Five Resume Design Tips for Non-designers
When refreshing your resume, content is king. No matter how beautiful it looks, securing an interview will be difficult without the right content. In addition, when you upload a resume online, robots scan it for specific keywords — especially when applying for bigger corporations. 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. identify the key focus areas of your future position, 2. cherry-pick relevant past experiences and 3. quantify your successes. This ensures 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 and 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, so your design should follow suit. 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 scanning a resume. When you make you make your documents easy to scan, you improve your chances of being noticed.
#2—Fonts matter: family, style & size
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. 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.
It’s important to note that nontraditional fonts only work on the devices that have the font style 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 font styles.
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.
#3—Avoid silly line breaks
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 movement of the eyes. Avoid one-word-lines.
Also, if you notice a lonely word, try rewriting the sentence so it becomes longer or shorter.
#4—Layout matters too
Remember #1 Maximize space? Don’t push it. If you have too much content for one page and you’re unable to cut it down, use two pages. Allowing for white (blank) space helps 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 structure 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 six seconds. Improve your design until you hear the correct keywords.
Extra #6—Avoid bias
As a rule of thumb, don’t include a 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.
Extra #7—Online consistency
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.
When professionals design resumes, they use Adobe InDesign or even Adobe Illustrator. If you’re not familiar with the software, Microsoft Word still allows you to apply most of the above tips.