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Everything from fonts to formatting can make or break your resume

Skip the scented paper.

The Style Council

Summarizing a lifetime of professional accomplishments on one sheet of paper might feel daunting, but turning your attention to the details is a surprisingly helpful first step.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Tina Nicolai – an HR hiring expert who has read more than 40,000 job applications – said that she has seen far too many resumes with careless formatting: “The biggest mistake job seekers make [is that] they are sloppy. They pay poor attention to detail.”

With a whole host of conflicting advice available online, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. However, there are a few resume writing conventions that are effective across industries. Today, we’ve collected a list of some tried and true tips to keep your resume organized, professional, and easy to read.

Margins

For margins, a safe bet is between 0.5 and 1.0 inches wide. It’s a good idea to keep equal proportions on opposite sides of the page. For example, if your margins are set to 1 inch on the top, they should also be 1 inch on the bottom.

Line Spacing

Keep your spacing at the standard 1.0 mark, and make sure to include an extra space between each section of the resume. You’ll want it to look cozy, not squished. If you’re short on room, experiment with ways to make the actual content more concise before you resort to messing with spacing or margins.

Length

A standard resume is one page long. If it is any longer, it’s a Curriculum Vitae (CV). With limited space, it becomes even more important that each item on the resume contains skills and experiences that are directly transferrable to the job you’re applying for. If it isn’t relevant, get rid of it.

Chronology

No matter what sections you include on your resume (e.g. Education, Work Experience, Awards), the items within each section should be listed in reverse chronological order.

Font

The font you choose should be something that looks professional and is easy to scan; a good choice is a traditional serif font sized between 10pt and 12pt. Times New Roman might be boring, but it’s timeless and dependable. For a more updated serif, try Cambria or Garamond.

Alternatively, many studies have found that sans serif fonts are easier to read on screens. So if you’re uploading a resume online, try using a sans serif font like Arial or Verdana.

Color

In general, we recommend forgoing color altogether. If you are set on incorporating a pop of color, stick with simple and subtle choices like using grey, navy blue, or dark red to accent your headers. And if you’re printing your resume, always keep the paper white; less is more in this case.

Columns

We warned you about the dangers of resume bots in the past. Well one crucial way to avoid your resume from being parsed into a series of incoherent data is by avoiding the use of columns in your resume. Keep it to one simple series of bullet points and you should be set.

File Name

Lastly, file name matters. It’s literally the first thing a prospective employer sees when you send over your resume. Although it sounds obvious, you should always double check that the file includes the word “resume” and your name. Avoid using phrases like “updated” or “version 5” in the title. A simple format is YourName_Resume. Also, check if the recruiter specifies a file format like .pdf or .doc and save it accordingly.

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