resume formatting

Resume Formatting 101 – The Short Story

There is a ton of information on the web and on career and job sites about how to develop and format your resume. Some of this “help” is good. Lots not so good. There are also many templates to help you with the process of compartmentalizing data and making it look pretty. Some are ok, many will land your resume in a junk folder or parsing error folder.

It may sound silly or old-fashioned, but honestly, simpler is better. Fancy is only for print, handing your resume to a human during an in-person interview – not for digital submissions.

As a candidate, you spend a great deal of time on your resume – on content, layout and formatting. You assume that your resume looks as good digitally to an employer or recruiter as it does in print – except it may not. How the human eye views your resume in doc, pdf, txt or HTML formats may look different than what you created. Of equal importance is how your resume is “read” by software programs called ATS or Applicant Tracking Systems.

Here are a few commonsense resume formatting rules to ensure that your resume is identifiable, readable and therefore more find-able. The result is likely be more opportunities for you.

Rule #1

Please, please, please DO NOT put your contact information in a header or footer. I know it’s convenient and it may look nice – but ATS software programs cannot read it when it is not in the body of your resume. The result is, your resume may import into the ATS, but the recruiter or company that you sent it to has no idea who you are or how to contact you because your name and contact info does not display! As a result – you are anonymous. Therefore, your resume is likely to get deleted! FYI – all ATS systems work like this.

Rule #2

Please tell us what planet you live on! City and State – we don’t need your home address. You can keep that private but if a job does not allow for remote work, for a variety for reasons, and no one knows what city, state or country you reside in, it’s likely that your resume will be put into the dreaded “TO REVIEW LATER” folder, perhaps never to be reviewed. Or it will be deleted altogether.

Rule #3

Please don’t use graphics, pictures, charts, images or other objects that can be inserted. The ATS software cannot read these. So, the result will be…. yes, you guessed it – junked, spammed, errored, deleted.

Rule #4

Don’t just make it pretty, make it identifiable and readable. Use standard business fonts. Scripted fonts may be pretty but they are not very “readable” by an ATS. Ask yourself, when you sign digitally on any pad, can you read your garbled signature? That’s what your resume text looks like to the ATS.

Also, keep the font size for the bulk of the content a readable size – 10, 11 or 12 point fonts. If you want to bold and enlarge your name at the top, stay with 1 or 2 font sizes large, 14 or 16. Don’t worry if the larger fonts push your resume to 2 or 3 pages. The one page rule went out the window a long time ago.

Rule #5

Save your resume in business standard programs: doc, pdf, txt. Software reads resumes more successfully in these formats. HTML is ok but can have its issues, depending on the software program. FYI – resumes saved as images like Slideshare are not readable by the ATS because they are actually pictures. You can have your resume on Linkedin in Slideshare but make sure you have a version in doc, pdf or txt for submitting to jobs.

Wrap up

It’s never a good idea to make the reader (human or software) work harder. You want your resume to be seen, read and responded to – not dumped into the resume Bermuda Triangle, never to be found. When this happens you will miss out on opportunities because your resume can’t be found.

These hints aren’t all there is to making your resume more readable and more easily found, but they are fundamentals. Visit back for more on resume topics in the near future.