When it comes to constructing a resume, there is no doubt – content is king. However, if your resume is ugly, your potential value to a company might be unclear or could even go unnoticed by the hiring manager (because they’ve already binned your application).
Don’t neglect the visual element of resume building. Clever formatting and tasteful style choices are effective strategies to make your resume stand out. Use them to your advantage! Hiring managers go through piles of applications, so even the slightest visual enhancement could give you the edge on the competition. Here are five actionable tips to improve the appearance of your resume and get it noticed by your future employer.
1. Try a template
Don’t want to spend money on a resume builder? Want something quick and easy?
Using a professionally designed resume template is a nice, efficient way to get yours in tip-top shape. If you don’t want to follow a template 100%, no problem — modify it to your own specifications, input your information and voila! You’ve got your own visually appealing resume.
Many of the templates available online have been crafted by experts well-versed in the art of resume building, and are structured in a variety of ways to fit an array of personalities and careers. People looking to shift gears and try a new field, those who might be accused of being “job hoppers,” and others who may have gaps in their work history can all use formatting to strengthen their application.
2. Mind the margins
It may seem marginally important, but margins do play an important visual role on a resume. For instance, using wide margins can make your content seem a bit lacking. On the other hand, if the margins are excessively narrow it could appear too wordy.
Thankfully there is a sweet spot — by keeping your top to bottom margins at 1” (one inch) & left to right at .63”, you can maintain aesthetic harmony. Feel free to adjust this to your preferred degree, just make sure to stay within a .5” to 1” range.
3. Find a fitting font
The perfect font for a resume is one that makes the reader think, “this is easy on the eyes.” There are the “no-no” fonts like Comic Sans, the safe fonts such as Calibri, and then there are the fonts that have just enough flair to stand out without being too flashy. For a resume, this is the promised land.
There are two categories of fonts: serif & non-serif. Serif fonts have accentuated edges that give them a distinguished appearance. They look great printed on paper, and at larger font sizes they stand out nicely. Non-serif fonts are simply missing this style element, which makes them easier to read at smaller sizes and on a computer screen.
My favorite serif font for a resume is Garamond. It’s elegant without being arrogant, and is a refreshing step away from the stodgy propriety of Times New Roman. If you decide to use Garamond, make sure the font size is at 12 — it appears smaller than some of its counterparts.
My favorite non-serif font is Verdana. Verdana is spaced out a bit more than your average non-serif selection, which gives the reader a nice open feeling. It’s a breath-of-fresh-air font that can help bring out the content of your resume.
Both are solid options, but feel free to explore other fonts if you’re feeling adventurous! Just remember – every font handles sizing differently, so it’s important to experiment before sending out your resume. At the end of the day, readability is key!
4. Bust out the bullets
Well-placed bullet points are embraced by hiring managers because they communicate information efficiently. The traditional bullet is a solid black circle, but if you want to add a bit of style you have some alternatives.
Square and diamond bullets are a great way to add some weight to your listed abilities & skills. Arrows and check-marks are a nice option to emphasize your past achievements & accomplishments. Using different types of bullets is a pleasant and inoffensive way to break from convention, so give it a shot (pun intended).
Check out how this applicant uses box bullets to show areas of expertise and relevant skills, and then changes to arrows to highlight prior work experience:
Such a strategy can catch the eye of a potential employer without being too distracting. Every bit of style adds up — don’t be afraid to try these out and see what looks best!
5. Prepare appropriate paper
Although we’re living in the digital age, it’s still important to bring a few hard copies of your resume to an in-person interview. Show your potential employer you mean business by printing it out on a weighty, solid piece of paper.
You don’t need to engrave your resume on a stone tablet, but the difference between a 24lbs piece of printer paper and its 32lbs counterpart is night and day. Go to an office supply store and see what I mean – you’ll understand.
Regardless if you’re a rosy-cheeked entry-level applicant or a seasoned veteran, being able to create an attractive resume is a valuable skill that will last a lifetime. It’s an important document for anyone from teenagers to baby boomers, and shouldn’t be slapped together haphazardly.
Although ultimately the content is what gives it weight, the appearance of your resume can be the difference between moving onto the interview stage and getting your resume binned.
Make it look good and land that interview!