Why Resume Formatting Matters More Than You Think

A beautiful and effective resume is usually easy to recognize: it’s well written, clear, and concise. It’s short (usually two pages or fewer). It’s delivered on time (usually within a few days after the announcement of the open position in question.) And it’s relevant, which means every statement in the document contributes to the central goal and helps the applicant present herself as the perfect candidate for this specific job.

But there’s one more quality that almost all successful resumes tend to share, a quality that should never be overlooked: great resumes are formatted according to established business standards. 

Why does formatting matter so much? If all the relevant information appears somewhere in the document, does it really make a difference if this information is presented in a specific order or according to a specific layout? If you’re sitting down to create your resume and you’re thinking of wandering off track and making your own stylistic and organizational decisions, keep these considerations in mind.

1. Resumes are often processed by ATS systems.

ATS, or application tracking systems , are often the first recipients of resume and cover letter packages. These systems were once common only among large corporations,  but smaller companies are now beginning to use them as well, and since they often scan and copy essential information from the document into a separate file, you’ll need to keep this essential information organized in a recognizable way. ATS systems often look for names and contact information at the top of the page, followed by education details, and then a work history arranged by previous position title.

2. Scanners search for specific keywords in specific locations.

Your geographic address may be a very important consideration to these employers. So you’ll want to keep this address and its searchable keywords (like “Seattle,” “Washington D.C.,” or “19454”) where scanners are likely to find them: at the top of the page under your name. The same rule applies to search terms located in your education section (like “Associates Degree” or “CNC Certification”) and your work history section (like “managed private accounts” or “public speaking experience”).

3. Some employers only read certain sections.

As odd as it sounds, some human readers (and scanners as well) are only interested in certain resume sections, and if these sections can’t pass muster, or don’t exist at all, or aren’t located where employers expect to find them, your resume won’t make it very far through the process. Some employers only read summaries, and some only read the skills section before deciding to call a candidate in for an interview. 

Classic Style Sets the Tone

There’s nothing quite like the look and feel of a beautiful, professionally laid-out resume . A resume that appears well organized and balanced on the page sends a clear message: this candidate understands that in the corporate world, presentation, experience, and attention to detail can mean the difference between success and failure. In this way, your resume will send the same message that you’ll later try to convey with your interview attire. But unlike your pressed and perfectly coordinated outfit, your resume won’t come with a high price tag. Visit LiveCareer and get the tools you need to make the right impression. 

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