Resumé Formatting: Keep it Simple
by Brian Skory
Some candidates have hired professional services to prepare their resumé. Others have called on friends to polish up their resumé. The potential problem here is that professional resumé services and helpful friends often possess an expert knowledge of Microsoft Word. They can use section breaks to make the first paragraph standard orientation and the following paragraph landscape. And then a section break to make the next paragraph use columns with bullet points.
The issue is that when you submit your resumé to a company, that fancy formatting can become problematic.
For example, when uploading your resumé to a company’s Web site, the software will often strip out the formatting it doesn’t recognize. If the resumé was formatted simply, it won’t change much. In other cases, it can become a jumbled mess.
Also, a Human Resources department or recruiter may strip out sensitive data such as your contact info and copy-and-paste your resumé into an internal template before distributing your resumé to hiring managers. Many tech recruiting firms do this—it allows them to standardize the look and feel of resumés and provide some consistency. Generally, it’s a simple process with a minimum of tweaking to get things to fit the template properly. Occasionally, depending on how complex the candidate made the resumé, it can be a frustrating 45-minute ordeal combating sprawling tables or dealing with those mystical section breaks.
Our recommendation is to stick with the basic formatting tools: numbering, bullets, bold, italic, underline, and a table for your skills matrix. Not only will this help prevent the problems above, but it will likely result in a resumé that flows better and is easier to read. That being said, for someone who wants a complex format (something that might be appropriate for a graphic designer, for instance) the resumé should only be submitted in PDF format. A less complex resumé version should be on hand to share in .DOC or .TXT format in case it is requested.
An overworked HR person may look for an excuse to reject a resumé in attempt to whittle down an overwhelming pile to a manageable short-list. Don’t give them this particular excuse.
As always, we at Stout Systems are interested in hearing how your job search is going. Feel free to drop us an e-mail at email@example.com.
Brian Skory is Stout’s Technical Talent Manager. Brian began his technical career 20 years ago. Key to Brian’s success throughout his career has been his consistent ability to find and hire the best talent.