distracted, disorganized, and unpolished. Before you even put down your contact information, you should decide whether you want your resume to be in paragraphs or bullet lists, and stick with that decision. If you decide to change it later, change it altogether—not piece by piece.

Stay Consistent

If you decide to bold your position titles and italicize your contact information, make sure that stays the same throughout your resume. Such highlighting alerts the reader that "bold is important" and "bold means position titles."

 If you miss one, the hiring manager may not notice it when he scans the document. Or if he does notice the position you've left unbolded, he'll notice that you weren't paying attention to the details. Stay consistent in your formatting throughout your entire resume.

Highlight Positions & Successes

Your resume is a summary of what you've done so far in your career, and one of the easiest ways for hiring managers to figure out what you’ve done is your position title. You want to draw attention to these, so be sure to highlight them in some way. Make position titles the headings of paragraphs and lists, offset them in the margin a bit, or bold them. However you choose to format them, make sure they stand out. The same goes with industry awards, degrees conferred, or any other interesting achievements that you think the hiring manager should know about.

Keep It Simple

The hiring manager has to read dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes for each position. Be respectful of his time and keep your resume short and succinct. You don't have to list everything you've ever done in a job role, unless it's an important key word for the open position. And unless you have a very lengthy career and have been in the industry for decades, you should try to keep your resume to one page, two at the very outside.

Another Set of Eyes

Before you decide you're satisfied with your resume, pass it over to someone whose judgment you trust, and have them check the formatting. Since the document is new to them, they'll be able to point out errors and inconsistencies better than you can.

Writing a resume can be a real chore, but if you know what you want to say and have an idea of how to format it, you can create a cohesive, thoughtful document that highlights and summarizes your career. For more help, try LiveCareer's Resume Builder to help you get the most polished resume possible.


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