The Best Way to Format Your Resume

The first step in applying for a desired job is often to submit your resume. However, this can intimidate many job seekers. Maybe you have asked yourself things like: Does the resume depict my skills accurately? Is the length appropriate? Is it professional? Should I change the format for different positions? These questions can delay you from applying for jobs, but they certainly don’t have to.  

Your resume is your introduction to a hiring manager. That’s why the first step in the right direction is a well-written resume. The challenge is there is no exact formula for the perfect resume. How do you know what order to list your skills and education or even your experience? And does that format differ from position to position or even company to company? 

In lieu of these factors, reaching out to experienced recruiters is one of your best moves. They see resumes day in and day out. Better still, they receive feedback from clients giving them insight to essential and irrelevant information. The recruiters’ findings will provide clarity and understanding to ensure a professional and respectable resume.  

Below you will find a summary of what they have learned. At the conclusion, we’ve included a link to download completed samples and informative templates to give you tangible examples of what your resume could look like. 

Formatting Your Resume 

  • Resumes should be no larger or smaller than a standard 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper. Other sizes can be seen as obnoxious and may not be able to be printed or photocopied conveniently. If printing it yourself, make sure to use a high-quality printer and paper. 

  • Margins can be used to create attractive white space on the page, but don’t go overboard. The general rule of thumb is to make margins no smaller than one inch on all sides; however, if it will help get your resume on one or two pages, or create a more attractive page break, margins may be set as low as .5 inches.  

  • Your name should appear largest at the top of the page, above your phone number, email address and mailing address. 

  • Be consistent with your font choice and size. Sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Calibri or Helvetica can be found on most word programs and are the easiest to read; anything else can cause your resume to look too busy or otherwise distract from getting your message across. In reference to size, your headings typically are one size, while your main body text will be different. Be consistent with those choices throughout every part of your resume.
  • Bolding, italics and underlining should be used sparingly (and uniformly) in header information. 

  • Include a list of your top qualifications and skills or a professional summary at the top of the page, below your name and above your work history and education information. This list or summary should be brief and tailored to the position. 

  • If you have recently graduated from college and are listing a degree, you may list the year you graduated and degree program, but your GPA isn’t required. We generally recommend only adding your GPA if it is a 3.5 or above. Education is normally placed at the beginning of the resume. However, if you graduated a while ago or if you have work experience that is more relevant to the position, then the experience should be placed above your education information. 

  • Use caps lock or initial caps only for headings and proper nouns. 

  • Use bullet points versus long paragraphs when listing accomplishments and tasks. 

  • The maximum length of a resume ought to be two pages, single sided. A page for every ten years of employment is a good rule of thumb. Occasionally, a job seeker’s list of publications and presentations (particularly those employees in academics and the sciences) may warrant a third page. 

These points are not a perfect formula, but they do provide you with the right foundation. Your resume might be formed in a slightly different fashion for the differing positions you are applying for; the samples below will give you an understanding of that. As always, our recruiters are happy to talk with you further on the subject. Simply contact us today for a free consultation, and they will gladly give you helpful feedback in any way they can. 

View Resume Samples