Since employers can receive hundreds of applications for a single job posting, they only have a few short seconds to review resumes during the initial screening stage of the hiring process. With so little time to spare, inconsistent formatting, careless mistakes, or poor organization can automatically land your resume in the trash bin—regardless of your strong qualifications.
In other words, your resume needs to quickly capture the attention of a hiring manager. This is where small edits to your resume’s content and design can make all the difference. For these key elements, here are a few ways you can create space, grab attention, and land an interview:
Large paragraphs not only make your resume difficult to read, but also contain more information than what’s actually necessary. When reviewing your work history, employers prefer to see the actions you’ve taken and the results you’ve achieved. With this in mind, stick to phrasing that allows those key words to stand out, and remove filler words like “my” or “and” whenever possible. For example, “increased sales by 20% in 6 months” communicates the result more succinctly than, “after 6 months, my efforts had increased sales by 20%.”
If you’ve held many different positions over the years, it can be difficult to decide where to make cuts—especially when trying to ensure there aren’t any employment gaps on your resume. To start, keep the position and industry of the employer in mind, and remove descriptions of any irrelevant jobs you’ve held in the past. This will give you more room to talk about more applicable roles and accomplishments. If you are concerned about any periods of unemployment, be sure to include any volunteer experience you acquired or any continuing education classes you took during this time. These entries will do a better job of conveying your commitment and value than irrelevant jobs will.
While this may seem like a given, it’s always worth repeating since a simple typo or grammatical error could cost you the job. It can be easy to overlook an error—especially when you’re so familiar with the content—so having a peer read through the document is a good tactic. While you may subconsciously skim over a section, a fresh pair of eyes can help you identify any potential issues that could raise some red flags.
How you organize the sections of your resume will depend on your level of experience and your industry. For example, a recent graduate may want to place their education closer to the top of their resume, while a more experienced professional will want to place more relevant experience in that spot. Additionally, job seekers in an industry that requires certifications or other special skills may want to ensure this information is more visible to hiring managers. In any case, you want to display your work history in chronological order. Doing so will allow employers to see how your skills and responsibilities have progressed throughout your career.
While a size 12 Times New Roman is standard, there are opportunities to create more space with your font choices. For starters, reducing the font size down to 10, especially for information under your headlines, can free up several lines as well as help employers identify key information more quickly.
Additionally, typeface choice can affect not only the resume’s spacing, but also its readability. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of Times New Roman or Helvetica, as long as the choice remains professional. For example, a font like Comic Sans is one that you would want to avoid, as it conveys a less serious tone that is ultimately very distracting from the information you are trying to communicate.
Your resume’s layout can have a major impact on whether you move onto the interview process. To clean up your resume in a Word document, edit your margins, add columns, and create dividers. For more creative roles, using free tools like Canva will allow you to easily spruce up your resume with a clean, fresh design.