With only seconds to make the best impression on an employer, every detail — from the format you choose to the words you use and the amount of space between them — matters when it comes to writing a resume. This guide will take you through formatting a resume professionally so that your qualifications get noticed.
Anatomy of a properly formatted resume
Start with the basics. A properly formatted resume begins with contact information presented in a professionally designed template.
Resumes that are formatted correctly arrange their text around perfectly set margins, which help employers find what they’re looking for, fast.
Professional resume writers pick their font types from a select pool of options, sized to be big enough to be legible but small enough so they don’t overwhelm the page.
Every resume contains the same basic headings. How they are ordered depends on whether the job candidate organizes their information in the chronological, functional or combination format. All headings should be uniform in size and font.
Text should be aligned the same (left, right or center justified) from line to line in every section, though the header might be different, depending on the template design.
A healthy amount of white space is good for helping the eye move around the page. Notice the harmonious balance of space and text on Samuel Evans’ resume.
Well-formatted resumes often use bullet points to make some information, such as measurable achievements, stand out.
Steps for formatting a resume
Choose a template.Before you can begin formatting your resume, you’ll need a framework for which to organize your content. That’s what resume templates are for. They save time by ensuring resumes are formatted correctly within a professionally designed structure.
Adjust margins.Resume margins should always be set at 1-inch on all four sides for maximum readability. It’s acceptable to reduce your margins to ½ inch on all sides if you need extra room for your content as long as it doesn’t make your information messy and challenging to read. Margins larger than 1 inch tend to make your text look like it’s floating and gives the impression you don’t have much information to include.
Choose a font type and size.
You can’t use just any font on a resume. Some are more legible than others, and employers prefer a clean and classic typeface. Black is the preferred font color, though some templates provide pops of color in the header.
The most commonly used font is Times New Roman in 12-point size, but there are several acceptable options to choose from in 2021, including:
Don’t mix and match fonts on a resume. Choose one and stick with it!
Font size is an essential factor for formatting a resume, too. If your font is too tiny, employers won’t bother trying to squint through each section. And if it’s too big, then it takes up valuable space and distracts from your qualifications. Font size should be no smaller than 10 points and no larger than 12 points.
Add section headings.
Next, add the standard resume headings:
Include optional headings if they suit you and will help you get the job:
Awards and Honors
Certifications and Licenses
Keep font size uniform throughout your resume except for the headers, which can be one point size more prominent than the rest of your text.
Align your text.Formal documents are almost always left-oriented and resumes are no exception. Some templates center- and right-align resume headers and contact information as a matter of design, but even those typically align everything else to the left of the page.
Check for appropriate spacing.Proper spacing on a resume makes your text neat, coherent and easy to skim. The best practice for resume formatting is single space throughout, but adding a space between section headers and section body text can sometimes look better, depending on font type and size and how much content you add to your resume.
Add bullets where appropriate.
Professional summaries and objectives should be brief, descriptive paragraphs that introduce job applicants to employers. However, when it comes to job history, education and skills, bullets help break up information into short, skimmable chunks. They keep your content clean and orderly, and they make your qualifications pop.
Format your resume for applicant tracking systems (ATS)
Sometimes it’s difficult to assess the full range of our skill set. To make it easier:
- Most ATS are programmed to scan resumes and cover letters for relevance based on keywords that match the job, and they’re picky about which documents they put into the “qualified” pool. They do a good job generally, but most are programmed only to understand standard fonts, spacing, sections and margin sizes. Unusual layouts and fonts confuse them, and resumes that are not formatted a standard way with clear and concise content don’t make it past ATS to the hiring manager’s eyes.
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Single-column versus two-column templates
Most job seekers are accustomed to a standard one-column, whole-page resume template. They’re familiar because they work well for most job seekers’ needs. But new options, such as the two-column resume template, are available. They can work for job applicants in just about any field. Still, they’re beneficial for job seekers who want to visually balance their skills and other qualifications, such as certifications or awards, with their work history.
There are pros and cons to each style. The resume template you choose depends on your industry, job title, qualifications, and how long you’ve been working. Try out a few to get a feel for what works best for you.
Single-Column Resume Pros
Formatting tends to stay put across software platforms.
More common so preferred by employers.
Single-Column Resume Template Cons
Uses more space for the same amount of information.
Takes longer for human eyes to skim.
More difficult to highlight key qualifications.
Double-Column Resume Pros
Makes it easier to emphasize an employer’s most sought-after qualifications.
Provides visual balance between work experience and other sections.
Has a sleek and modern look.
Double-Column Resume Template Cons
Not always ATS-friendly.
Less common, so some employers might find the layout distracts from the content.
Can make content appear cramped and difficult to read.
Examples of correctly formatted resumes
How a resume builder makes formatting simple
Still unsure about how to format your resume? Resume Now’s Resume Builder provides the built-in tools you need to build your resume quickly and confidently. Our builder ensures you use the correct fonts, margins, and spacing and that your resume’s sections are in the appropriate order so that your qualifications shine with the professional polish employers want.
Resume formatting do’s and don’ts
What is the best font and size for a resume?
Several fonts work well for resumes, including:
Never use a font size smaller than 10 if you want hiring managers to read your resume, and don’t go above 12 for any text except section headings. It’s acceptable to make your section headings 1 point larger than the rest of your text.
What are the proper margins for a resume?
Proper margins for a resume are 1 inch all around. A 1/2 inch is acceptable if you need extra space, but any smaller and your text won’t be legible. Margins bigger than 1 inch on all sides look unprofessional and takes up valuable space you could otherwise use for content.
What is the proper layout for a resume?
A proper resume layout follows either a chronological, functional or combination format. Choose the one that makes sense for you based on your work experience, goals and job.
How should I write dates on a resume?
Always write dates with just the month and the year, and write them out in full, like April 2021. Don’t abbreviate the month (Jan) or year (01), and don’t write the date as you might on a check (04/21).
What words do employers look for in a resume?
Employers look for keywords that match the job description as well as words that emphasize applicants’ strengths. Hiring managers notice power words that denote action, such as “supervised,” “planned,” “designed” and “produced” along with section headings and highlights that contain the words “awards,” “achievements” and “accomplishments.” And don’t forget to add numbers when you can — they make accomplishments pop!
Create a professional resume in minutes!
Choose your favorite design to make your resume stand out. These resume templates help you customize your resume and show your personality as well as your skills.
Easy to customize
Our resume builder makes it easy to select typefaces, fonts and to properly format your resume. If you want to design a different resume, simply click a button to try another template.
Makes Writing Simple
You don’t need writing experience to create an impressive resume. Use pre-written suggestions tailored to your job title and add industry keywords with the click of a button.