Structured for Success: Resume Formatting 101

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The average recruiter spends just six seconds looking at a resume. With this in mind, applicants need to ensure their resumes are easy to read so that recruiters can find the hiring data they are looking for within that minuscule time frame. The best way to make sure your resume lands in the “yes” pile is to structure it for success.

Keep the Format Simple

You want to make sure your resume stands out from the crowd, but there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to formatting. Keeping it simple and clear makes it easy for recruiters to scan your resume and pick out the key details quickly.

If your resume looks cluttered, a recruiter may not bother reading it at all. Neatly arrange your resume into clear sections. Start with your profile, skills, and career history, and then follow with your education and relevant qualifications at the end.

Open With a Punchy Profile

Recruiters spend the biggest portion of the initial six-second review on your personal profile, which means this section should be a quick, concise summary of yourself, your achievements, and what you have to offer employers. Ideally, your profile should be just 4-6 punchy, dynamic lines.

The best way to compose your profile is to think of it as a sales pitch. This is your chance to show why you are the best applicant and why you deserve an interview. Succinctly explain your experience in the industry, your specialties, and the environments in which you do your best work. Also include important details about past results and achievements, as this will show potential employers what they can expect from you.

Refrain from generic phrases and clichés. A recruiter will expect you to be a “hardworking,” “results-driven” “team player,” so you don’t need to include these details. They will not make your resume stand out.

Don’t Use Images

It can be tempting to include a photograph so recruiters can put a face to your name. However, most recruiters prefer that your resume have no images of any kind — especially not headshots.

By adding a photograph of yourself to your resume, you may negatively affect your chances of landing an interview due to unconscious biases on the parts of recruiters. Furthermore, recruiters are supposed to hire without any form of discrimination, or else they will run afoul of the law. They don’t want to know any demographic information about you that could put them in an uncomfortable position.

Keep in mind that most companies use applicant tracking systems (ATSs) to parse and store resumes. Images on your resume can confuse the system, leading to scrambled formatting and incorrect analysis. Hiring managers have no interest in trying to piece your resume back together once the ATS has mangled it. Instead, they’ll simply move on to the next candidate.

Organize Your Work History

In your work history section, make sure to order your roles correctly. Your history should be full and detailed, while still remaining concise. There should be no room for uncertainty, gaps, or anomalies.

Include the duration of each role, as well as the name of the employer and your job title. Putting this information in bold will ensure it stands out, and recruiters will immediately see you have sufficient experience for the industry and role you are pursuing.

After giving these basic details, you should outline the duties and purpose of the role, as well as your relevant achievements. Use bullet points to maintain a skimmable format, and remember to quantify your accomplishments with hard data wherever possible.

By following these four steps, you are on your way to creating a professional resume that gives recruiters exactly what they want. When you get the format right, both you and your achievements will shine brighter.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of UK-based CV-writing advice website StandOut CV.

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Andrew Fennell is the founder and director of Job Description Library and StandOut CV, two leading UK career-advice websites. He is a former recruitment consultant and contributes career advice to publications like Business Insider, The Guardian, and The Independent.