Resume Writing Style Guide
The content of your resume is more important than the style. However, if your resume style and format stray too far from today’s standards your content may not be read. If your message is not communicated, then you have lost your chance and your only clue may be in the form of no response to your resume submission. Let’s cover the basics of my resume style guide.
From years of working with clients, I have learned that fonts can be very personal to many clients. For some it is like a signature. I encourage clients to stay true to their style as long as their chosen font does not hinder the resume’s purpose. Be sure to use a font that is easy to read on screen and on paper. These are a few of my favorites: Candara 11 points, Verdana 10 or 11 points, Garamond 12 points, Calibri 11 points, Book Antiqua 12 points, and Century Gothic at 9 or 10 points. If you are seeking a technical position with a creative element, Century Gothic, Calibri, and Candara are nice choices. If you are more comfortable with a conservative look, you can’t go wrong with Garamond. Each of these fonts mentioned above is easy on the eyes.
Nothing is worse than 2.5 pages of content crammed into two pages with a quarter inch margin. Allow generous margins all around and adequate spacing between categories. The minimum page margins should be 0.6” all around. If you can afford the space, 0.8” all around is a much nicer look. Allow a full line of space between each category and insert a buffer of two to four points under each category heading. The white space that is created through margins and spacing facilitates smooth navigation of your resume.
Some fret to create a one-page resume. Don’t allow page count to spoil a nice presentation. You may read antiquated advice that proclaims a one-page resume is the only way. The standard of most resume experts is to create a resume that includes your top selling points in a concise manner. For most entry-level candidates, that is a one-page resume. For most professionals with work history, college education, and numerous relevant technical skills, a two-page resume is required to share the candidate’s major selling points. There are some exceptions in which a three-page resume is necessary. In some cases, a technical candidate will present a strong two-page resume and offer an addendum with additional project details. A project manager may have an addendum with highlights of top projects. A designer might have a portfolio of work samples. Some consultants might have an addendum featuring three or four case studies.
What about photos and graphics? Years ago technical resumes included graphic logos representing industry certifications. That has fallen by the wayside due to the rise of ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Graphics, including photos, can be problematic with some ATS systems. For that reason, many experts recommend submitting a clean resume without graphics. LinkedIn is the appropriate place where readers can see the logos for your employers and your certifications, as well as many other graphics such as sample work or photos of you speaking at an event. On LinkedIn, you can also upload media clips, white papers, presentations and more.
Headshots & Photos
In most industries it is not common or advisable to include a photo on a resume. The exceptions would be occupations in which you are in front of the camera, such as broadcasting, acting, modeling, or spokesperson. Of course, LinkedIn is the opposite. Everyone should have a headshot on their LinkedIn profile.
When printing a resume to carry to an interview, white or off-white paper is a wise choice. When designing your resume, you can spice it up with color accents. This can be done through a color line under a category header, a thin page border, or subtle shading in a chart. These color accents can make a resume more appealing without affecting ATS compatibility.
The possibilities for resume style are nearly limitless when you factor in font choices, styles for category headers, and borders. Keep to the standards so that your resume is scannable by ATS and also easy for a human reader to absorb.