How to Format Your Resume

When writing your resume, the substance is important. You want to highlight your accomplishments, presenting yourself as the best candidate for the job. However, how you format your resume can be just as important as what you put in your resume. This is because many companies and recruiters scan resumes into their databases using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). The ATS scans for keywords and phrases, but it also has a difficult time scanning some traditional or funky resume formats and designs.

Formatting your resume to be ATS-friendly will increase your chances of hiring managers seeing your resume and potentially inviting you to interview. Here are some basic tips to get you started:

  • Use nouns and keywords.
  • Use left-hand justification.
  • Limit your use of italics, underlines, boxes, and other graphic elements.
  • Only use bold fonts for headings and bullet points for accomplishments.
  • Use 10-pt or 12-pt font in Arial or Times New Roman. Never go above 14-pt font.
  • Use industry jargon and acronyms if you’re applying within the same industry. If not, limit your use of them and spell out all acronyms.

To sum it up: keep it simple. No fancy formatting, no colors, no frills. If you want to have a resume that is more creative and unique, then make one, but only use it if you’re meeting in person. Otherwise, stick to these guidelines.

Now that you know the nuts and bolts of formatting, let’s talk about the bigger picture: elements that you should include in your resume. 

  • Summary Statement — Who you are and what you do.
  • Professional or Work Experience — List in reverse chronological order.
  • Accomplishments — How you personally made a difference in each of the places you worked.
  • Education — List degrees earned in reverse chronological order.
  • Training and Development — Any extra training, certifications, etc. you’ve earned.
  • Military Service (optional) — List dates, the branch of service, and rank.
  • Professional Associations/Civic Engagement (optional) — Only list if they lend credibility to your career goals.

With these tips and tricks in mind, take some time to look at and revise your resume. If you feel you need more guidance than this blog, check out our Resume Program. Our tenured career coaches are ready and willing to help you create the resume that showcases you best.

If you have any questions about what you’ve read here, our Resume Program, or Don’t Dread Monday in general, contact us or call at 800.680.7768.