Oct 02, 2018
Make a First Impression with Formatting

When it comes to your resume, you make a first impression with formatting. Here are seven key formatting principles to help you create a successful resume.

Make a First Impression with Formatting

1. Consistency

The most important formatting principle is to stay consistent throughout your document.  If you decide to bold your company name, and italicize your job title, keep this format throughout the document.  If you decide to indent your bulleted lists, check that all of your lists fall on the same indent (a great tool to check this is the horizontal ruler at the top of your document).  Lastly, make sure your line spacing and punctuation is consistent throughout the document.  From my experience reviewing resumes, nothing is more frustrating than a resume that is difficult to follow and formatted inconsistently.  When a resume is formatted inconsistently I assume the person behind the resume has difficulty with attention to detail.

2. Templates

Don’t use a template!  Seriously. I know they look pretty and polished, but they limit your ability to include information that might not fit in the designer’s “box”.  Don’t be afraid to make this document your own.  You can take design ideas and principles from a resume you find appealing, but you will be the most successful sticking to the basic formatting principles and creating your resume from scratch.

3. Heading

The heading is where you put your name and personal information.  Your name will always be the BIGGEST font on the page; typically 14 to 16 point font. You should also include your permanent address or address you will be residing in the next 6 months, your e-mail and phone number. You can also include a web link to your LinkedIn page, or online portfolio.  LinkedIn allows you to create a short URL for your profile.

4. Margins

Need more space?  Reduce your margins!  Most computers set default margins at 1.25” or 1”.  Cut this setting in half (0.75” or 0.5”) and you’ll discover the space you need.

5. Fonts Style

There are so many beautiful fonts out there but an employer is not really interested in any of them.  Keep it simple!  Use fonts that are easy to read and don’t require a ton of space. Stick with clean fonts like Verdana, Arial, Calibri, Trebuchet, or Tahoma.

6. Font Size

A safe font size range is from 9 to 12 point font. Your header font size can be 1 to 2 points larger to help distinguish the header from the rest of your content.  Different font styles may be larger or smaller, so play around and find the style and size that works best for you. Keep in mind, the resume review process is a lot of work for a hiring manager, don’t make it harder with hard to read font.

7. Length

A resume should be one-page. Before you panic let me assure you, you CAN fit all of your most relevant and important information on one-page. This will force you to use strong and concise qualitative and quantitative descriptions and only select the most relevant experience to the position. If you have a degree higher than an undergraduate degree, it is acceptable to continue on to a second page. Remember, a potential employer takes 15-20 seconds to review the top third of the page.  If there isn’t anything interesting there, they won’t even bother flipping to that second page.


Corrie Haley

While she doesn’t believe in destiny, it’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence she was voted “Most Likely to Write an Advice Column” in high school. Corrie is the resident career advisor at Inventing Heron and also a Career and Internship Advisor at the University of Rhode Island where she works with undergraduate to PhDs students to achieve their career goals. When she’s not career advising, Corrie can be found indulging in a new book, practicing yoga, or embarking on a new adventure to explore the world.