When most people think about their resumes, they think about past work experiences, skills, and accomplishments. Basically, you focus in on the actual content of your resume when you think about what the important aspects of the document are. So, how much does resume format really matter?
A lot. Resume format is of the utmost importance. Think about it, when a recruiter, or anyone for that matter, first sees your resume, what do they look at? Whether it is on paper or on a computer, the absolute first thing that anyone will see is your resume format. In fact, it’s pretty well known that if you’re applying to finance jobs at larger firms, recruiters will simply throw away resumes that aren’t perfectly formatted before they even read the person’s name!
It may seem a bit harsh, but think about it from the perspective of the recruiter. First of all, they’ll be reading hundreds if not thousands of resumes during the recruitment process. So, what does it tell them when your resume isn’t perfectly formatted? It says you’re not taking the recruitment process seriously enough to simply fine tune your resume and make sure that your resume format is clean and without any mistakes.
For some anecdotal evidence, I had a friend who was going through finance recruitment and was networking and sending his resume to people at many different firms. There was one guy who he sent his resume to who gave him this unbelievable feedback: “The 9 in your address is italicized when the rest isn’t, fix that.” Of all the feedback that could be given, this guy focused on the tiniest aspect of your resume format. So, when formatting your resume, every detail matters.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when formatting your resume.
Be consistent. If you italicized the dates of prior work experience, you better be sure to do it for every position you’ve held. Bolded your job title? Every single title better be bolded. Bullets aligned at a half inch indent from the left border? All the bullets under that section better line up! And don’t forget about font sizing, too. In keeping with a good resume format, you have to ensure that all the headers are the same font size, all the job titles/dates/bullet points/etc. are all the same font size throughout your resume. If you’re inconsistent your resume will look amateur and to recruiters, poor resume format means you simply don’t care enough to pay attention to the details.
Make sure it’s easy to look at. Regardless of your industry, your resume format must be clean and easy to read. In a similar vein to my point about consistency above, put yourself in the mind of the recruiter. If you have to look at hundreds of resumes for each person you want to hire, why even waste your time trying to struggle through figuring out where to look on someone’s resume? You want to make sure your resume format makes it easy for any employer to just grab your resume and easily see all the information they’re looking for. That’s why it’s so common to see the name and contact info large and at the top middle of your resume so that if recruiters like what they read they know exactly where to find all of your information.
Tailor your resume format to the industry you’re applying to. Resumes come in many formats, and you need to be careful about submitting different resume formats to jobs in different industries. For example, a typical financial services resume format is very traditional - name large and centered atop education, work experience, and relevant experience, and maybe a small section about interests and skills. No mess, no extraneous or weird formatting things like pictures or symbols, nothing besides text in a classy font and that’s it. On the other hand, for something like marketing or graphic design, you might write your name vertically on the side of all your relevant experience and include symbols for each job that show off your design skills. You definitely have to think about both what the job entails as well as what kind of person works in that field before deciding on a resume format. There are lots of options and lots of industries, so think about it for a bit!
That being said, depending on the person you are it may not be a good idea to push the boundaries of your resume format. For marketing and design it’s unique and interesting to do something like have your name run down the side, but at the same time be careful about straying too far from what a resume actually looks like.
Lastly, be chronological with your work experience. You want your resume to tell a story from the bottom up - excluding the education section if you’re still in school or a recent grad - that explains why you’re interested in the job you’re applying to. Now that may not seem like something you’d directly think about when considering your resume format, but this is an important document and the devil is in the details! If you stick to these basic fundamental resume format rules, your resume will be better than most of the other applicants out there, and trust me when I tell you recruiters notice this stuff.
Keeping that in mind, nailing your resume format is actually a pretty complex process and there are statistics to show that well-qualified people think so too! In a survey of students at a top 15 university, 49.3% responded that they struggled the most with the format and design of their resume, and 35.6% said that the format of their resume was currently its biggest weakness. Even more astonishingly, 79.5% of those surveyed responded that it took up to four weeks to get a work-ready resume!
That’s absolutely crazy to me. So, here’s an idea: feel free to browse the rest of our site and check out our templates to see if you like any! If you do, we can save you the hassle of figuring out how to perfect your resume format and actually do all the work for you. We use artificial intelligence to analyze and optimize all your experiences and skills and then have a resume and HR expert look it over before we send you the final product. It’ll take a lot less than 4 weeks and save you all the headaches that come with this process. We guarantee that we can provide you with a top quality resume that’s built to truly illuminate your accomplishments.