Five tips for formatting your (professional or academic) resume

by Dr Amy Bohren

If you’re preparing to send your resume to a career practitioner for review, there are a few things you can do beforehand to save them time, and save yourself some money. Potential employers spend only around two minutes reading your resume, so your aim is to spark their interest, and not irritate them with poor formatting. Here are my favourite five tips:

  1. Font:The first thing I do when formatting a resume is to change the font, so I can see how long the document will be, and how much content I need to remove or add. I once had a PhD supervisor who taught me very little, but one tip she relayed has stayed with me for years – the importance of choosing a font that’s ‘sans serif’ (without the curly bits). This is because you want the selection committee (or thesis examiners) to focus on the content of your application, and make it as clear and easy to read as possible. Calibri and Arial work well for this purpose. Ensure the entire document is in the same font.
  2. Font size and bolding:Next, choose a font size that’s readable, and ensure your document is simply and professionally presented. In Calibri, use a font size no smaller than 11; and in Arial, no smaller than 10. Use bolding to highlight important sections (e.g. your name; sub-headings such as ‘Education’ and ‘Professional Experience’; and important dot points, such as ‘thesis title’)
  3. Date alignment:Despite our experience, we career consultants spend a lot of time fixing dates that aren’t aligned with (i.e. on the same line as) job and course titles, and right justified. This process is simply time consuming. Do you have a friend who’s an MS Word wizard who can show you how to do this? If not, try asking Dr Google or Professor YouTube.
  4. Reverse chronological order:Are your qualifications and professional experience listed in reverse chronological order within each sub-section? Cut and paste accordingly, to sort this out.
  5. White space:Finally, look at the white space on the page. Is each page so crowded you can hardly read it? Perhaps there are some dot points you can consolidate or remove if irrelevant to the job you’re applying for? You want the reader to feel as though your document is inviting, rather than overwhelming.

That’s it! I hope this is helpful. I’m sure you have so many other tips and tricks when it comes to resume formatting, and welcome your insights on the Red Careers Facebook page.

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