According to Ladders, recruiters take about 7.4 seconds to scan your resume and decide whether to move you ahead in the hiring process.
Sounds intense, right?
You have less than 10 seconds to present the best possible version of your work experience, skills, and qualification. With 75% of resumes being rejected by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), it becomes crucial to format your resume so that it passes the ATS and gets noticed by recruiters straightaway.
According to the same study by Ladders, resumes that are most likely to get noticed by recruiters (and pass the ATS) share the following traits:
The worst-performing resumes have a cluttered look and feel with very little white space, poor layout, and keyword stuffing.
This study shows that formatting a resume is extremely important to land your next job. This article details all the best practices for formatting your resume and discusses some standard resume formats.
Before we dig in, have a look at this resume example. It's simple, clean, and looks easy on the eye.
When formatting your resume, make sure the essential information is left-aligned.
It helps the hiring managers read through your resume's crucial parts quickly.
It might be tempting to justify your bullet points and other content as it makes your resume looks neat and clean. But due to uneven spacing between the words, justified format decreases readability.
By left-aligning your content, you make it easier for your readers to navigate your resume's essential information quickly.
It's common practice to include one-inch margins on all sides of your resume.
If you need more space, you can reduce them to a half-inch margin but don't make them any smaller than that. If the margins are too small, it will make your resume look extremely busy to the reader — resulting in readability issues.
The standard margin is one inch on a normal Google doc or Microsoft Word document. So, if you are thinking about what would compel someone to shrink the margins, the answer is: to fit everything on one page.
While it's good to keep your resume short and to the point, you don't have to stick to one page only. According to Zety, hiring professionals are 1.4 times more likely to pick candidates with two-page resumes for entry-level roles. So if you need to add another page to your resume without any fluff or unnecessary details, it's okay to do so.
The end goal is to format your resume in a way that's readable and looks easy on the eye. Playing around with margins to fit more content on a single page won't accomplish this goal.
Since your goal is to make your resume as readable as possible, the font you choose plays a huge part in that.
Make it easy for your hiring manager to read through the entire resume by choosing a font size between 10 and 12.
It would be best to stick to professional and easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. You need to choose a font that doesn't distract from the qualifications and achievements on your resume.
Here is a list of some of the best fonts to use on your resume:
To break up your resume into sections, make your name and section headers larger and more prominent. You should also use bold, italics, and underlining formatting to break up the text, highlight specific sections, and make the document easy to read.
Start your resume by stating your full name.
Below your name, you should list your phone number, email address, and your current mailing address. You can also include the link to your LinkedIn profile or your portfolio.
Now, on to the different sections of the resume.
Your sections impact your resume's layout and look and feel, so you must get those right.
All the different information on your resume should be divided into clear sections so it's easy for hiring managers to scan through and find the part they want to read through.
You can divide your resume into the following sections:
You can also add additional sections on your resume to highlight volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, or awards.
Make sure to differentiate each section with a header that stands out from the rest of the text. Your header should also clearly state the intent of the area. For example, for your skills section, your header can be 'Relevant Skills,' or for the experience section, you can add 'Work Experience' or 'Relevant Experience.'
You might be tempted to add other sections to showcase your achievements, like standardized test scores, but it's better to stick to relevant information that shows your relevant skills for the job.
Kushaan Shah, Lifecycle Marketing Manager at Grammarly, suggests sticking to things that show you are competent at a job and says, "Adding your standardized test scores or Enneagram and MBTI scores don't show the recruiters whether someone is capable of doing the job they are applying for."
You should use bullet points when writing your resume to prevent the text from becoming large chunks of sentences pieced together.
Instead of adding details of your work experience in a huge paragraph, format your sentences in short bullet points that highlight some key professional accomplishments.
To make your work achievements more impressive, start each bullet with a specific action verb like generated, multiplied, magnified, reduced, managed, etc.
In addition to action verbs, adding hard numbers will also double down on the impact you made while working in each role. For example, mention the revenue generated, dollars saved, the number of sales you made, or the customers you helped.
34% of hiring managers pass over resumes with little to no measurable results. So, it's vital to add quantifiable results to your work experience.
Amanda Natividad, VP of Marketing at Sparktoro, focuses on metrics when writing work accomplishments and says, "Don't tell stories, show KPIs. Save the storytelling for your interview, where you tell the stories behind the metrics."
Use the past tense when talking about your past work achievements. But suppose you are listing down job responsibilities and accomplishments in your present job. In that case, you should write it in the present tense, i.e., 'managing a team of 10 people,' 'working on increasing blog traffic to 100k monthly visitors,' etc.
David Fano, CEO of Teal — a platform that helps professionals speed up their job search, shares how to write metrics and says, "[The thing you affected + by how much and how long + "doing" and/or "resulting in" statement = solid achievement] is a great formula to come up with action-oriented metrics."
The ideal length for a resume is one page — especially if you are a recent graduate or have lesser work experience.
No one wants to read pages after pages of all your work achievements from your summer jobs and that one seminar you attended.
When working on your resume, it's best to remember that the shorter it is, the better. Win Shi Wong, Digital Marketing Manager, says, "Less is more, and the recruiter will thank you. Make it easy for them to extract the important information from your resume."
It's also the perfect opportunity to snip down all your primary qualifications and achievements into shorter bullet points.
You also don't want to cramp all the sections on one page if it makes your resume look busy and hard to read. So focus on moderation, keep it short but also readable.
Remember to focus on all the necessary details that make you stand out from the competition. Anthony Garone, the author of Winning the Job Search, says, "The goal of your resume is for a human being to read it and want to talk to you or learn more about you."
Adding a headshot may seem like a personal touch, but hiring managers are people, meaning they aren’t exempt from potential bias against marginalized communities.
Studies show that ethnic-sounding names receive fewer interview offers. Taneasha White, a writer and sensitivity reader, shares, “Adding your photo to a resume might result in similar discrimination, potentially based on identities such as your perceived racial and ethnic background, religion, or assumed sexuality or gender identity even though none of these pieces of your identity negatively influence your qualifications for employment.”
It's implied that you are the only one describing everything mentioned on your resume. So, it would be best if you weren't using 'I' or 'me' when talking about your work achievements, education, or other accomplishments.
It would get repetitive fast if you started each new sentence or bullet point with first-person pronouns.
For example, a list of your work achievements written like, 'I built this strategy,' 'I managed a team of ten,' or 'I increased 15% of sales in the fourth quarter' sounds repetitive.
It's obvious that everything on your resume is about you and your experiences, so omit the first-person pronouns and directly talk about what you accomplished. You should also make sure you aren't using any jargon or abbreviations before spelling them out, i.e., NHS, ROI, etc.)
You should follow a consistent format to add dates to your resume.
For example, when adding your work experience, it's common to state the month and year of when you got a job, followed by a dash, and then the month and year of the end date of that job.
Here is an example:
August 2019 — September 2021
Copy AI, Memphis, Tennessee.
You can only state the years you were employed and skip the months altogether. But what's important to note here is to stick to the same formatting throughout your resume. Don't change formats halfway through, as it will confuse the reader and negatively impact their impression of you.
Also, on the topic of consistency, you should stick to the same punctuation throughout the document. If you are using periods at the end of your bullets, do it for all the bullet points.
It's imperative to edit your resume and look for spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes. Around 77% of recruiters reject resumes with typos or grammatical errors.
Jenny Stallard, Coach and Founder of Freelance Feels, says, "For everything you want to include, ask 'does it earn its place?'. This is a good way to self-edit. Look for repeated info, and let hyperlinks help you. Link to LinkedIn or your online portfolio. A resume is like a flyer for you — an advertising poster."
After revising and editing your resume at least a hundred times (kidding, maybe not!), it's time to save it.
Usually, saving your resume as a PDF is the best way. Here are a couple of reasons:
You can also send your resume as an MS Word file. But avoid formats like JPG, PNG, PSD, etc.
The short answer is it depends.
Most recruiters prefer the reverse-chronological format as it's familiar and easy to navigate.
The important thing to note here is how each format differs from the rest and how you should select a format that highlights your skills and work experience brilliantly.
Let's look at the three main types of resume formats and discuss their pros and cons.
A reverse chronological resume is one of the most common resume formats. It's easy to scan, and a lot of hiring managers prefer it.
In a reverse chronological resume, you list your work history with the most recent job title at the top. It also includes a resume objective or summary before the work experience section.
A reverse chronological resume usually follows the following format:
This resume template emphasizes work history, so it's most effective for candidates with a lot of experience in the field. Through this format, you can showcase your work history front and center, which can help catch the employer's eye immediately.
Since its the most common format, its familiarity makes the information easier to process.
It's guaranteed to pass an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) resume test.
It shows the progression of your career clearly. It also highlights the peak of your career.
If you are new to the workforce, this format type will show the hiring manager your lack of work experience.
If you have gaps in your work history, they will become prominent, and the recruiter will notice them right away.
This format focuses on work experience, so it's detrimental if you frequently change jobs or plan to change careers.
The functional resume format focuses on an applicant's skills. While the reverse chronological format highlights the work experience, a functional resume emphasizes the candidate's skills and qualifications.
This resume template focuses more on your skills and doesn't jump right into your work experience. A functional resume format usually follows the order below:
A functional resume format isn't common in the corporate world. Some examples of jobs where a functional resume comes in handy include
Erin Riska, a Talent Acquisition Expert, believes functional resumes do the job better and says, "Functional resumes make the best sense when you consider that a great resume is a marketing document; a highlight reel. But chronological format continues to reign supreme, primarily out of fear and unexamined expectations on the part of hiring teams."
It takes the focus off of your work history and highlights your skills.
It’s a great format for people in non-traditional industries that focus more on skills.
It highlights the skills and qualifications relevant to the job that can be transferred across industries.
A lot of recruiters don’t prefer this format as it's difficult to scan through quickly.
There are chances that this resume format might fail the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) resume test.
It might be too limiting and doesn't highlight your work experience properly.
A blend of the reverse-chronological and functional resume formats, the combination resume highlights both your skills and work experience.
In this format, your skills are listed first, followed by your work experience in reverse chronological order.
The combination resume is typically divided into two parts:
A typical combination resume template follows the following format:
In the skills summary section, list down all the skills relevant to the job and give examples of past achievements and work experiences where you gained these skills or utilized them.
It showcases your most relevant skills for the job and backs them up with examples from your work history and achievements.
It's a great format for people who have gaps in their resumes but have many years of relevant work experience.
This type of format is suitable for very few candidates — people with a lot of work experience targeting a very specific job position.
It can be quite challenging and tricky to build this format properly.
The current job market, especially due to the pandemic, is challenging and highly competitive. With thousands of candidates applying for a single job, you have to stand out from your competition.
Formatting your resume properly will help it pass the ATS and get it noticed by the recruiter.
So, follow the steps mentioned above, create a bold yet professional resume with a solid cover letter and get that bread.
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