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Design for Easy Reading

The content of your resume is by far the most important factor. But design is important, too, for a couple of reasons:

  • Your resume must be easy to read, and good design makes that possible. Design calls attention to key sections of your resume, such as work experience and education.
  • A well-designed resume reflects positively on your skills. Sloppy or careless design may give a negative impression, even if you’re well-qualified.

There are several techniques you can use to create a highly readable, attractive resume. The table below lists some of the most important.

TechniqueWhy It’s Important

White space

Lots of white space makes text easier to read. Text that’s too dense may discourage time-pressed readers from reading further.

Bullets

Bulleted text allows you to break down complex information into readable chunks, and also highlight key points.

Easy-to-scan headings

Your reader should be able to quickly locate key areas on your resume, such as education, without extensive searching.

Limited number of fonts

Use no more than two fonts styles—one for headings and the other for body text. More than that is distracting.

Selective use of bold

Use bold carefully and consistently. For example, if you bold the name of one company you’ve worked for, do it in all cases.

No underlining (except links)

Reserve underlined text for web links. If you need to emphasize something, use bold or a different font size instead.

Consistent spacing

Use the same amount of space before and after headings, between bullets, etc. This gives your resume a uniform look.

Better-quality paper (print)

For print resumes, use better-quality paper with a rag content of at least 25% and a watermark.

Neutral color (print)

Use white, off-white or pale gray. These are conservative colors that won’t compete with the content of your resume.

To see examples of the above guidelines in action, view our sample resumes.

Creating a plain-text resume

Although most companies will be able to handle your resume in Word format, occasionially you may need to have a plain-text resume that's been stripped of formatting. To create one, follow these steps:

  1. Copy your resume into a plain text editor like Notepad, which should be available as an accessory on your computer. Most of the formatting should be gone.
  2. Change any remaining bullets to asterisks, and space once after the asterisk.
  3. For your main section headings, such as Work Experience, change to all caps so the headings stand out.
  4. Add spacing between sections as necessary for readability.
See this sample plain-text resume for Beth Smith, an administrative assistance seeking work as a project coordinator.
 
Next, learn how to market your resume.


Department of Labor CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U. S. Department of Labor,
Employment and Training Administration