When it comes to your resume, sometimes it’s best to think simple, and not just because today is #NationalSimplicityDay. If it weren’t, I might have to invent National Cut the Comic Sans Day, or National Resume Razzle Dazzle Don’ts Day (though I do like the sound of that).
Have you ever heard the saying, “presentation is everything?” You could be the most educated and experienced individual for the job, but an employer’s first impression of who you are, what you value, and what you have to offer will always be your resume and how you’ve chosen to put it together.
With fantastic drag and drop graphic design tools that are readily available for more than the professional design crowd, it can be tempting to jazz things up a bit. After all, you just want to make your resume stand out.
But when is a creative resume too creative? Where should we draw the line? Why are simple resumes generally the most successful, what should you avoid putting on your resume, and what are the red flags for recruiters in terms of your resume design?
These tips and tricks will answer all of these questions and more!
Step 1: Let’s determine what is (and isn’t) acceptable for the industry you wish to enter.
This first step is vital, it is the key to understanding why what makes your resume a “yes” in one industry will land you in the bin in another. Before you design your targeted resume, you need to understand the job you’re applying for and the industry standards at play.
The more creative the job, the more creative you can make your resume. For example: If you are a graphic designer, do your thing. Let the employer know your style, how you can expand their brand, and enjoy the fact that you can be daring… as long as you keep it clean and legible. If you are applying for an accountant position, keep it as simple as possible. Think clean lines, visually suggest your ability to keep tidy spreadsheets. If you are submitting your resume for a clothing sales management position, use a layout and design elements that fall somewhere between the two, keeping the company brand aesthetic in mind.
Step 2: Let’s chat about fonts (and how everyone is silently judging your choices)!
Serif, sans serif and script… oh my! Fonts, fonts fonts! How we love them, but oh, how dangerous they can be! When it comes to designing a resume, the typeface your choose will be a direct reflection on your personality, professionalism and work style. More importantly, your font choice can make or break your first impression with the recruiter. Think I’m kidding? Try talking to hiring managers about Papyrus or Comic Sans… it can get ugly. When choosing a font, keep these questions in mind:
Is it easy on the eyes?
Will it show up well in print and on the screen?
Is it a universal font that will be recognized by automated tracking systems?
If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you may want to rethink your font choice(s). Some great options for ultimate resume simplicity are Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Didot, Garamond, Georgia, Helvetica and Times New Roman.
Step 3: Let’s explore headshots, beautiful!
In the past, we were always told to avoid placing images on our resume. But we’re not living in the past any longer. This is the age of LinkedIn®, and including a headshot on your resume can add a professional touch and leave a lasting impression on the recruiter (without being too obnoxious). That being said, check your industry, know what the standards are. If you’re applying to a global company, a headshot may be a welcome addition. If you’re applying to a local mom and pop business, a headshot may stand out in all the wrong ways.
If, however, the headshot route is the right one for you, know that a photo and a headshot are not the same. A cropped selfie simply will not do. Neither will a shot of you in dim, grainy light, or with a distracting background. Make sure the image you choose is professional, represents the version of you your industry expects, is high resolution, and coordinates well with the colors and layout of your resume as a whole.
Step 4: Let’s be clear on borders, accents and swirly, little do-dads.
Just … no.
Step 5: Let’s take a stroll down the paper aisle.
Your resume paper color, texture, weight, and size matters, and much of this goes back to Step 1--it all depends on your industry. If you’re entering a design field, you may want to be bold and fierce with your options. However, for most industries you’ll want to practice simplicity by using the following tips.
- Color: Use an off-white paper color. It will make your resume stand out without being too loud.
- Weight: Use a paper weight that fall somewhere between your typical printer paper and heavy cardstock (make sure to check the watermark when you load the paper in the printer). You want to keep things professional without breaking the bank!
- Texture: If you want to add a bit of texture, go for linen paper. The lines on the top of the page provide your resume with a more formal appearance.
In this complicated world, it’s easy to make ourselves believe that if something is too simple, it simply will not do. But this is one of those moments where simplicity is the good news. The job application and hiring process is complicated enough without adding extra hoops and clutter that won’t ultimately help your case with a recruiter.
Need more help with your resume? We offer assistance and FREE trainings for that! Click below on the resource of your choice. We can’t wait to see how your next resume turns out!
- Register as a JOB SEEKER at msccn.org to receive a free resume review.
- Register for our next LinkedIn & Resume LIVE Training
- Join CAREER CORPS to keep your resume current while you are job searching.
Story by Kellie Gunn