The Resume Experiment (3 of 5) – Formatting The Resume

Formatting matters. Or does it? I don’t know. Let’s see what the experts say about formatting John Doe’s resume…

Part I – The Recruiters

Executive Recruiter in the Restaurant Space - Carl ChapmanCarl Chapman

This guy doesn’t have enough meat to have a two pager… not nearly enough. Most people (except very specific positions in specific industries) can get away with one page.

(and following up on that one-page theme…) “what happens if the pages of your resume get separated? With a single page resume, that can’t happen. another plus is that you are forced to remove boring drab statements and replace them with powerful statements that are more likely to garner interest.”

(regarding the lack of address, which is a popular thing amongst my guest-experts) You are fooling no one by leaving off address information, put an address on your resume and avoid this unnecessary red flag.

See an image of the new resume that Carl is suggesting – his complete post is more comprehensive and a good reference from the desk of a recruiter.

Free Resume and Career Toolbox keeper - Daniel SweetDaniel Sweet

As an employer, if see a candidate who has so many revealed extra-curricular activities as you have listed, it says that I’m never going to have your full attention, focus, and effort directed to the work you’re doing for me.

Use Bullets.

The Recruiting Edge expert recruiter - Steve LevySteve Levy

What is it with the lines embracing each section? My mantra for resumes is to eliminate non-essential ink. Get rid on one of them, will ya?

One horizontal line please, not two [Jason: he’s referring to putting the skills at the top].

Another pet peeve – A section entitled “Professional Experience” or “Work Experience.” Whenever I see one of these, I always look for an “Amateur Experience” or “Play Experience” section.

If you have a two page resume, include right justified at the top of the page, your name, a title representing who you are professionally, and “Page 2” – just in case someone manages to separate the pages.

What to bold, italicize and underline: Generally speaking, the name of the company and major dates are in bold, the job title is underlined, and nothing is italicized. Don’t bold and underline – one or the other. Why no italics? Because some fonts lose their ability to stand out when italicized. Remember – clean and simple has the additional quality of being more easily “read” by an automated ATS.

Part II – The Resume Writers

Job Search Expert at - Alison DoyleAlison Doyle

If the blog, web site, writing are related to the type of jobs he’s looking for, he may want to work them into the first experience section.

I’m wondering if there is a way to merge the company Y/Z listing to address the perspective (at first glance) that he’s job hopping. [Jason: I know, that remark is kind of about “content” but the question is, how do you list x number of jobs effectively? Comes down to formatting + content…]

Executive Career Coach and Resume Expert - Barbara SafaniBarbara Safani, a repeat from yesterday but important with regard to formatting:

Because there is no profile or summary on the resume, it’s hard for the audience to get a quick read on all this candidate has to offer. Most people look at the top third of the first page of the resume.

Career Coach and Resume Expert - Billie SucherBillie Sucher

Think of a resume as having major parts / categories, if you will, and each part plays a role in helping you get noticed by the employer. When one part is missing, or not addressed, you are taking a big gamble that the reader will be interested in figuring you out on their time, their dime. They won’t; they don’t; they can’t (for the most part) – they simply don’t have time to do so today.

Here are the basic parts or “categories” I would suggest you use in reinventing yourself in your new resume…

  1. Name / pertinent contact data
    • Include your full middle name, not just an initial. (Think Google search)
    • Insert specific street address, city, state, zip code (Think roots / commitment)
    • remove ( ) from 555 Area Code
    • On the line separating name/from Work Experience, make that line pop/look good. (Think: improved vs. average) Go to Clip Art – Dividers & Dec. – finding something that looks great & insert it! (or create your own)
  2. Focus (or Target) or Goal or Mission or Objective (choose word you like)
  3. Profile (or Qualifications Summary)
  4. Core Competencies / Key Skill Areas
  5. Professional Experience
    • Rename & group Work Experience / Work Experience Other into one section only titled Professional Experience. Then present your employer – position(s), city, state, dates of employment.
    • If one employer merged into another, present that as a single entry. Bullet this section to clean it up. Organize it for the reader.
  6. Education
    • Present the highest level of education attained to date, including degree first (if you have one) – university/college/school – city/state/date of graduation/ completion. Major/minor – achievements?
  7. Organizations / Affiliations / Military / Interests / Activities (all optional / supplemental text)
  8. Testimonial (Insert in body of resume where it has greatest WOW impact) / looks the best.

Brad Attig - professional career services for the retail executiveBrad Attigproviding career services to retail executives:

Unless you are hiding from the mob or the FBI, put your address on the resume. It is a red flag for any recruiter; what do you have to hide? I assure you your resume will not be sent to any bill collectors.

Others might suggest a functional resume but as a recruiter I don’t like them. I want to know what , where and when you did it. I feel functional resumes send up a lot of red flags. Either you are trying to disguise (hide) a lot of career changes or age or haven’t done much recently to put on your resume.

Deb Dib - Certified Executive CoachDeb Dib – Deb has an EXCELLENT post she put up yesterday called The Five Golden Rules of Resume Writing for 2007. From that post:

Bear in mind that this may not be what’s needed in 2008, and it’s not what was needed a few years ago! Resume styles change because the market changes, ways of receiving information change, ways or perceiving information change, and ways of sourcing change.

Bonus Rule #4: Keep it SHORT. No one has time to read a wordy resume. And no one has time to read junk. Make every word count. And plan on spending many, many, many hours to do it.

Ultimate Resumes CEO and VP of Marketing at Broadpeak.comLiz Handlin – Liz had a number of formatting changes in a document that she reworked, including:

  • change some margins, added or deleted line breaks… just general “make it look better” stuff
  • a brief company description below each company name including ticker symbol (if relevant), website, size, number of employees and function. She says: You want to put some context around your experience.
  • added “Selected accomplishments include” under each company’s intro, and then has bullets to list these accomplishments with particular focus on anything that is quantifiable.
  • deleted the References section
  • added a MEDIA/AWARDS section
  • added AFFILIATIONS section
  • moved CONTACT INFORMATION section to the top.

Resume Expert Louise KursmarkLouise Kursmark

WHO ARE YOU? – Needs introduction – who you are, what you do well, what kinds of problems you solve, where you might fit into my organization. Professional profile/personal brand information to “set the stage” for the rest of the resume.

Key information (the SKILLS section) should be included as part of introduction.

Jason’s Thoughts

In Susan Strayer’s book The Right Job, Right Now she talks about formatting from an HR perspective. Did you know that some companies have software that they run every resume through? This “Applicant Tracking System” allows HR to search, prioritize, log notes, etc. on hundreds or thousands or billions of resumes. And, according to what I’ve heard from Susan and others, it either messes up your formatting or is confused by it.

Don’t try any cool formatting tricks that would mess up this system. Are there exceptions? Sure – of course. Graphics artists and creative types usually opt for a portfolio. Or perhaps you e-mail one resume but bring another one in to the interview, part of your first impression thing. That’s one reason why I like – once you create a resume you immediately have it available in different file formats (Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, etc)… bloggers are even starting to put this on their blogs (see image to see Matthew Bookspan’s emurse-hosted resumes).

Anyway, my bottom line for today: Don’t let formatting be a distraction. Barbara Safani says:

Hiring managers want to know how candidates help the companies they support make money, save money, save time, grow the business, or maintain the business. They want to see dollars, percentages, and numbers to qualify these accomplishments.

Don’t distract the resume reader from getting this information by funky, faulty or overly fancy formatting – remember, you get less than 10 seconds to not mess it up.


The Resume Experiment Series

Post IIntroduction
Post IIFirst Impressions/Reactions
Post III – Formatting (today’s post)
Post IV – Content (Thursday)
Post V – Wrap-Up (Friday)

11 thoughts on “The Resume Experiment (3 of 5) – Formatting The Resume”

  1. I agree Carl – there was more from each of the experts here, but lots and lots of common information (which is good). I think people spend a lot of time formatting, and reformatting, and then formatting again. Hopefully this post and the comments here will be a good reference for folks in the future.

  2. Daniel- I have to disagree a bit with the extracurricular activities comment. It really depends upon the person – some folks are just energizer bunnies no matter how much you try and reel them in. You have to let people like this run – unless the company just can’t tolerate people with outside interests.

    In this case, at issue is not whether you want them but if they want you…

  3. As a contributor to this resume experiment, I thought I’d add a few more notes regarding format… Formatting is subjective. While one person may hate the double lines, another might love them! One person wants to bold company names, another prefers all caps. It’s fun to carp and throw in our two cents’ worth, but in the end no serious employer or recruiter is going to toss your resume because it’s not in their preferred format. As long as they can find the info they’re looking for – quickly and easily – they will evaluate whether you can help their organization.

    So my advice is don’t obsess over making your format fit every person’s preferences (you never will). Go with something clean, clear, and professional looking. Get your message across!

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s comments on “content.”

  4. Add me to the list of people whose pet peeves include the multi-page format. When I’m looking through a stack, the multi-pager tells me that this is a person who doesn’t know how to prioritize. Since a resume is the first impression you give a prospective employer to your communication and organizational skills, the inability to make tough choices with material you should know better than any other says something about you.

    Maybe I’m too harsh about that, but if there is a second page I almost never look at it and the fact that its there makes me want to put it in the “don’t interview” pile.


  5. Formatting is probably not as important as many are thinking. Most important IMO is to have a professional looking format that is simple, clear and facilitates reading of the document.

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