As you sit down to write your resume, you will want to be aware of the importance of formatting. If you format your resume correctly, it will be easy for the employer to skim through it and see your best attributes. However, if you format it incorrectly, it will be too cluttered or confusing for the employer and they will simply reject it without seeing what you have to offer.

(This article assumes you have already read our post “5 Things You Will Need to Create Your Resume.”)

To start, especially if you’re near the beginning of your career, your resume should be one-page. This is all the space you need to tell the employer what you have to offer. Also, if you’ll be giving this to the employer in paper form, you will use simple white paper. No need to use any special stationery.

Although we’ve provided posts to talk in detail about each part of your resume, the following are some items you should be aware of all the way through the process:

Margins

A one-inch margin on the top, bottom, left, and right margins of your resume is pretty standard. Another common margin is one inch on the top and bottom and 1.25 inches on the left and right. This is the default margin in Microsoft Word 2010, but you can adjust these settings by clicking on ‘Layout’ in the header. Near the middle of the toolbox, you’ll see a section called ‘Margins’. In the fields marked, ‘Top’, ‘Bottom’, ‘Left’, and ‘Right’, you can use the up or down arrows to make your margins bigger or small. You can also just type in the number you want right into each field.

If you are working in Google Docs, the margins are already set at one inch and can’t really be changed from that setting. In short, don’t change a thing.

Font

Generally speaking, you’ll want to stick to professional fonts. Trying to display your individuality by choosing unusual fonts (like the kind you might see on a kid’s birthday invitation) will most likely be a turnoff to employers. Since your resume is, in fact, a professional document, you can show that you know how to be professional by using professionally accepted fonts.

Professionally acceptable fonts include Times New Roman, Arial, Cambria, or Georgia.

To select your font in Word, just go to the ‘Fonts’ section on the ‘Home’ tab. Select what font you want to use by clicking on the drop-down menu. This will bring up a list of all the fonts you can choose from. You’ll find a similar list of fonts to choose from in Google Docs.

You will also need to choose the appropriate font sizes, but this will be different in each section of your resume. To see which font sizes are appropriate for each section, see our posts about each of the individual sections.

Sections

Your resume will be broken up into sections to make it easier for the employer to read. Some of these sections are must-haves and others are just a matter of taste. You want to give each of these sections a separate space in your resume so employers can easily go down the page and skim through each one. Here the most common sections people use:

Header – This is a must-have and might sometimes be referred to as a letterhead. It is the section that sits at the very top of the page and gives your name, address, phone number, and email address. It’s very important because it tells the employer how to reach you if they’re interested.

Objective – This is optional. The objective is a one- to three-line statement that tells the employer what you’re looking for. If you choose to use it, you can refer to our post on “How to Write Your Resume Objective.”

Education – If you have a high school education or beyond, this is a must-have. It tells employers what diplomas, degrees, or certificates you’ve earned. It can also tell them what you majored in, what courses you took, and when you studied. For more details on how to write this, visit our post on “How to Write the Education Section of Your Resume.”

Work Experience – This is a must-have. It can also be called ‘Employment’, ‘Professional Experience’, or ‘Work History.’ This is probably the most important part of your resume. For more details, see our post on “How to Write the Work Experience Section of Your Resume.”

Skills & Accomplishments – This is optional, but it can be a good way to highlight abilities or achievements you want the employer to see. To see how to make this part of your resume shine, visit our post “How to Write the Skills and Accomplishments Section of Your Resume.”

Bullet Points

As you write your resume, especially in the Education, Work Experience, and Skills & Accomplishments sections, you should use bullets to make your lists easy to read. This lets employers capture the most important points about your experience or skills.

For example, after your successful performance at your job as a recreational assistant manager, you could describe your experience like this:

“As a recreational assistant manager, I was in charge of opening and closing, supervising sorting events, and ensuring that all equipment was accounted for at the beginning and end of my shift. I excelled at making our guests feel welcome and keeping equipment loss to a minimum. While I was there I…”

You get the point. Employers aren’t going to take the time to read through paragraphs of text. It’s just too troublesome. Instead, you can take the same information and break it out into easy-to-read bullet points, like this:
– Supervised sporting events and ensured that all equipment as accounted for
– Opened and closed
– Excelled at making guests feel welcome
– Minimized equipment loss

When it’s formatted this way, employers can take in all of your experience and accomplishments in one glance. We discuss this in more detail in our posts on each of the individual resume sections.

White Space

You don’t want your resume to feel so cluttered that it gives employers a headache. The information that you want them to see should be easy to find, not buried in all those other words. One way to make sure your resume isn’t cluttered is to make sure you have plenty of white space, or areas of the page that are covered with text.

To create a healthy amount of whitespace in your resume, here a few guidelines you can follow:
– Keep your text short. Don’t have any text that is more than two lines long at a time.
– Hit enter twice or three times between sections.
– Hit enter twice between job positions.
– Keep your font size smaller unless you’re creating your Header section.
– Do not use the ‘Justify’ alignment in Word or Google Docs. Stick with “Right’ alignment.

Of course, you don’t want so much white space that it seems like you don’t have any experience. The key is to strike the right balance between white space and having enough text that it feels like you have something substantial to bring to the employer.

We recommend revisiting this post as you go through your resume as it will apply throughout. If you feel comfortable enough with it, move on to our post “How to Write Your Resume Header.” If you need some examples of what complete resumes look like, see below:

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