What Your Resume Formatting Says about You

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When it comes to your resume layout and formatting choices, what kind of message are sending to potential employers? What are you saying about your personality, your level of professionalism, your sense of style, and your approach to your work? Here’s a hint: Probably more than you realize. And there’s no real mystery to how this works.

When you choose a formatting style, you’re making decisions that seem appealing to you. And the fact that you prefer Garamond to Times New Roman, or a dark blue heading instead of black, can reveal something about your sensibilities. Here are a few other cues that reviewers might pick up from your document.

1. Plain versus Fancy 

A resume should never use more than four font sizes and three font styles, including bold and italic versions of your chosen typeface. But within that limit, there are two kinds of people: Those who use every option within the bounds of professionalism, and those who keep their font changes to a minimum. There are also those who load up their resumes with bullet points and text boxes, and those who keep things streamlined and sleek.

Either of these decisions can come off in a positive way; sometimes a plain, straightforward resume suggests a person who values substance over style and results over promises. But sometimes a few frills can suggest a tech savvy candidate who knows how to make sophisticated aesthetic decisions. Framing can add value and impact to your message.  

2. Red versus Blue

Most of the time, black is a safe bet for a resume font color. And there’s almost never a good reason to use more than two colors in your document (black plus one other color). But modern resumes sometimes make use of colored text to set off the candidates name and contact information at the top of the page.

So if you choose this route, should you use warm colors at the red end of the spectrum? Or blues from the cooler end? Red is attention-getting and aggressive—it suggests passion and boldness. But it can also suggest recklessness and a tendency to act before obtaining all available information (in other words, hot-headedness). Blue can suggest a calm, cool person ruled by intellect and facts. But it can also imply a robotic approach to your tasks and a tendency to avoid risk. Again, either choice can be positive. But which one represents you best?

3. Calm versus Clutter

A resume with a font size smaller than 11 points, very little white space, and few blank lines between each subheading might suggest a person with lots to say and lots of accomplishments to share. A busy resume can mean a busy person, and busy people can be interesting, complex, and reliable. Busy people pack more experience into an average day than the rest of us, and since they have more going on, they often have more to offer. But the opposite can also be true; busy people are sometimes frantic, distracted, and unable to filter, process, and prioritize information.  

A calm resume with an elegant layout, larger font, simpler subheadings, and more white space can suggest an employee who gets things done without hurry and worry. True leaders and those with real experience can say a great deal with only a few words. And when they speak, people listen. Which style says more about you?

Create a Resume That Reflects Your Personality

Start with a blank slate and build your resume from the ground up. And as you do so, make style and layout decisions that show potential employers who you are. Use LiveCareer’s resume builder to help you create a document that represents you —and only you—at your very best. 

Ready to build a strong resume? Create My Resume

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