How do you make your resume stand out in pile of hundreds – if not thousands? One way is through formatting.
It may sound superficial, but before you don your shiny shoes and spotless suit, make sure your resume and cover letter are looking spiffy, too.
"Some fonts present better than others," says Dan Quinn, a resume consultant for CareerLink, a job-search website. He suggests the font Tahoma in a size larger than 10-point. "Nine and 10-point fonts for texts can be an eye irritation, and that is no way to greet the reader," says Quinn. "Reading such a resume is like conversing with someone who mumbles." He also suggests putting your name in a font distinct from the one used in the rest of your resume, so it gets the attention it deserves.
Headings & Sub-Headings
"Resumes need to be delineated by using spacing, bolding, and a larger size font for headings and sub-headings," says Quinn. Headings and divisions should be parts of a whole -- individual experiences and achievements should be clear, but should connect back to the bigger picture. Also, it pays to stick to tradition on this one: A 2009 study from Western Michigan University found that the vast majority of resume readers prefer a chronological format.
Concisely writing out what you have to offer is the best way to make your resume both memorable and punchy. "After reading a three-line sentence, most of us don't know what we read," says Quinn. Keep it short -- adding too many extra words often covers up the point you're trying to make. The one-page rule isn't so hard and fast anymore, Quinn says, but that doesn't mean you can go on for miles about your abilities. "Resume readers often complain that they do not get enough information," but be sure to be reaonsable -- nobody wants to read a book about you.
Hand-in-hand with curtailing sentence length is ensuring each sentence stands alone. Quinn suggests adding multiple spaces and a small symbol between each sentence in a paragraph. "This enables the reader to better digest and remember the content," says Quinn. It also helps the reader go back to your resume to find something specific -- it shouldn't be a search and rescue mission, or they'll forget about it and move on.
Bolding and italicizing words sparingly throughout your resume can help single out key points you're looking to make, says Quinn. Try highlighting the most important skills you bring to the table by bolding words in your resume that are mentioned in the job description -- it's a great way to draw parallels between the two. "This especially helpful in a two-page resume, to keep and direct the reader's interest," says Quinn.
While you should always defer to the employer's instructions, there are a few general guidelines to follow when submitting your application. Use the Internet to your advantage; the Michigan researchers found that only 7% of employers prefer to get a hard copy of a resume, while 46% of recruiters prefer e-mailed applications, and 38% prefer to get them through their company's website. If you must send it through snail mail, use a slightly heavyweight paper in an off-white, says Quinn -- otherwise, convert your resume and cover letter to a single PDF document to prevent any formatting changes.
Write to Kelly Eggers