When it comes to your resume, content is key. But a bad layout could mean a trip to the reject pile.

Why the design and layout of your resume is so important

A great resume is about substance, so while it might be tempting to dress up your resume with fancy fonts and graphics, it’s much more compelling to have a clean and fuss-free design and layout. There are other good reasons to ensure a simple resume design:

  • Resumes with graphics and too many columns won’t actually get through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), so a poorly-designed resume may not ever be seen by potential recruiters.
  • Fancy or hard-to-read fonts are distracting—busy recruiters and employers won’t view them favourably.
  • An aesthetically appealing, functional resume is a reflection of who you are as a potential employee—it shows your professionalism.

This doesn’t mean you’re expected to come up with a knock-out resume design yourself, though—choosing a simple resume template and making it your own is the best way to go.

The ideal length

Depending on your relevant experience, your resume should range from two to four pages long. Focus on quality, not quantity, by keeping your word count tight. Less is more when it comes to providing context for the roles you have listed. Describing what you’ve achieved in your career in as few words as possible will make your resume stand out.

The importance of page one

The first page of your resume is prime real estate, and using two columns is a good way to optimise this important space. There are five key things you should include on page one:

  1. Your name and contact details 
    This should be at the very top, in the header. Use a larger font for your name. Include your personal phone number and email address, and include location information so your resume is searchable for potential employers, for example ‘New York, United States’.
  2. Your personal summary
    Your personal summary should paint a picture of who you are, why you’re ideal for the role you’re applying for and what your career aspirations are. It’s best to tailor your personal summary to the prospective role and limit it to three to four sentences.
  3. Your key skills 
    Listing these is a must, so that potential employers can quickly see your core capabilities. Aim for three to four bullet points.
  4. Your education and training
    Clearly highlight this. In bold, state the years you started and completed your training, then the course and institution. List your most recent qualification first.
  5. Your professional experience
    Your most recent role should appear on page one, followed by previous professional experience on the remaining pages of your resume. According to Hallam, this is the most important part of your resume and it’s crucial to get the formatting right. Always highlight your position at the beginning, followed by the organisation and the time you worked there, including the month and year. Write a brief summary of what your position entailed and include two bulleted lists—one for your key responsibilities and the other for your achievements.

The remaining pages of your resume

After your professional experience, you can include two other sections:

  • Hobbies and interests: It’s a good idea to include something about your life outside of work. Including your hobbies, passions or interests is a great way to differentiate yourself and make yourself memorable. It’s also an opportunity to build rapport with your interviewer, especially if you share common interests.
  • References: you may also wish to include a note at the end of your resume to say that references are available on request.

What not to include

  • Photos: It’s not about how you look, it’s about your relevant skills and experience.
  • Roles you undertook more than 20 years ago: This is simply not relevant, so omit any outdated information.
  • The words Curriculum Vitae: now resume is more current.

Remember—if you want your resume to stand out, focus on getting the content right, rather than dressing it up with fancy fonts or graphics. A clean and functional resume will be a much better tool to get you noticed by potential employers.