5 tips for designing a resume that will stand out on every desk

Wednesday, November 08, 2017
I think I have mentioned this on the blog before, but one of my favorite things to do in my free time is help friends with their resumes. I can design a resume in my sleep at this point! If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I read a lot of articles about how to put your best foot forward in your resume. I consider myself an amateur expert in resumes.

Obviously, I am not an expert expert. But I have designed a lot of resumes for people who end up with really great jobs and internships. (Let me be clear: those people are awesome, and they deserve their great jobs and internships! But having a professional and appropriate resume is an important cog in the machine of getting them the work they deserve.)

I have a few rules for designing a resume that I wanted to share with y'all now.

1. Use a program you're comfortable with.

There are a couple of different options when it comes to designing and formatting your resume. Using a simple word processor, like Microsoft Word, whatever app is downloaded on a Mac or a Google Doc, is always safe — especially if you're not comfortable with more complicated programs. If you are comfortable with the Adobe suite, I fully recommend using InDesign. InDesign makes sure things are lined up and makes changing and removing/adding things really simple. Other people I know have used Illustrator, and I really only recommend using Illustrator for your resume if you are planning on using graphic elements.

If you'd like to be a little more creative or have more flexibility with your resume design but do not have InDesign or know how to use it, try Canva! It's a free online software that almost anyone can use. I've redesigned several resumes on it for friends.

The most important part of this: If you're going to use a program, make sure it's a program that you can access regularly and easily. Don't make your resume with InDesign if you only can use InDesign on a school computer that you have access to Monday through Friday, or that you won't be able to use after you graduate. I have the Creative Suite on my laptop, so I can fix my resume or add things to it or completely redesign it whenever, if I am so inclined.

2. Use one to two simple fonts, max. Avoid scripts. Use different sizes, styles and spacing.

My favorite font to use for resumes, hands down, is Myriad Pro – I usually use Condensed or Semi-Condensed, but this isn't a consistently available font. Other good sans serif choices: Calibri, Droid Sans, Verdana, Trebuchet, Arial Narrow. If you feel like a serif font is more your style, try Cambria, Droid Serif, Times New Roman, Georgia and Garamond. Droid Serif is my favorite serif for resumes.

Get comfortable with changing the size or bold of your fonts, too. I like to use a combination of bold, regular and condensed versions of Myriad Pro for different headers and body text. I also change the spacing of my font in my headers.

You want to avoid two things specifically with fonts:

No. 1: Nothing stands out on your page because you use the exact same font throughout. I've seen too many resumes that are completely all Times New Roman, size 11. It's hard to skim and see what you really consider is important. No. 2: It is totally wild and crazy because you're using several fonts that are eclectic or hard to read.

3. Keep it simple, unless you're a graphic designer.

I am not a graphic designer. As far as fields go, mine is pretty straightforward and traditional – design elements do not impress people in journalism. Because they aren't needed. If you're a graphic designer and are trying to show a potential employer your design chops, you can pretty much ignore my rules of resume design.

But other than the field of graphic design … keep it simple. Design elements are only really appropriate if the job you're applying to is creative — if you're looking to work at a newspaper or in business or marketing or another more traditional field, simplicity is important and looks more professional.

The one place where a little creativity is more acceptable than other places is in your header — and even then, it depends on the job you're applying for and the field you want to get into. Using your logo or a different font, maybe a simple accent color, can help make your resume stand out. But again, make sure it's simple and not too loud.

4. Emphasize consistency in every single detail.

If you use bullet points, use them consistently throughout. If you're going to explain each job or experience in a sentence, do that for every job or experience. If the font you use to describe one job is 12 pt., use 12 pt. in the other job descriptions too. And for goodness' sake, make sure your spacing is consistent throughout, too.

Consistency matters so much in a resume, both in content and design — especially if you consider how few minutes a hiring manager might have to spend on your resume. They might notice your entire list of skills at the bottom but they also might notice a huge discrepancy if your columns are out of line or your font size changes halfway through. That makes you look sloppy or like you lack an attention to detail that might be necessary in the job you're applying for – even if you are perfect for it in every other way.

5. Make sure your name stands out at the top.

I mentioned using a different font, an accent color or your logo to make your name stand out at the top of your resume — but mainly, you should just make sure your name is big, bold and easy to read across the top of your resume. Mine is very large, but that's a stylistic choice. I definitely recommend using at least a 22 or 24 weight font.

And make sure your important and most relevant contact information comes right after your name. On a lot of websites, you'll see they preach the importance of including a cell and home phone, your home address and your email address. I have some opinions on that: Your cell phone and email address are important, keep those, but scratch your physical address. No one needs that anymore. Replace that with your LinkedIn, website URL or Twitter handle, if any of those are appropriate to your career path.


If you are in need of some resume help, don't hesitate to reach out! You can email me at thedailypaigeblog@gmail.com with a copy of your current resume for a free critique or comment all of your resume questions below! If I get enough frequently asked questions, I will do a post answering all of them!


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