Format really matters because it repels or attracts readers.

The content and format of resumes are interrelated. My experience is that format is even more important at first than content. If someone doesn’t read your resume, all that content is wasted.

Successful resumes are resumes that a recruiter reads and responds to by scheduling an interview or somehow responding in a personal way. Period. If you are not getting interviews, phone calls, e-mails, or “gee, loved your resume, you’re not right for this, can I keep you in mind and call for something else” – you need to review and change your resume. And if you are getting calls and interviews for jobs you don’t want, it’s time to review and change your resume.

I suggest looking first at your format and deciding whether your resume is readable. Then look at content to make sure it accurately reflects what you love doing and want to do again.

Developing a successful resume involves an iterative process of writing and editing the content to make sure that key accomplishments and duties are highlighted by both words and format. There is a constant interplay of font, format and content involved in producing a successful resume.

To get an interview, your resume needs to make you a friendly and familiar person from the get-go. So we want to make sure that the humans reading your resume find you approachable, “easy on the eyes”, and able to quickly convey important information.

My philosophy is that it’s our job to do most of the work for the recruiter. They get so many resumes, we want yours to stand out as the one that makes it easy for the recruiter to know THAT they want to interview you.

There are fairly common ways humans read. By using that information , we can to create a readable format and invite someone in. I spent more than 25 years writing direct mail copy that raised millions of dollars, and learned tools and tricks that apply very well to resumes.

  • We definitely want good use of white space so people have a chance to focus and to rest their eyes. That enables them to move easily from section to section.
  • Short sentences are easier to read than long ones. Take note of the direct mail pieces you actually read. How do they look? What language do they use? The best ones use short paragraphs, sentences and words.
  • Use action verbs and directional language. These words engage readers because they tell a story, and who doesn’t love a story?
  • Choose a type font that conveys who you are, your personality, your style.
  • More people find serif type face (like TimesRoman or Garamond) easier to read. Most direct mail uses serif fonts. And usually direct mail sticks to one font throughout the package.
  • Others prefer sans serif fonts like Arial and Gautami. Most commercial media use sans serif type. They may use two different fonts in one piece. Usually, they decide on a dominant font as representative of their brand.
  • Whichever font you choose, remember that different fonts lend themselves to a different style of dates and headings. Garamond’s elegance, for example, lends itself to using a “January 2008 – present” format rather than “1/08 – present.”
  • You can mix fonts if you choose. Do it very judiciously, for there is nothing more off-putting than a jumble of fonts. It tells the reader that you cannot make a choice, that you don’t know what to focus on, and you certainly can’t direct someone else to the important bits. I recommend using a different font only for section headings.

I live by the “truth in advertising” rule: make sure that people know what they are getting, give them what you promise, and be consistent throughout the experience. So choose a font that is true to you. Do the “gut” test: look at it and if you feel good, it will work for you. If you feel sick to your stomach, it’s time to try another.