Formatting a resume can impact a candidate’s favorability rating.  The typeface you select, the size of the type and even the white space you create, can make the resume more appealing to the eye, make it easier to read and allow a recruiter or researcher to quickly determine whether you merit a more detailed evaluation beyond the initial review that, on average, is between 10 and 20 seconds.  

With the four types of resume documents, there is one constant:  The top half of the first page is the most important space on the resume, or as one career counselor termed it,  the most “valuable real estate” because that is the first thing a recruiter or potential employer will see.  Use it wisely.  Focus in on providing evidence of your experience and accomplishments that match with the expressed needs of the potential employer.  

You can no longer rely on sending the same resume to each job opportunity.  If you are submitting a resume, customize your Professional Summary to address the qualifications, experience and expertise the potential employer is seeking.  This will help you differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded and noisy job market. This is a recurring theme you will see elsewhere in this guide as well as in my blog posts and podcast.

The second constant is that compresume formatuter or online generated resume templates are only a tool.  They can provide some ideas for formatting but most are generic, they are designed to appeal to users with varying degrees of experience, from the new graduate to a more seasoned executive.  More importantly, many are out of date in terms of the current thinking on formatting and content.  

One of the most obvious flaws is that more than half of the popular computer generated resume formats provide for the use of an “Objective” at the top of the document, immediately beneath the candidate’s contact information.  The use of  the Objective is a relic of a bygone era.  “They’re usually too general to help you or too specific and will get you eliminated,” remarked a veteran recruiter in the healthcare industry.  Professional Summaries are much more useful because they give a candidate the ability to tailor the description of their experience and to address the needs of the client.  Given that candidates should never use the same resume for every potential employer, the Professional Summary is probably the easiest and most effective way to customize the resume.

In the world of resume design and its cousin, formatting, there are some important concepts to consider:

  • Popular serif fonts are Times New Roman, Palatino, Georgia, Courier, Bookman and Garamond.  Nearly all books, newspapers, and magazines use a serif font.  It’s popularly accepted that — in print — serif fonts are easier to read, according to Google research.  Some resume gurus and college career counselors argue that sans serif fonts such as Arial, Calibri (which replaced Times New Roman as the default font for MS Word in 2007), or Helvetica provide a more modern look and why, they ask, would a candidate want to look outdated?   
  • Since most resumes are now read on a computer versus a physical copy, this begs the question as to which font is the easiest to read on a computer screen.  The answer:  Verdana and Georgia.  Microsoft hired noted type designer Matthew Carter to design serif and sans serif families especially for the computer screen.  The results are perhaps the two easiest-to-read fonts you have seen on your screen, according to Google which collected input from a variety of sources.  But any of the fonts mentioned above are acceptable.