Make no mistake -- in a successful resume, content is king. It's the words that sell your abilities and make employers want to call you for interviews.
But the package is nearly as important as the contents.
Just as you wouldn't expect to receive a bank statement on purple paper, there are rules to follow and mistakes to avoid if you want to be taken seriously by employers reading your resume.
Here are some of the most common formatting errors I've found in the nearly 5,000 resumes people have sent me to review since 1995.
The "ransom note" effect I've seen resumes with five or more different fonts and sizes, making them look as though they'd been pasted together with letters cut from a magazine. To avoid distracting readers, limit yourself to two fonts -- three at most.
Tiny type If you need miniscule letters to fit the text of your resume onto one or two pages, you're hurting your own cause. A font smaller than 11 points will cause most readers to do one of three things: squint, look for a magnifying glass, or (most likely) put your resume in the "read next week" pile.
I normally use 12-point Times Roman or Garamond for the body copy of the resumes I write - nothing much smaller than that.
Pictures - Unless you're applying for a modeling job or live in Asia (where it's expected), don't include a picture on your resume, no matter how attractive you are.
Over-italics and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS - Use italics sparingly to set off special data or short explanations in your resume. Never use italics for entire paragraphs, as it's guaranteed to make your resume harder to read.
LIKEWISE, ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ARE PROVEN BY YEARS OF RESEARCH TO BE HARDER TO READ THAN STANDARD CAPITALIZATION. WHY HANDICAP YOURSELF?
Day-glow paper - Print your resume on stationery in a professional-looking color, such as ivory, gray or light blue. Unless you're applying to clown school, avoid pink, yellow or other garish shades, all of which I've actually seen.
Follow these guidelines and you'll avoid the pain and suffering that comes from mangling an otherwise-effective resume. When in doubt, run your resume by at least three friends for their honest input.
Best of luck to you!
Kevin Donlin is President of Guaranteed Resumes.
Since 1996, he and his team have provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients in all 50 states and 23 countries. Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, CBS MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly, CBS Radio, and many others.
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