What Should Your Resume Look Like?
You’ve put careful thought into the wording of your resume, and you’ve proofread it twice. Now it’s time to decide on your resume’s visual appearance. You might have an idea for a unique resume design, or you might plan to use a resume template, which can be a great resource. Either way, it’s a good idea to first review resume design best practices to make sure you select a layout that looks professional. Also, if you decide to tweak any elements of an existing template, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind when you make changes:
1. Choose a standard font
Pick a familiar and readable font like Arial, Cambria, or Helvetica. Absolutely don’t use a font with extra loops or frills, anything cutesy that looks like cursive or a child’s handwriting (e.g. brush script or comic sans), or anything that has a vintage feel (like Papyrus). Stay away from monospace fonts such as Courier because they often remind people of receipts or other computer printouts.
Keep bold and italic text to a minimum. It’s okay to put section headings or previous job titles in bold text, and some resume templates use italics to denote the locations or dates of previous positions. If you use bold or italic text, make sure it’s consistent throughout the resume, and only use it for a specific purpose. Don’t insert whole sentences in bold or italic font, and don’t use bold, italic, or underlined text to emphasize any information. A resume looks cleaner when it doesn’t have extraneous text formatting.
Most of the text of your resume should be in 12-point font. Section headings may be somewhat larger, around 14 or 16 points. It’s okay to use 18-point font to draw attention to your name if that fits with your design, but in general, no other text on the resume should be that large.
2. Stick to one page (or two if you're an industry veteran)
Most people can create an effective resume in one page. This page doesn’t necessarily have to list everything you’ve done in your career so far; instead, it should highlight the main points and the details that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Of course, if you’ve worked in the industry for decades, fitting even the highlights into one page might be impossible. In that case, you can spread out the resume over two pages. But only do this if you have enough information so that the amount of content on the second page is comparable to the amount on the first. You want the two pages to look balanced.
3. Use color judiciously
The text of your resume should be black, and the background should be white. This guarantees that the text will be comfortable to read, even for someone who might be color-blind. However, an all black-and-white document can appear drab, so liven it up with accents in one or two colors. Apply color to a border down one side, or to borders around sections, borders at the top and bottom, or bars or blocks at section breaks. Use a couple shades of the same color, such as a light blue and a dark blue, or pick two colors that complement each other. It’s almost always best to take the guesswork out of mixing and matching colors and to go with the color combinations that are provided by templates or resume builders, or with colors that have been paired by a color scheme generator like Paletton or Coolors.
4. Follow a logical layout
Your resume layout should be simple, with sections for contact information, certificates or degrees, work experience, and skills. Within each section, display items in reverse chronological order. You may choose to display all the information in a single column going down the page of the resume. Or, you might prefer a column on the left with your name, contact information, and summary, next to the main body of the resume on the right. You could also include a sidebar for skills or education.
Whichever layout you choose, make sure that there aren’t more than two columns or more than a couple of sidebars or boxes. Each section should have a title, like “Education,” “Skills,” or “Experience.” Don’t let a section in one column or sidebar overflow into another. A reader should be able to briefly glance at your resume and immediately notice where each section is found.
5. Prioritize essential information
Your name and contact information should be at the top center or top left of your resume. If you have a summary or statement of purpose, it should follow just below. Your most recent work information should also appear near the top of the page, so a recruiter doesn’t have to search to find it.
6. Link to a site that includes your photo
You usually don’t want to put your photo in your resume. It’s really hard to get a photo to look good next to all the other elements of your resume, and photos can seem out of place because most resumes don’t include them. Instead, include the URL of your LinkedIn profile, which should feature your professional photo. An employer who wants to see your photo can simply follow that link to your profile.