It’s that time of the year – job hunting panic descends upon the student body and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “senior scramble.” Recruiting season is upon us, and whether you’ll be talking up the oil and gas companies at the Expo or sighing as you cold-apply to non-oil and gas jobs online, you need to make sure that your resume sells you well.
If your strategy for resume design is to open up a Word Document and list out every achievement, from birth to seventh grade spelling bee to President’s Honor Roll (but only one semester), you’re in the majority. Oftentimes, the visuals of resumes get shunted aside in favor of cramming content into the one page that can get your foot in the door. While resume content is undoubtedly important, design should also be considered. In a world where every employer is judging you by your cover, you better make sure your cover looks damn good. Here are some guidelines to help put together a resume that does exactly that.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Recruiters for each industry have different specifications and expectations for resumes – even if they don’t explicitly say so, they expect your resume to fit the ~vibe~ of the company and industry to which you’re applying. Be sure to read job descriptions carefully and pick up on those vibes. For example, words like “prestigious” and “complex” screech “use boring serif fonts or don’t bother applying!” Jokes aside, more traditional industries (banking, oil and gas) generally call for more traditional designs, whereas more entrepreneurial and quirkier industries (some tech, design and media) like to see unconventional resume designs. If you’re unsure, a quick Google search will show you the general look of a resume in that industry.
LET YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS BREATHE
The one-page gold standard for a resume is there to test your ability to communicate effectively, not test the recruiter’s ability to read 5-point font. Resist the urge to cram in every possible piece of information and cut the fat by favoring readability and white space over unnecessary content. Bullet points are an easy way to introduce white space while organizing information in a more accessible manner.
Differentiating between job titles, company names, locations and start dates can be difficult, but use caution when playing with font sizes and types. Using more than three types of font style risks visual overload, which results in a possibly dangerous first impression. The more types of font you use, the greater the cognitive burden for the recruiter. Overuse of fonts can also give off the impression of disorganization, which is an undesirable character trait in itself. A good litmus test is printing out the resume and asking a friend to take a five-second peek at it. If they feel overwhelmed, it’s time to change something. Workarounds include alternating spacing, using simple symbols like • instead of different fonts and reusing bold font types for important aspects of your resume. If your resume falls under “less traditional,” sparse use of color can let you differentiate between sections without using an alternative font style.
Long horizontal text forces the eye to saccade multiple times,
decreasing the ability to stay focused and follow text easily. That’s why most books have pages smaller than 8.5 inches by 11 inches, and why textbooks and newspapers favor columns.
If your resume is text-heavy, consider dividing the content into a ⅓ - ⅔ column design, in which the left third of the page details your education and skills while the right two thirds of the page detail your working experience along with your projects and accomplishments.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT PHYSICAL DESIGN
An often neglected aspect of resume design is the physical material of resumes. To make yours stand out, consider printing on heftier paper (resume paper is sold at Target). This serves three purposes: 1) The weight of the paper suggests at the bougieness and thoughtfulness of the candidate; 2) the paper itself is differentiated from all other printer paper resumes, inviting the reader to look at it first, and 3) the resume is durable, meaning it’s harder to lose or damage.
On a Tangent is a design column written by A&E Editor Christina Tan.