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How to Format a Resume – Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

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In 2018, The Ladders, an online job search service, conducted a study using eye-tracking software that showed that the average recruiter can decide on a candidate based on skimming their resume in 7.4 seconds. The eye-tracking software showed that the recruiter looked at your current position and company, your previous position and employer, then they skipped straight to your education background. If your resume makes a good first impression, then the recruiter or hiring manager will go back through and sift through the remainder of your resume.

Your resume is oftentimes your one shot to a foot in the door of your dream job, and it can feel daunting to have to summarize all of who you are, what you have accomplished and what your dreams are in one or two pages- especially now that you know you only have 7.4 seconds to capture your audience’s attention.

Each profession, position, and company functions differently and will value different things on your resume. There is always value in studying the job posting for which you are applying and structuring your resume around the specific language and skills that are mentioned on the job posting. There will never be a one size fits all strategy for creating a resume as it is a record of your achievements, experience, and goals. However, we believe there are a few things you should and should not do when structuring and writing your resume.

Do Add Clearly Defined Sections to Your Resume

With just 7.4 seconds, it is extremely important that the structure and flow of your resume is clear, concise, and easy to follow. We recommend a few key sections that should be included on your resume:

  1. Your Name and How to Contact You
  2. Summary of Your Experience or Summary Statement
  3. Professional History and Relevant Work Experience
  4. Education
  5. Relevant Skills and Certifications
  6. Anything Else That is Relevant- Awards, Interests, Community Involvement, etc.

Do Put Thought and Intention Behind Your Font Size and Style Selections

Generally, you should never use more than two fonts on a formal document. When you get past two font styles, your resume can become hard to read and confusing to follow.  Sticking with one font is also acceptable.

While Times has traditionally been the most popular font, to stand out perhaps choose a different font – a Serif font to be more formal or a Sans Serif font to be less formal.  When choosing to use two fonts, we suggest picking one Serif Font and one Sans Serif Font and sticking with those throughout your resume. Here are a few Serif and Sans Serif matches that go well together or can be used individually and are widely available:

To help differentiate your resume sections, consider using your Sans Serif font for your section headings and sub-headings and your Serif font for the details within each section. To best ensure something stands out between the section header and the body copy, utilize italics. For example:

A simple change in font and angle can go a long way in making sure the points you want to stand out, do!

Don’t Add Clutter Just to Fill the Page                  

To ensure your resume is relevant to the hiring manager and will be sure to catch their eye, add key words to your resume that you grab from the job posting. It is important to remember that you just have 7.4 seconds to grab the attention of the person reviewing your resume, you don’t want to risk those 7.4 seconds being spent on fluff that you added to take up space.

Make sure every word, descriptor, adjective, and defining statistic in your resume is added with intention and purpose.

Do Keep Your Language and Verbiage Consistent

We recommend using “Active Voice” in your resume. Typically, writing in the Active Voice is clearer and more enjoyable to read. Whether you choose to write in Active Voice or Passive Voice, you should always hold a consistent tone and voice throughout your resume. Here are a few examples of how you can turn a Passive statement Active:

PASSIVE:

  • A 10% growth across all social media platforms was achieved in my department.
  • Was promoted after I worked at the company for two years.
  • Clear communication was one of my greatest strengths.

ACTIVE:

  • Over one year, my team grew each social media platform by 10%.
  • Earned a promotion within two years of employment.
  • Recognized for clear communication and the ability to unify a team.

Don’t Send Every Company the Same Resume

More important than any other bit of advice we’ve offered, we strongly suggest never sending the same resume twice. Every job is different, every company functions a little differently, and every hiring manager has different priorities in mind.

We recommend studying the job posting for which you are applying and doing your best work to understand how your skills and experience make you a good fit for this job. If you use the job posting to determine what the hiring manager is seeking, you should then use those descriptors throughout your resume, and highlight your relevant experience. This will allow your resume to stand out as a strong fit amongst the pack.  

Lastly, we recommend updating your professional social media sites, such as LinkedIn, to reflect the information that appears on your resume. Your LinkedIn should reflect the same titles, companies, and dates that your resume does. By ensuring consistency, you are establishing a relationship of trust and truthfulness from the beginning.

See our Resource Center for more helpful tips!

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