Resume Basics – Design

This is a two-part post on how to build your resume, first from a Content standpoint and then from a Design standpoint.

We see A LOT of resumes and after a while, they all start to visually look the same.  

That isn’t necessarily bad: A potential employer will want to be able to easily find the information they are looking for, like your education and experience. But you want to be sure your resume stands out in a GOOD way (with easy-to-find info), not in a BAD way.  

In presenting your key information, in general, I suggest:

NAME
CONTACT INFO
EDUCATION (If you were most recently a student)*
EXPERIENCE
SKILLS/ACTIVITIES/AWARDS

*If you held a job AFTER college, or if your college internship work was particularly relevant to the job you are seeking, you can definitely list experience BEFORE education, with the goal of displaying the most compelling information first.

Resume “Objective” or… “Headline”/”Intro”

Traditional resume “Objective” is out of fashion. They tend to be boring, unhelpful and not differentiating, e.g. “I’m seeking a job at your company just like everyone else, so that I offer my skills to your company, just like everyone else, see?) Worse, an objective could be potentially limiting at this stage in your career. Sometimes, its helpful just to get started in any position at a company you want to work for and you can learn the ropes and switch your role eventually. (It goes without saying that you shouldn’t take position doing something you KNOW you won’t like, just to get in, duh.)

Instead of an objective, we recommend a headline or intro paragraph, much like the top section(s) of your LinkedIn profile. See our post on LinkedIn here, (or feel free to stalk Kim’s LinkedIn profile, here.

Basic Resume Design

Your name should be big and bold at the top so I can see it clearly if I am looking for it in a stack of resumes. Then contact information. When designing it, don’t be overly cute or clever. Think function over form: Keep it simple and easy to read. An over-designed resume is distracting and annoying. Remember, I need to easily find the info I’m looking for, but consider separating or emphasizing different sections with graphics, lines, icons or color blocks, whatever.  Type font must be legible font (e.g. standard 10-12 pt size). Use bullet points or short phrases, vs. big paragraphs and long sentences which are harder to read/skim.

Here’s a great example of a beautiful, simple resume template. (Thanks to Anna Maria for this one.)

Color:

Remember that resumes are often printed in black and white only, so don’t rely on color. If you use it, that’s fine, but be sure to stick with black text (or something close to black for contrast) and only one additional color for design accent. If you use color, print it out in black and white to make sure it still looks good. Again, #1 priority is EASY TO READ.

Education:

Again, if you are currently a student, or just graduated, Karen recommends putting your education first. I could go either way on this, education at top or after experience, depending on which you have done most recently (e.g. if you are a student, education at the top). If you have substantial experience (considering your life stage), list it first. Importantly, consider briefly highlighting relevant coursework or big projects, esp. with “real” clients. (More on this in Resume Content Basics.)

Experience:

In chronological order, any (ideally, relevant) work experience, paid or unpaid; volunteer experience. List your accomplishments and responsibilities. Use “active” words like: created, designed, managed, coordinated, lead, organized, initiated, executed, wrote…etc.

Interests/Activities/Awards

Sports, clubs, organizations, memberships, committees, acknowledgements, including the dates (by year, e.g. 2010-2011) of participation. Maybe passions and something interesting about you but nothing that might be seen as oversharing or polarizing.

Photo?

Hmmm. Probably not, unless you’re sure it’s just a classy, professional headshot.  If you’re just using a photo because you think you’re more likely to get hired because you’re really good looking, just don’t.

But, if you strongly believe that a photo helps make you more memorable (supposedly this works with real estate agents, which is why they all have photos on EVERYTHING), go ahead, and consider matching it to your LinkedIn profile picture.

Length of Resume: ONE PAGE per 10 Years’ Experience

This is a rule. Someone might tell you that this rule doesn’t apply anymore, but I am here to tell you IT DOES. I cannot imagine what you have done in 10 years that you can’t keep to one page and I’m more likely to think that you cannot edit yourself. Also, it could come across as arrogant or disrespectful to make someone look through two pages. Unless I am looking at senior level resumes, I personally disregard 2 page resumes.  

One last suggestion:

Look at other resumes. Ask a relative, teacher, mentor employer if you can see examples of good resumes they’ve received.  Ask that same person if they will look at yours and offer feedback.

Worried that you don’t have ENOUGH on your resume? No problem – we will talk about building content in our next post, Resume Basics – Content.

Watch our vlog on how to design a resume.

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