While it’s common for job seekers to spend lots of time agonizing over the content of their resumes, many overlook the importance of their resume format. On average, a recruiter or hiring manager is only going to spend six seconds reading your resume, which means that you need to make it easy to read at a glance. Below are three common resume format mistakes that can make resumes harder to read.
One trend in resume templates is a format split into two columns, with the text of the left column aligned to the right, and the text of the right column aligned to the left. Below is a sleek resume template that uses this layout effectively:
The reason why this resume template works so well is that the longer, more detailed content is in the column where the text is aligned left. Using this standard formatting keeps the information easy to read. The text that’s aligned to the right is limited to brief words and phrases that are easy to take in at a glance. Long strings of text that are aligned to the right are tricky to read. Making the meat of your resume harder to read is unwise, to say the least.
Aligning text to the right can be a great design choice, but choose wisely the information you format this way. Always prioritize legibility and function above aesthetics. The more effort someone has to spend deciphering your resume, the less effort they’re putting into actually reading and retaining the information you’ve included.
Another common mistake people make with text alignment is to center some or all of their resume information. Centering your contact information at the top is fine, but centering text in the body of the resume can be problematic. Centering section headers, job titles, and/or dates can be jarring and confusing if the bulk of the resume’s text is aligned left. It can be hard for the eye to decipher what information belongs together.
We’ve also seen one resume where the entire thing was centered—every single line of it. It’s not uncommon for the text of wedding invitations to be centered like this, which unfortunately seems to have given some people the impression that centered text is standard for formal documents. It isn’t. In the case of resumes, all centering your text does is make the reader work harder. Make the reader’s job as easy as possible.
Blocks of text
Many people dump all of their skills into one big paragraph, just like this one below:
While keeping all your skills together is recommended, there are more effective ways of doing it. Using categories to group like skills together is particularly useful. This method makes it simple for the person reading your resume to instantly get a sense of whether you’ve got the skills they want for a given role. The example below shows the same skills from the paragraph above broken up into three categories:
If you were doing the hiring, which skill set would you rather read?
If your resume skills section can’t be easily divided into neat categories, another option is to use two or three columns and simply list one skill per line in each column. This method also makes your skills easier for a person to scan. If you list important details in dense paragraphs or blocks of text, things will be overlooked or forgotten.
If you’re unsure which skills to include your resume, paste in your resume and the job description below to see which important keywords are missing from your resume.
A traditional resume is a simple, straightforward document. In an effort to stand out, some people go overboard with multiple colors, numerous typefaces, excessive bolding and/or italics, unusual bullet points, and more. As a rule of thumb, stick to one or two typefaces. It’s common to use one typeface for headers and one for the body text. Whether you use one typeface or two, be sure to choose common, polished-looking ones such as Helvetica, Arial, Georgia, or Times New Roman. If you do choose two, it’s often recommended to use one serif and one sans serif.
If you are too heavy-handed with bold and italics in an attempt to make things stand out, nothing will actually stand out. Simplicity is key to legibility. Stick with the standard bullet points, too. They aren’t distracting, and we promise that no candidate has ever landed a role because of their unusual bullet point choice.
A resume with a simple, clean format isn’t automatically boring or plain. It doesn’t take much for a resume to become overdone and hard to read. The job of a resume is to quickly and effectively present you as the best candidate for a particular role. By keeping that in mind, you can avoid these resume format mistakes, and stand out for all the right reasons.