Resume Formatting – Best Practices and How to Stand Out

February 28th, 2015

The range of acceptable resume formats has broadened, but that doesn’t mean that every format is for every job candidate. Creative fields allow for more license with format, but specialties such as information technology, data analysis and engineering demand a more straightforward approach.

Here’s how to stand out among other applicants, while conforming to the expectations of your industry.

Chronological or Functional?

Stick to a chronological format. Hiring managers who are looking at your resume are likely to be analytical and prefer the logical, straightforward approach of the reverse chronological. Also, since functional formats can sometimes be used to conceal employment gaps, this style may present a red flag to someone in your industry.

So, what formatting strategies can you use to stand out within those confines?

Ease of Use

Hiring managers skim dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes per day. Make yours easy to read and to quickly spot critical information. The reader should be able to glance at your resume and see, yes, you have the right experience, the right education and the right certifications. Resume screening should not be a scavenger hunt.

Here’s what helps:

  • Plenty of white space
  • Standard, easy-to-read font
  • Short sentences
  • Numbers (dollar figures, percentages, statistics)
  • Bullet points

Sum it up

Open your resume with a skills summary. List all of your skills that are pertinent to the job posting. Every resume should be customized to each position, but updating the skills summary is particularly critical. Use the same keywords that they use in their posting. It will draw the reader in and it will help you to pass any computer screenings they may use.

Objectives are no longer commonly used. They reveal nothing about what you bring to the employer, just your own interests.

Formatting Don’ts

It can be tempting to add a little flair and creativity to your resume, but it’s often not productive — at least in most industries. Avoid these pitfalls:

  • Don’t embed graphics or tables — it interferes with computer scanning, which could just kick your resume out of their system and you out of the running.
  • Avoid unusual fonts, they are harder to read.
  • Don’t use colored fonts or backgrounds. It looks unprofessional and reduces readability.

Attention to Detail

A great way to stand out is to make sure that your resume is free of typos and spelling or grammatical errors. Have a friend look it over, not just to proofread, but to ensure that the resume communicates your qualifications well.

Your resume is your first “meeting” with a potential employer. Demonstrating attention to detail in your resume can show that you will be equally attentive to the demands of your job.

For more details on crafting your resume, see our post Anatomy of a Great Resume. For expert help on creating a stand-out resume or other tips that can help you rise above the crowd, contact the experts at Select Group, Inc.

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