A simple resume will be a successful resume.
It’s not easy putting together a job-winning one, but there are rules which if followed could set the right tone your resume.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or an established expert, having a good layout is key to getting a recruiter to not just like you, but remember you.
It will help to clearly introduce your relevant professional experience, skills, certifications, and achievements to a prospective employer and encourage them to invite you for an interview. Which is the ultimate goal.
What is the layout of a resume?
It basically refers to the way you organize information in a resume’s ‘real estate’ or space. It’s separate from what you write in it. It relates to the order and location of any included sections, as well as the use of white space and various other design elements used to fashion its structure.
Why is it important?
Image is everything and a visually well laid out document will create an immediate good first impression of you. It will also send out the message that you’re a organised person who has spent some time on their job application. Both of these are positive traits.
Overall, a resumes formatting has more of an impact on your job prospects than you might think. That’s why you should pay extra attention to it.
If your resume is easy to scan and enjoyable to read, there’s a higher chance that recruiters will spend more time on it. Hiring Managers will stop in their tracks if they come across a good looking one. Which is exactly what you want.
You should at all costs avoid a messy, cluttered, crowded application that has the wrong look and feel. Bad formatting can determine whether it will be read or discarded straight away. Even a slight adjustment to an existing one can have a direct effect on its readability.
On this page you will get a step-by-step guide on how to choose the best design for your particular circumstances. You will learn about the different types of layouts you can choose from and get a checklist of what to include and what not. Follow the advice below to create a professional looking resume that will get you noticed for the right reasons.
How to layout a resume
Although there are no particular formatting rules, always try to control where the readers eyes will go first. Your aim being to push them towards your best skills.
Double the impact of your resume by presenting information about you in a logical order. By keeping things standardised, simple and straightforward, you’ll emphasize your strengths more and stand out from other candidates with poorer designs.
Also remember that occasionally resume writing guidelines may vary from industry to industry, so if you’re applying for a specialist role it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with specific industry examples.
Make a potential employer sit up and take notice by following the guidance below to create a job application that concisely summarises your credentials.
The 7 main sections of a resume
All resumes must have a few compulsory sections, which although separate from others, must complement one another. These segments must not only sell the candidates but also convey professionalism whilst doing so.
Below is a breakdown of the principal pieces in a standard resume jigsaw.
Name and Contact details
At the top of your resume put your full name, professional job title, email address, and social media handles. This makes it easier for people to contact you. Never have these hidden away at the bottom of the page or on a separate document. They must be prominently displayed.
The best resume in the world is useless if the employer can’t contact you. So, ensure all of these are all spelled correctly. Although an obvious point, it surprising how many people put misspelt, incorrect, or old phone numbers and email addresses on their resumes. So always double check the spelling, as a small typo error in your email or phone number could stop you from landing a job interview.
To make it stand out, have this in bold and a larger font size that the rest of your resume text, preferably at least two points bigger. No need for any middle names and avoid nicknames as this is a formal document. Steer clear of using suffixes such as Sr, Jr and II etc. Furthermore, whatever name you use, make sure it’s the same name as on your social media profiles.
There is no need to put the word ‘Resume’ next to your name, recruiters know what they are looking at.
This goes under your name and can be used to describe your career, current job title or the position you are applying for. Have a new relevant one for every different job you apply for and use between 1 to 4 words to describe it.
Keep it formal and avoid casual jargon like ‘Marketing Guru’ etc.
Include a professional sounding email address such as email@example.com. Do not use unprofessional ones such as firstname.lastname@example.org, as this will create a poor first impression. Skip using your work email address to your CV (for obvious reasons) and university and academic ones, as this can indicate inexperience.
List your current phone number and don’t forget to include any regional and international dialling codes. As they may leave you a message for you, ensure that you have a professional-sounding message for your voicemail.
At this stage of the job search, there is no need to include full postal one, instead just a town or city will do.
It’s acceptable to include, as long as you ensure your profile is professional, up to date and corresponds with what you are submitting.
Also knows as a career statement, profile, or resume objective this is a short introductory statement that sets the scene for the rest of your resume.
It sits at the top of everything and is an ideal ‘hook’ that you can use to get the reader interested in you. Use it as a personal pitch to speak directly to the recruiter and to give a snapshot of your most relevant competencies, unique skills, and credentials.
As the first thing the recruiter will read, your personal summary must be interesting and to the point.
It can be written in the first or third person. Although, we recommend you write it in the third person as sounds more professional. Whereas the first person sounds much more informal.
In conclusion, show that you are familiar with the job role, spell out how you can add value to their operations and explain why you are an ideal candidate. Also, ideally it should be a short concise paragraph of no more than 4-5 sentences.
Your Work Experience
What you have done at previous employers is one of the most important factors that recruiters look at when assessing you.
This section is also referred to as a ‘Career Summary’ or ‘Employment history’ and is a great place to brag about what you’ve done in the past. For each job entry, include the same basic facts such as the employers name, job title, start and end dates. Then give a brief description of your responsibilities using bullet points, to a maximum or 6 per role.
List your work duties in bullet points and start each sentence using active action verbs such as ‘managed’, ‘organised’, ‘delivered’ and ‘accomplished’. Avoid starting every sentence with the words ‘Responsible for’, it sounds very repetitive.
You do not need to give details about everything you have ever done. Instead, focus mostly on those previous roles that are most relevant to the one you are currently applying for, either in terms of skills, knowledge, or experience.
If you have any career gaps in your employment history, then add a brief note explaining why you were without a job.
Highlight any promotions to a higher position at a company, then clearly show these. If you’ve achieved consistent professional growth over your career, emphasize this.
A dedicated section that shows more of what they can bring to the table.
This is without a doubt a key part of any resume, a place where you can clearly highlight your specialist knowledge and skills not mentioned elsewhere in your CV. Use it to further cements yourself as a master of those abilities that a prospective employer wants in a candidate.
All jobseekers are bound to have picked up many unique skills over the years, and this is the place to include them.
The key to this section is to know what the recruiters want and then give it to them here. Whatever attributes you list here, always try to include statistics, percentages, and examples of successfully completed projects to back up your claims.
Have two different lists for both your hard and soft skills. With a maximum of 6 bullet points for each list.
These are competencies specific to the job and industry you are applying for. They tend to be teachable technical skills which can be learnt through on the job training or courses etc.
Also known as people or social skills, these are transferable personality traits that can be beneficial in a wide range of careers and industries. They can be anything from communicating well, to having a positive attitude, good work ethic, or friendly demeanour. On many occasions they can complement and enhance your existing hard skills.
Under a subheading titled ‘Education’ show you have the discipline needed to gain formal qualifications, certifications, awards, and licences.
Give brief details of the awarding institutions they were obtained at, as well as your grades and enrolment dates etc. Also list any relevant qualifications, academic titles, diplomas, and any completed online or classroom-based courses. Arrange everything in order of the most recent and most relevant first.
Hobbies and Interests (optional)
Other sections of a resume tell a recruiter what you can do, hobbies and interests tell them who you are.
These are not necessary, and most people leave them out to save room for more relevant content. However, if you want to include them, then below are some tips on how to do this.
The first thing to note is that recruiters will only be interested in your hobbies if they see potential in your application. They’ll only review this section if you’ve ticked all the other ‘must have’ boxes.
Prioritize sociable pastimes that show you as a team player who can get along with others. Even better, if they involve very valuable skills or knowledge that can be applied in the workplace. Common ones include sports, volunteer work, music, dance, travelling, art, blogging and reading.
Avoid including risky activities that can be seen as being reckless. They can worry employers, who’ll think you could get injured doing them and then be off work.
Positive interests can not only provide a more complete picture of who you are, but also gives you something to talk about during an interview. Because of this it’s not a good idea to lie or exaggerate, as you may be asked about them in the interview stage and can be caught out, especially if the interviewer also has the same hobby!
At this stage there is no need to give the name and contact details of referees, instead a simple ‘Available on request.’ will do. Employers will only ask for references if they’ve offered you the job.
Be careful who you put forward to vouch for you as employers will contact them to double check what you’ve told them. A good character assessment from a reputable past employer, teammate, or colleague could be the final tick that lands you a job.
3 Main types of resume layouts
The guide below gives you a description of each one, along with their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Reverse Chronological Resume
This is the Hiring Managers favourite, it’s an all-time classic that has not gone out of style. It’s pretty much the industry standard and the most commonly used. Therefore, as a rule of thumb you should stick to it.
It’s based on a timeline of a person’s employment history, with the most recent job first and your oldest one last. The layout puts more emphasis on the work experience section than all the other ones, such as education and skills etc.
Recruiters like it because it straightforwardly identifies were an applicant has worked.
Job seekers prefer this format over others because it demonstrates a consistent employment history, clearly illustrates career progression and is most likely to pass the dreaded Applicant Tracking System. Also ideal for applying to large organizations with standardized application forms.
The format of a Chronological Resume consists of the following sections in this order:
- Name and contact details
- CV Profile
- Work experience
A format that deemphasizes a candidate’s work history and instead focuses more on their skills and accomplishments.
In a skills-based resume format, the meatiest part of the document highlights the skills you have rather than the experience you don’t. Apart from allowing you to focus on what you’re good at, the design is also good at people who have gaps in their employment, not much work history or limited practical experience in the field their targeting. This makes it ideal for recent school leavers, graduates, career changers and the long term unemployed.
You can break this section down even further grouping your skills by type. For instance, is you have sales skills, which are essential to the role you could have a subheading for ‘Sales skills’ first. Avoid overdoing it by having no more than 3 skill sets. As always use, use no more than 6 bullet pointed sentences per competency.
Length wise, the skills section should be longer than your work experience section.
The layout of a functional resume:
- Name and contact details
- CV Profile
- Relevant Skills
- Work experience
As the name suggests it finds the middle ground by combining aspects of both the Chronological and Functional resume.
This hybrid design focuses on your work experience and skills in equal measure and does not give more space to one over the other. You are allowed to arrange the sections any way you like, meaning you can tailor it to any vacancy.
It is the least used resume format of the main three layouts.
What’s the best resume layout?
One that works, meaning it gets you invited to interview.
In reality there is no one size fits all best layout. This is because everyone’s situation is different. It’s also worth remembering that just as you will have your own preference, the reader will also have their own.
No matter what you do…
Always go for a simple minimalistic format that can be read at a glance and which gives the reader a general idea of who you are in seconds. This is best done by dividing your content into clearly defined easy-to-navigate sections. There is no need to go for a Picasso oil painting with colourful headers and lights, a simple no frills plain outline will do.
At all costs steer clear of clunky walls of text with unsymmetrical blocks all over the place. Instead, go for a clear visually appealing look that shows you are a professional.
In conclusion it all depends on what you are trying to put in it and who you are targeting it at. You have to choose a resume format that best suits your skills, career level and the job you are applying for.
Key factors in the layout of a resume
There should be a consistent margin running all around the sides of your resume.
Use easy to read fonts that won’t give the reader an eyesore. This means sticking to conservative crisp ones like Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri.
Keep away from fancy artistic or illegible fonts like Comic Sans which are difficult to read for both humans and ATS software.
Select one font size, ideally 11 or 12-pt, and stick with this through the page. If you’re unsure with the look, experiment with the size and ask a friend what they think. Always set the colour as black.
Headers and section titles should be slightly bigger that everything else in order to stand out. Make them easy to pick out by having them in capital letters, bold and a font size of between 13 to 14.
Write to the point headings like ‘Work Experience’ etc. Do not use trendy ones like ‘My Story’ etc.
Leverage these to help the reader quickly identify the ‘must know’ information you want them to see. These are ideal for tactfully highlighting responsibilities, skills, and accomplishments.
Employ sufficient spacing to break up your resume and make it look less crowded. However, watch out for over doing it, as too much can make resume look bare and suggest you don’t have much to say. The proper amount between paragraphs and segments and can make it look aligned and evenly spaced.
Save space by using a setting of between 1.0 or 1.15 line space between sentences. This will also neatly spread-out lines of text without making your resume feel too tight or spread out.
How long should a resume be?
This is a very common question.
A resume doesn’t have to be lengthy to be effective.
In a word, it should on average be one page. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Having one that’s two or even three pages long is acceptable if you are applying for say a specialist academic research role, or have a long career etc.
But always bear in mind that, HR managers must go through 100’s of applications. They prefer to keep things short and sweet.
Naming your resume
After all the hard work of creating a great looking resume, don’t spoil it by giving it an unprofessional name. Remember this is a formal document so treat it accordingly.
Do not save it as ‘Document 1’ or ‘CV 1’. Title it in a way that relates it to you and explains what it is i.e. as ‘Dave Andrews CV’. This also helps it to be found when the recruiter files it away in their records.