Your resume in the first impression the HR Manager or the recruiter gets of you. A poorly presented resume can cost you that job you are vying for. This means priority number one (after getting all your experience down) is to make your resume readable and easier for the very busy manager to skim through.
Following are 15 rules to follow to create a better resume:
1. Don’t Center Any of Your Text
Keep your section headings aligned to the left. This improves readability because the eye naturally returns to the left margin once it’s ready to move on to the next line of text.
2. Align Your Dates and Locations to the Right
You can only fit so much information (company name, job title, location, dates of employment) on one line of text before it gets messy. To help separate out your information, make a separate column for dates and locations that is right adjusted. On most word processors, you should be able to just create a right-tab.
3. Don’t Justify Your Resume
Overall for your bullets and resume overall, stick with regular ol’ left alignment.
4. Keep Everything the Same Size Font
Aside from your name, which should be a little bigger, the font size throughout your resume should be the same size to ensure readability. Use bolding, italics, and all-caps—sparingly, of course.
5. Pick Either Your Roles or Your Companies to Bold
Bolding of select words and phrases helps with scanning, but you don’t want to go overboard. So choose what to bold wisely, depending on the message you want to send.
6. Use ALL-CAPS Very Sparingly
While it is an option for creating emphasis, all caps is a lot harder to read and therefore harder to skim than text that isn’t capitalized. Save your all-caps option for section headings or your name.
7. Maximize the First 5 Words of Your Bullets
When skimming a resume, a recruiter is very likely going to be reading the first few words of a bullet, then moving on to the next line unless his or her interest is piqued. This means those first few words of your bullets are much more important than the rest. Make sure the first five words of each line make the reader want to keep reading
8. Keep Bullets Under 2 Lines
Even if your first few words are the most interesting thing your recruiter has ever read, going over two lines per bullet is pushing it a bit. Try to keep your bullets short and sweet. (And yes, you should always use bullets, not paragraphs, to describe your experiences.)
9. Use Digits When Writing About Numbers
Using numbers in your bullet points quantifies results and helps recruiters better understand the scope of your work. Make these numbers easy to read by using digits (i.e., 30% versus thirty percent). It improves readability and—bonus—saves space.
10. Have a Separate “Skills” Section
Just to really drive the point home, piling up all your relevant skills into one section helps ensure that the recruiter sees them. You should still highlight your skills in the context of your work, but pulling them out into their own section doesn’t hurt.
11. Keep Your Resume Formatting Consistent
People can get pretty creative when they’re trying to fit all their relevant work experience into one page. That’s fine, but make sure that however you decide to do it, you keep your formatting the same throughout the document. Consistency helps with skimming, and if the recruiter wants to refer back to something, he or she will know where to look.
12. Try to Have Some White Space Left Over
Lastly, having some breathing room on your resume also helps with skimming. Different amounts of white space can signal to the reader that this is a different section or help emphasize the importance of something, such as your name or skills. And overall, it just makes the whole document less overwhelming.
Having your resume skimmed is a fact of life as you apply for jobs. So, make sure you maximize the experience and make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to find the right information—and send you along to the next step of the process.
13. Check to Make Sure It’s Tailored
You may think your resume perfectly describes your skills and experiences all on one tidy sheet of paper, and you’re probably right, but the real trick is for a recruiter who is hiring for a particular position to agree with you. This requires adapting it to a particular job. No matter how flawless it is, it will always benefit from some personalization. Here’s how to check where your resume can use some tailoring.
14. Optimize it for Mobile Viewing
Careers have changed, so it’s no surprised that recruiting’s changed, too. One thing that does seem to catch job candidates off guard though is how often their resume will be viewed on a mobile device. You might have a lovely printed resume, but to ensure it stays lovely even when viewed on a phone, consider implementing some of these tips. If nothing else, move away from a two column resume and stick with one single column. It’ll be easier to navigate for mobile devices and applicant tracking systems.
15. Turn it Into a Website
For those of you who really want to go above and beyond, consider creating a website for your resume. Not only will this help you stand out from other applicants, but you can show off some of your skills with an online portfolio.
However, if you’re pressed for time, at least make sure you’re maximizing the impact of the first five words of each bullet point by including keywords as early as possible.