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The Ultimate Guide To Resume Formatting

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The Ultimate Guide To Resume Formatting

As your first shot at advertising yourself to potential employers, your resume is by far the most important document you’ll create in life. These summaries should act as an advertisement for everything you offer as an employee, so it’s essential to have them presented in the very best light.

Imagine yourself as a hiring manager and you receive two resumes sitting on your desk. One is simple, classic, and easily read with a mix of basic formattings such as bolds and italics all perfectly organized.

The other has a few different fonts, varying sizes, and colors representing each section. Which one are you more likely to choose, and who has already identified themselves as a better candidate for the job?

Colorful Resume Is it right?

Although it’s true you can’t judge someone on their resume alone, these give a good indication of what you can offer as an employee. For that reason, it’s essential to get your resume formatting correct and display your strengths to the hiring manager in the manner they deserve.


What Sections Should A Resume Have?

No two resumes are ever going to be the same, as every candidate will have a unique background and mix of skills, experience, and work history.

For this reason, it’s hard to say that every resume should feature the same headings and sections because this just isn’t feasible. Rather, you should focus on a few key things as the back bone of your resume and the add to these as you see fit.


The heading should focus on your personal details including your full name, and as much as you’re willing to share. Consider adding your email address, home address, phone number and cell phone number, but be sure to leave off your social security details as these can be submitted later in the recruitment process.

Resume Header in Resume


This is a summary statement that should list a little about yourself in relation to what you want to achieve in a career. It can include both your short term career goals that lead to your interest in this position as well as longer term goals that can be achieved while working for this organization.


This is a great place to put all of your relevant skills in the one place before you even get into details about your work experience or education. This can include both hard and soft skills such as communication and patience, or specific programs you have mastered such as Java or Microsoft Excel.

Skills for Resumes


Starting from your most recent qualification, you can go all the way back to your high school diploma if you think it’s relevant. You might want to enter further details such as GPA or Latin honors if you believe it will be beneficial to landing the job.


This is where you can put a detailed work history, beginning from your most recent position and working backward. Your work experience will include the name of employer, location, dates worked, and the responsibilities you had there. Be sure to use the correct tense when talking about previous employers and mention any special achievements you had.

In addition to these must haves on your resume, there are some other headings which might be relevant to your employment. Sections such as Hobbies and Interests and Volunteer Work, however, this may be overcrowding your resume and taking away its simplicity.


How To Attach A Resume

As most job applications are done online now, you need to be sure you’re getting this portion of the job process right. Firstly, check the advertisement for any clues about how they prefer to receive a resume, as it can vary for employers. If you’re emailing you will need to send an attachment, or some prefer that you upload the document to an online portal.

Mail Attachment

However, when there’s no real indication about what an employer prefers, the best choice is always to convert your document to a PDF and send. This ensures that not only will your resume be safe from tampering, but you’ll be keeping all of the formatting choices confirmed so there’s no risk that it can be opened elsewhere and look a mess.


Which Paper Is Best?

Although nowadays it’s common for employers to ask for your resume via email or uploaded to a job portal hub, there are still companies who prefer the paper version. When you’re sending a manual copy of your resume, you’re probably wondering what type of paper for resume is best to ensure a professional touch.

In terms of color, white is always a good option, but you can also use an off white, cream, or light gray. You want this to help the text pop without being overbearing, so the simpler the better. If you choose something other than white this can help your resume stand out in a pile of all white paper, but be sure not to move too far away from these basic colors.

Resume Writing Paper

Sheets of paper are measured in terms of the weight of an average 500 ream, so this is how they are displayed. The average copier paper is a 20 lb sheet, however, this is flimsy and unprofessional when using it for a resume. Instead, opt for a 24lb or higher without venturing too far towards cardboard as this will also be confusing for the hiring manager.


The Best Font For Your Resume

This is the single most important thing to consider with your resume, as it can mean the difference between a document that is legible and one that is not. If you make any wild choices here you’ll instantly earn yourself a place in the rejection pile, so you need to be very careful.

Resume Font Choices

According to data published in The Huffington Post, the days of Time New Roman is behind us. When you’re choosing a resume font you should opt for something classic and easy to read. The most popular options are Helvetica, Arial, Georgia, and Calibri. Each of these offers something unique while staying in the simple and professional area.

Resume Font Size

The size of your resume font is important as well, so you need to find the delicate balance between being too large that it takes up room and too small that it can’t be easily scanned over by the hiring manager. Size 12 is always ideal, and this applies to whether it’s been printed on paper or sent via email.


Choosing The Right Resume Margins

You should always use at least one-inch margins on your resume, but if you’re stuck then you can use a template that’s already installed on your word processor. Try to get a balanced look by having one-inch margins all the way around so that your text appears centered and is easy to read.

You should be using white space liberally on the margins, and ensure that there’s also enough space between the relevant sections so it’s easy to see where each area starts and finishes. This will make it easy to skim over and find the sections that the hiring manager is looking for.


Using Headers And Footers

There’s really no set rule about headers and footers on resumes in terms of whether you need them or not. Usually, if your document is more than a page long it’s best to have a header and footer so that these papers can be kept together. However, be warned that anything more than a page may seem excessive so cut it short where you can.

Header and Footer in Resumes

If you do decide to use a header and footer, you should keep the text within them simple and minimal. Do not list your contact details or anything lengthy, rather keep it to your name and the page number if this applies.


Dates And Relevant Information

Your resume will likely be full of important dates in relation to when you studied, worked, or completed other activities, so you need to be consistent with how to display them.

There’s usually no need to insert the exact date, so using just month and year will suffice. Ensure that you use the exact same format, font, and style for all dates so that your resume flows seamlessly from one part to the next.


How To List Languages On Your Resume

Before you go listing a number of languages on your resume, you need to assess how proficient you are at them to decide whether or not they make the cut. While you might think it’s great to show you took Spanish classes in high school, if you’re not proficient enough to speak this as a second language at your employment then it’s best to leave it off.

However, if you’re confident at the level of which you can speak alternative languages the best place to list these is either under your skills or in your “other credentials” section. A good idea would be to write “Bilingual – English and Spanish” or whichever language it is you can speak, and this will be a huge bonus to many employers these days.


How To List Latin Honors

If you’ve worked hard enough and earned Latin honors, you absolutely want to show these off on your resume. The best way to list Latin honors is right next to the name of your degree so it can be seen where the distinction was.

Latin Honors

Usually, an employer will only be giving a quick scan so you want it to be next to your degree title so they can easily see the extra achievement that was awarded.


Where To Put Your Study Abroad On Your Resume

When you’re looking for how to put study abroad on your resume, it can be confusing finding the right place for it. The best approach is to list the study program and its relevant details under your Education section as this will ensure it gets noticed by the employer.

While you were a student abroad if you achieved anything else special, this could go in your Achievements section if you feel that it’s worth a mention.

Listing References On Your Resume

The issue of references on a resume has been a long contended one, however, there’s been a huge shift in recent years to a firm decision.

Traditionally, people would list their referees on their resume along with relevant contact details, however, this caused more problems than it was worth. From there, people then listed “references available upon request”, but it was found that this was an even further waste of space.

The best way to format your references on a resume is to leave them off entirely. Once you get through the interview stage, you’ll then be prompted to give the details of your references.

This not only saves valuable space on your resume, but it means that you have time to speak with your choices beforehand and give them warning that a potential employer may be phoning them.


The Right Formatting To Get You Noticed

You might think that your job history and work skills are the most important thing you can put on your resume, but without the right formatting, no hiring manager is ever going to give it another look.

For this reason, you should spend hours crafting a resume that’s going to sell you as the best possible version of yourself and this can be achieved with a few tweaks to your formatting.

Get someone to check your resume

Once you’ve finished writing and editing your resume, give it someone you trust for a second opinion.

They’ll be able to tell you instantly if it reads well and can offer constructive criticism if there’s an area that needs help with formatting. Spending more time now getting things right gives you a far greater chance of being invited for an interview with your dream employer.

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Jamie Robshaw

Jamie Robshaw

One of the cofounders at Recruiterly and an international recruitment and HR veteran with a passion for recruitment technology.

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