Resume writing is no easy feat. From perfectly capturing relevant work experience, to setting yourself apart from nearly 5.8M job seekers, resumes make the difference between fantastic job offers and stinging rejection letters. Where’s the best place to begin when attempting to update your resume? Start by learning how to format your resume using strategic techniques designed to help you stand out, showcase professionalism, and put your best foot forward.
How to Format Your Resume – Step 1: Structural Considerations
Your resume’s structure, or “look,” subconsciously acts upon the minds of your potential employers. The old rule of potential employers only spending 6-10 seconds reading each resume still holds true. Ensure you format your resume with their needs and expectations in mind. Start by perfecting some structural resume basics:
Number of Pages
Traditional recommendations advise all resumes should adhere to a strict one-page limit. The reasons behind this recommendation are valid – most employers receive hundreds if not thousands of resumes while hiring for an open position. Employers simply don’t have the time to sift through pages of resume material. One-page resumes, when formatted correctly, allow for easy scanning and reference during interviews. They also place the most important data front and center, making it easy to spot relevant candidate accomplishments.
Some new schools of thought, however, believe two-page resumes function better for some candidates. When candidates hold more than one page of quantifiable, relevant, high-quality examples of their experiences, two-page resume formatting might be a better choice. This is especially true for mid-career professionals and digital job applications, where resume length is less important than content.
A professionally-written resume should be written using a single column, as opposed to multiple columns of text running vertically alongside one another. The last thing prospective employers need is a headache from chasing lines of text all over the page. Single-column formatting keeps your resume clean and easy to read.
By now you’ve likely picked up on a universal resume best practice: readability! Font choice and font size greatly impact readability and should never be used to showcase “personality” or “style.” Let your personality come through when you’re invited for an interview (an interview you’re unlikely to get if you use customized, fancy, hard-to-read font).
Similarly, in today’s digital age, designer fonts can lead to software, file reader, and font compatibility issues, further impacting a potential employer’s ability to open and read your resume. The best font choices for your resume include basic, well-known, universal fonts:
Submitting your resume online doesn’t excuse you from printing hard copies. Paper resumes are key during interviews, walk-in job opportunities, and job fairs. Providing physical, printed copies of your resume displays a proactive, professional attitude to potential employers. Ensure your resume looks its best by sticking with a few tried-and-true resume paper recommendations:
- Use white or off-white (ivory) paper colors only
- 32lb resume paper weight
- Cotton texture and material
- Black ink (use a printer that doesn’t smear, bleed, or run)
Make it easy for potential employers to contact you. Place your contact information at the top of your resume using the same font standards we discussed earlier. You want your contact information to be exceptionally easy to find and read. Include the following details:
- Full legal name
- City, state, and ZIP code
- Phone number
- Email address
- Your custom LinkedIn URL
How to Format Your Resume – Step 2: Professional Experience
After structural considerations and contact information, professional experience is the most important thing on your resume. Employers need to quickly understand how hiring you will positively impact their day-to-day and long-term company goals. The best way to showcase your potential as a candidate is with well-structured, perfectly-articulated examples of your work. Try a few of these helpful techniques:
- Stay Quantifiable: Employers are held to company and department-wide metrics and number-driven goals. Speak their language and appeal to their data-focused nature by using metrics in your resume.
- Stay Current: Potential employers want to see relevant, fresh examples of your skills. Showcase achievements earned within the last 10-15 years, maximum.
- Don’t Undervalue Your Experiences: Just because you’re new to an industry (or the job market in general) doesn’t mean you can’t creatively showcase applicable, relevant experiences. Try connecting relevant job skills to different facets of employment, like company culture, customer service needs, or creative problem-solving strategies.
- Don’t Overvalue Your Experiences: While internships help graduates attain fantastic job offers, interns should never attempt to inflate their resumes with achievements they weren’t actually a part of (and can’t replicate on their own!). Keep your resume focused on data that reflects skills you can carry with you to new roles and organizations.
How to Format Your Resume – Step 3: Education and Certifications
Once you’ve quantified your professional experience, it’s time to detail your education and any certifications you’ve earned. Education isn’t limited to traditional brick-and-mortar schools; pull out continuing education courses and credits you received at current and/or past places of employment, trade schools you’ve attended, and training programs you’ve participated in. Consider adding important examples of learning achievements like:
- Valid (unexpired) equipment licenses like a CDL or forklift license
- Yearly ethics, compliance, and workplace culture courses mandated by previous places of employment
- Industry-specific certifications, such as CPR/First Aid, Microsoft Certified Educator, or safety specialist certifications
How to Format Your Resume Step 4: Community Involvement
Employers (especially local small business owners) love to see recent, consistent community involvement on a resume. Community involvement indicates commitment, stability, flexibility, and diversity among experiences and learning opportunities. Keep your community involvement bullet points relevant to the role and company you’re applying for. Make sure to mention:
- Leadership positions, including any positions held as a community board member, planning team member, team leader, or decision-maker
- Volunteer experience, especially with groups and outreach efforts related to the role you’re applying for
- Professional affiliations, such as membership within a local chamber of commerce or government
Your resume is the first thing potential employers see when reviewing your job application. Ensure your first impression stands out for all the right reasons and format your resume with professionalism and readability at top of mind.
Seeking additional resume formatting details or simply wanting to take resume writing off your plate so you can focus on the actual job search itself? Partner with a professional resume writer to fast-track your career search success and free up your time. Zoetic Resume and Writing Services saves you time and energy by researching, formatting, and writing your resume for you. Together we’ll identify your short and long-term career goals, target career markets, and applicable skills so your resume fully encompasses who you are as a candidate. Connect with me here to learn more about Zoetic’s resume and writing services.