How to Format a Resume

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Even before an interview, your resume will give a prospective employer an impression as to whether or not you are worth hiring.  In fact, in most cases, it will determine whether or not you even have an interview. So, if you are looking to get an interview call, you’ll want to make sure your resume is crisp and clean.  In this article, we explain the basic building blocks of a good resume, as well as the minute details that will help earn you an interview call.

Basics to Making a Good Resume

It may seem easy to make a resume.  After all, you just have to list out your experience, right?  But there is a huge difference between a resume and an impressive resume. For example, if your resume is easy to read and comprehend, you are roughly fifty percent ahead of the resume that is poorly-worded and lengthy. Think about it. Nowadays, a human resource manager has to cope with a lot of little things during the course of a hectic day. Amidst all these things, he or she also has to go through a detailed inspection of potentially hundreds of resumes in the employee recruitment hunt.

You should keep in mind, therefore, that your primary concern isn’t to impress the recruiter with how awesome you are, but making the recruiter’s job easier by making your resume enjoyable to read. If your resume has an easy-to-read structure, it will undoubtedly catch the attention of the recruitment manager, because it will stand out from among all of the regular, run-of-the-mill resumes. This is most easily achieved by utilizing a suitable format that includes a proper division of sections, and the usage of bullet points to help organize each section. Given below are some general tips that can help you tune up your resume:

  1. It is vital that your resume is easy to read and, more importantly, skim. A recruiter is only going to initially glance at it in order to pick out the critical details in your resume. If he or she can’t find these details without going through each word, you are going to lose the recruiter’s interest much faster.
  2. Try to keep your resume within two pages in length. Anything longer and the recruiter might not even glance at your resume.
  3. Paragraphs, especially the introductory paragraph, make or break the reader’s first impression. A crisp and appealing introduction draws the reader in, making him or her more likely to go through the rest of the resume.
  4. Listing your roles and responsibilities with honesty is a must. Do not paint yourself as more qualified than you are. The last thing you want is to be hired by someone who expects a certain performance from you that you cannot deliver.
  5. Use active language, rather than passive. “I accomplished XYZ,” rather than, “I was assigned XYZ.”  Also, keep your words as simple as possible. This makes reading the resume much faster and easier on the recruiter (there are many great writing programs out there that can assist you with this!).
  6. Do thorough proofreading and re-editing of your resume, as even a single mistake can ruin your first impression. Make sure you use spell-check and run your resume through a grammar checker like Grammarly.

Remember, your job is to impress the recruiter and leave him or her with a great first impression.  While you are obviously trying to sell yourself and your skills in a resume, your primary concern is making it comfortable for the person reading it.

How to Format a Resume

The format of a resume solely depends on what and how much content you want to display. There is no fixed formula, but there are a few guidelines that we would recommend following:

Know the company and the position to which you are applying

Not only should you know the basic requirements of the job, but what sort of broader interpersonal skills do you have that will fit in with that prospective position? What sort of culture does the company itself aim to create in their work environment, and how can you contribute positively to that?

Focus on skills, rather than experience

This is especially useful when prior work experience does not match up with the prospective job.  For example, discussing that you were a banker when you are applying for a position as a construction manager doesn’t make sense from a job experience perspective.  But if you focus on key skills that each job shares – problem-solving, crisis management, etc. – then you are more likely to catch and keep the reader’s attention.

Focus on longevity

Few companies want to hire someone who is here today, but gone tomorrow.  It costs money to train new hires, and they want to know that their investment will pay off.  If you find that your work history doesn’t offer examples of longevity, stress that each move was in order to promote personal growth, not because you cannot stay put.

Resume Templates

Selecting a resume template is tricky because of the many options that are available. You can go for a simple template, or you can go for a sophisticated, stylish template. What you select needs to do two things.  First, it needs to represent you. If you are a laid-back person looking at a laid-back company, a formal template is probably not the best choice.  Secondly, it needs to keep your resume organized using the guidelines discussed so far.  Remember, keep it short and simple.  If the template is lengthy and complicated, it isn’t for you.

While many prefer to create their own resumes, there are a few advantages to using a template, namely that it saves both time and energy.

As templates provide you a structure to which you can add your information, they don’t require any experience or skill to create. This saves time, as it frees you from having to go through and change headings, fonts, and whatnot.  Even more importantly, a template will not only save you time, but its pre-existing structure allows you to focus on the content, which is what matters most.

Sections

Whether you are entry-level, more experienced, or have specific skills, your resume can look disorganized without proper sections. The core purpose behind making a resume is to present experience, qualifications, and key skills. Sections help highlight these, acting a sort of index for the recruiter to quickly locate the set of information he or she wants. It not only makes it easier for the recruiter to read it but also makes it easier for their applicant tracking system (ATS) to analyze it. Therefore, your resume template must include these sections:

Name and Contact Information

Your first and last name should go at the  top of the resume. The font size should be a bit more than other headings, so that the recruiter can commit your name to memory. Just below your name, write your address, phone number, and email address.

Work Experience

This is the critical section that covers the core of the resume. Here, you mention your work history in order of date, with the most recent position you have held. Include your company’s name, your job title, your tenure, your roles, and responsibilities.  Though this is a debated rule, it is generally advisable to limit your work history to the prior ten years. Most employers do not care where you went to high school.

Education

For a recent college graduate, education and certification can be a bit detailed, as there is not much to show in the experience section. It includes listing the degree, graduation year, school name, and location. Whereas, for an experienced candidate, it should be short, where graduation and post-graduation details are sufficient.

Resume Writing Rules

Below, you will find the best practices for choosing fonts, margins, dates, bullets, capitalization, etc. Following these tips will help you set up a resume that can land you more interviews.

Capitalization of Job Titles

Usually, job seekers think that their job titles should be capitalized. However, this is not always the case.

  • Job titles should be capitalized if they are part of a heading (Example: “Manager of Marketing (2020–Present)”).
  • If a job title precedes your name, or is part of your name (Example: “Vice President of Sales Your Name”).
  • NEED NOT be capitalized if you are referring to it in a sentence, or if it follows a name as a description. (Example: “As manager of sales, I brought in hundreds of leads” or “Your Name, the vice manager of marketing”). Note:  If it follows a name, but is still used as a title, it should be capitalized (such as in a signature line).

Read more:

Capitalization of Degrees

Text of the degree section consists of the college/institute name and the degree name, which can be capitalized, but only in certain conditions.

  • Abbreviations of college/institute can be capitalized in this way: FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising).
  • Abbreviations of degrees can be capitalized as follows: BS and MS, or with periods: B.S. and M.S.

Margins

Margins decide the alignment of the information or sections within the page layout. You should set margins at no less than 0.5” (but no more than 1”), and there should be proper space between each section.  We recommend an extra space, when compared to the spacing of the body.  So, for example, if the body is single-spaced, leave a double space between the end of one section and the beginning of another. Lastly, your resume should be printed on white or cream-colored, good quality paper (24 – 28 lb. is the recommendation).

Fonts

Fonts should always be professional. For names and heading sections, use bold, 14-18 point font.  For the main text and body, use 10-12 point font. Stick with simple fonts, such as Arial, Calibri, and Times New Roman.  Your resume is not the time to use Curlz MT!

Dates

Dates are used to show the period of the job and course duration.

Whatever format you choose, it has to be consistent throughout the resume. The following are acceptable formats:

  • July 2018 to July 2019
  • 7/2018–7/2019
  • July 2018–July 2019

Just remember, whichever format you choose for one job position, you must use for all of them!

Bullets

Bullets help in skimming a resume. Bullets are used in qualifications, work experience, and skills. Use bullet points for crisp details, rather than sentences. Please note, that because you are not using sentences, there should not be a period at the end.  If you do choose to use sentences in your bullet points, however, you must include a period. Use circles, hyphens, or small squares, rather than symbols.

Conclusion

Your resume is the first view a potential employer has of you. It is, quite literally, how you present yourself to the world. Taking your resume seriously will not only help you make that good first impression, but will also speak to your professionalism. A good resume will help you give an accurate representation of yourself, your skills, characteristics, and background. Take your time with, get it right, and increase your chances of receiving that much-coveted phone call.

We also recommend running your resume through Jobscan to make sure you can beat the resume robot software used by many companies.


Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.

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