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Resume Formatting – How to Nail Your Resume’s Look So It Catches the Eye of Recruiters

That’s how little time you have to impress a hiring manager with your resume. As Forbes reports, that’s how long the average recruiter spends on giving your resume a scan. While they’re looking for key hard skills—as well as relevant qualifications and licenses—they’re also scanning for one crucial thing:

Proper formatting.

Your resume needs to look the part before a hiring manager will dig any deeper. That’s why you need these formatting tips to make sure that structural issues can’t be the reason why your resume gets discarded.

A resume, with blue and white background, with tips and advice about what resume format matters

Tip 1 – Clear and Simple Is Always the Way

In its 2023 round-up of resume statistics, Zippia highlighted some of the key characteristics they look for in a well-structured resume:

·         A small overview at the top of the page that serves as a summary for the candidate

·         A clear, legible, and professional font

·         Logical layouts that clearly define job history, skills, and education

In other words – clear and simple is always best.

When formatting your resume, it’s tempting to fall into the trap of trying to make it stand out visually. That can lead to mismatched fonts or a mishmash of traditional resume elements that don’t follow a logical progression. Avoid those traps.




Keep those three rules in mind as you right and you’ll stand a better chance of impressing hiring managers with your formatting.

Tip 2 – Customization Can Help

While you should stick to the standards when it comes to formatting, there are a few things you can implement into your resume format to make yourself stand out. Creating the perfect resume for a job is crucial to propelling your career forward!

Light blue background with the words at the top that say Perfect Formatting matters on resumes

Addressing the hiring manager by their name within the document can help. It shows that you’re willing to do a little research – most job descriptions don’t contain a name – and adds a level of personalization to the resume. It also does something very important – shows you’ve written the resume for the role rather than submitting a standard document.

Other customization tactics include adding a link to a blog or portfolio – ideal for creative roles – and including a cover letter. The stats show that simple customization in your formatting works, too, with 61% of hiring managers saying they want to see it.

Tip 3 – Place Work Experience Near the Top

Your work experience is the key to landing a role.

It’s so important that 88% of hiring managers make it a priority when scanning your resume. If that section doesn’t impress—and isn’t tailored to show how your experience is relevant to the role—you’re likely to get rejected.

So, when formatting your resume, the work experience section should always be near the top. The only things above should be your contact details and, if you’re using one, a brief personal statement.

As for what information to include in that work experience section – 75% of hiring managers say they want to see specific results or accomplishments related to your work.

Words that say Best Practice Resume Format and career tips

Tip 4 – Check Your Spelling and Grammar (Then Check Again to Be Safe)

You might not think that perfect spelling and grammar are essential for a resume. After all, if you can demonstrate the appropriate skills for a role, and have good work experience, then the odd typo here or there shouldn’t matter.

But it might.

In a 2023 study, researchers crafted several resumes before sending them to recruiters. Some of these resumes contained spelling errors. Those errors had a significantly adverse effect, with a resume featuring five errors or more resulting in an 18.5% reduction in the chance of scoring an interview. Even a couple of mistakes have an impact – your chances of getting an interview decrease by 7.3% with two errors on your resume.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a few mistakes make it impossible to land a role. But why take a chance when there’s a distinct possibility that misspellings could have an effect? When you’ve finished writing, check, and check again. Run the resume through your word processor’s spellchecker and even consider using tools like Grammarly to snuff out any resume errors.

Tip 5 – Break Up Text with Bold and Italics

Returning to the concept of using the resume’s layout to make certain sections stand out, bold and italics are your best friends here.

For instance, bolding specific qualifications draws the eye to them – perfect for overcoming the six-to-eight-second scan issue mentioned earlier – with italics also helping to highlight important parts. Underlining is a helpful formatting trick, too. Use it to distill your resume into sections, especially if you’re using bolded text for job titles and qualifications.

Finally – don’t forget about white space.

A wall of text can feel indecipherable to a reader, which is why it’s always wise to break up paragraphs with line gaps. It’s simply another way of breaking up the text so that it’s more easily digestible to a reader.

Formatting Launches Your Resume to the Top of the Pile

In a world where recruiters receive hundreds of resumes for each role, you can almost guarantee that there will be some candidates who have similar skills to you. In those instances, it’s often the little things that stand out to recruiters.

Formatting is one of those little things.

Get the “look” and “feel” of your resume right and you may just edge ahead of the competition. While the five tips shared here help with your resume formatting, Expert Resume Pros can take your resume to the next level. With over 35 years of experience—and 34 Tier 3 resume writers—we can provide resume and career coaching help to you to incorporate the correct formatting into your resume quickly and easily.

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