By Michiel Den Haerynck
8 Jan 2021
Remember, when refreshing your resume, content is king. No matter how beautiful it looks, without the right content, securing an interview will be difficult. Even more, when you upload a resume – especially when applying for bigger corporations – robots will scan it for specific keywords. Without these keywords, your resume won’t even make it to the HR department.
Thus, before diving into a few practical tips on resume design, I assume that you 1. identified the key focus areas of your future position, 2. cherry picked relevant past experiences, and 3. quantified successes. Now, your content is concise and aligned with your future role. You’re proud of your accomplishments and want your resume to reflect that confidence.
A well-balanced resume design will maximize its impact. It increases legibility and credibility. On top of that, you will be able to inject personality into the final result. It shows future employers you’re worth noticing and meeting for an interview.
Apply the following five tips & tricks to make your resume stand out:
Work with two columns to fit all content on one page. Studies show that people read in F-shaped patterns. Your design should follow this pattern. Place important information near the top and less important information near the bottom.
The columns should not be the same width. Your work experience column, whether it’s left or right, should be wider (around 75% of the total width).
According to studies, recruiters spend about 6 seconds per resume. So, when you make your documents easy to scan, you improve your chances to be noticed.
Selecting the right font family will make or break your design. Your font should be legible and scalable. There are two types of font families: serif and sans-serif. In case you’re wondering: serifs are the little extensions at the end of each stroke. Serif fonts (e.g. Bodoni MT) are more traditional, while Sans-serif fonts (e.g. Gill Sans MT) are more modern. You could combine both if it makes your content stand out.
You can find some more examples here.
FYI, nontraditional fonts only work on the devices that have the font family installed. Save your documents as a PDF instead of a DOC, to guarantee your reader gets the full experience.
Use bold to make your titles stand out. Don’t use underline or italic, unless you want to be seriously old-school.
Font sizes matter as well. Depending on your font selection, 12pt for the body text and 14pt for the titles seems to work pretty well for most font styles.
Never use Comic Sans. Never.
If a recruiter decides to read your resume in more detail, make sure to respect natural eye movements. The optimal number of characters per line is 50-75. It eases the reader into reading, and it follows the natural flow of the eyes. Avoid one-word-lines.
When you notice a lonely word, try rewriting so the sentence becomes longer or shorter.
Remember #1 Maximize space? Don’t push it. If you have too much content on one page and you’re unable to cut it down, use two pages. Use white space to structure information and convey confidence.
Human brains prefer structure. White space creates invisible lines between different chunks of information. Hence, our brains will process this information in a more structured way. A balanced layout will invoke a sense of balance in the reader. It will improve legibility, understanding and the desire to continue reading.
Before you send out your resume, print it. If you used color, check if the black and white version looks good too. Share it with friends and family and ask what they remember after 6 seconds. Improve your design until you hear the correct keywords.
As a rule of thumb, don’t include your date of birth, gender, marital status, exact address or pictures. You want recruiters to focus on your professional achievements. If you must include a picture, don’t use a selfie you took during your holiday in Thailand.
Take some extra time to align your LinkedIn profile with your resume. Recruiters will cross-check this information, and you will avoid embarrassing questions dates, titles or companies.
PS. There are plenty of online tools to help you create beautiful designs, e.g. Canva. Or you could use Adobe InDesign or even Adobe Illustrator. If you’re not familiar with these software solutions, Microsoft Word allows you to apply most of the above tips.