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You are Here: Home > Resumes > Resume and Letter Center > Six-Step Resume Writing > Step Two: Formatting Your Resume for Maximum Impact

Six-Step Resume Writing

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Step Two: Formatting Your Resume for Maximum Impact

The moment your resume is opened by a hiring manager or admissions director, it must appeal to him or her on an aesthetic level, while accurately reflecting your industry or career goal.

To do anything else is to relegate your resume—no matter how brilliantly it is written—to the rejection stack.

In order to ensure that your resume receives the initial attention it deserves, it's important to adhere to certain formatting guidelines, which include:

  • Template and Font Choice
  • Effective Use of White Space
  • Prioritization of Data

Template and Font Choice

In all cases, your template and font choices should be easy to follow. There is no greater irritation to a busy hiring manager or admissions director than to receive a resume where data is presented in a haphazard or inconsistent manner. That's why templates are used.

An effective template will present company names, dates, job titles, academic information, and all other pertinent data in a clear manner, so that a quick glance will tell the contact person what they need to know. But consistency in format isn't the only point to consider. Templates should be chosen because they accurately reflect a candidate's career or goal.

For example, a banker would choose a more conservative format than an interior designer. Nothing is more jarring—or disastrous—than to receive a banking professional's resume written in italics or script with accompanying graphics.

Your template and font choices should also be easy to read. Resumes written in bold text or italics are extremely difficult to read and project a lack of professionalism. The same goes for artistic fonts that resemble handwriting.

It's a common misconception that jazzing up a resume with these stylistic tricks will get the document read. On the contrary, the resume will get noticed—and discarded—within seconds. It's not the font you use that attracts attention, but rather the resume's initial appearance and the words crafted within it.

When in doubt about font choice, always err on the conservative side. Two good choices are Times New Roman or Arial in 11 points—no smaller, or the text will be difficult to read.

Effective Use of White Space

There is no quicker way to get your resume ignored than to create a document with narrow or nonexistent margins, and block after block of uninterrupted text. No one wants to read a text-heavy document with sentences that run on for four or five lines.

In today's fast-paced world, you must get your point across quickly, with a minimum number of words presented as bulleted sentences within special sections (e.g., Professional Experience, Education, Qualifications Summary) separated by well-placed white space.

Think of white spaces as necessary pauses—a chance for the hiring manager or admissions director to catch her breath, collect her thoughts, and digest (and appreciate) the data you've presented.

Prioritization of Data

Imagine you're a hiring manager. It's 7:30 on a Monday morning, and an important position needs to be filled in your company's legal department. Over the weekend, 200 resumes came in from eager applicants all wanting to fill this one job. Most of the resumes are attractively formatted and use the appropriate font type. So far so good.

But on closer inspection, most of the candidates have relegated their willingness to relocate for the position—a core qualification—to the very end of their two-page resumes. More than a few have buried accomplishments within the text, figuring this will force the hiring manager to search for that data, which means the entire resume will have to be read.

Some have placed bar admission, another important qualification, dead last on the resume, believing that where they can practice law certainly isn't as important as the fact that they are attorneys. A few misguided souls simply list company names and dates of employment, assuming that the hiring manager should know without asking what legal duties they performed at these firms.

It's enough to drive a hiring manager to distraction—or another career.

But then, at last, there are those few resumes that list the important data at the top of the first page. In less than five seconds the hiring manager knows that the first candidate is willing to relocate and assume the cost of those expenses, if required. This candidate also provides a special section beneath the Qualifications Summary that indicates where she is licensed to practice law.

The second candidate does the same, while also pulling out Career Accomplishments and placing them at the top of the first page. After all, why keep a 100% win rate at trial a secret, or the fact that one can practice before the state's Supreme Court?

Given the above scenario, it's clear which applicants will be called in for an interview. No hiring manager will read every single resume that comes across his desk, nor will a hiring manager search for data.

In today's tight job market it's up to the candidate to prioritize data so that a hiring manager knows at a glance what the job seeker has to offer the company in terms of achievement, work experience, education, licensing, certifications, and special concessions, such as relocation.

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