Simple guide to designing a resume for non-designers

In a brief 3 minutes of scrolling down a page or two or even three, a recruiter gets an insight into your professional life. In the matter of three minutes, what is the best information about yourself do you put forth and what do you push to the backseat?

Many a times I have been asked by my friends to take a look at their resumes, act as a critique, help edit them or even re-design them. Yes, design, I think a resume is something that you design rather than ‘make’. Owing to my brief stint in a talent acquisition group as a communication designer, I have had my fair share of looking at resumes. I have jot down what I think makes a resume look presentable and readable. And simple tools on Microsoft word you could use to up your resume by a notch and bring you closer to that job!

Margins

Adding appropriate margins to your resume- enabling balanced negative spacing would make the recruiter understand and read the information presented in your resume.

Wide is perfect to provide ample negative spacing and to contain the focus of the reader to the text.

Visual Hierarchy

Present what you think is important for your recruiter to know about you first, followed by a series of topics that go down in importance. However, the topics of importance change according to the type of job one is applying for. Highlight by making bold the headings and opting for a regular font for the content below the heading. Placing content spread across the sheet makes the resume look clumsy. Streamline them in an order like a flow through your professional life.
 
 My resume features the following topics in the given order:

  1. Objective: About two lines on why I am applying for that specific job opening, that organisation and how I fit in. I try to condense the information in this paragraph as much as I can. The recruiter might lose interest if he or she sees a huge paragraph right at the opening of my resume. Cut down use of excessive words and words that you right click and check and replace with synonyms.
  2. Experience: A chronologically (Present to past) arranged list of the duration job role and job description. I would have again condensed what I did in that specific job in just about one line to give the reader a brief insight. I am pretty sure the recruiter would reach out to me to understand a specific role if he/she is interested to know more about.
  3. Education: A chronologically arranged list of my college and schooling.
  4. Achievements: Another chronologically arranged list of achievements and laurels- this includes awards, presentations, publications, etc.

Reading the job description and crafting your resume by placing what is important for that specific job is where visual hierarchy comes to play. As a reader, they want to acquire as much information about you to place you on the next round, understanding how you fit in the role in the first glance will help the recruiter quickly short-list the resume.

Colours + Photographs

Although I am a visual designer, my resume is plain black and white. I prefer keeping my resume as minimal as possible. I believe that a recruiter who might be hiring me is interested in my professional course of activities. To see my work, there is always a portfolio / link to my website is provided on the header.

I consider using colours and photographs is a personal preference. Although the amount of colours splashed on the resume could be restricted to one or two. Place the photograph in one corner and not something like a banner across the sheet. A photo that shows your face clearly, preferably a head shot would just look great sitting in that corner!

Fonts

I should have probably placed this topic on the top. This is my most frequently asked question in terms of resume reviews. The first ever resume I made, back in my 12th standard, I used ‘Century Gothic’. I have always been fascinated by it’s simplicity. And then I went on to adapt Helvetica (IT HAD TO BE!).

Being a little experimental- combining a serif with sans serif typeface might make the resume stand out a little. However, one must take caution and not go overboard. Here are a few safe combinations that you can stick to, you could set either of this typefaces as the heading and the complementary font for the body:

  1. Adobe Caslon Pro+ Helvetica
  2. Bodoni+ Helvetica
  3. Baskerville+Helvetia Neue
  4. Adobe Garamond Pro+ Avenir
  5. Futura+ Baskerville

If you prefer single fonts, here are some choices of mine:

  1. Helvetica
  2. Avenir
  3. Proxima Nova
  4. Futura
  5. Baskerville
  6. Adobe Caslon Pro
  7. Adobe Garamond Pro
  8. Century Gothic

Pages

It always makes it simpler for the recruiter to skim a two page resume. I’d rather prefer one page, however, if your list of laurels and experiences extends to a never ending list, a crisp two page resume always stands out. Avoid using columns as it makes the resume look cluttered. Add only relevant and key info about yourself which will reduce the number of pages. Well, one has to definitely make cold the heart and cut down yapping about oneself in the resume.

Infographics

PS: I am going to go a little harsh here. Infographics on a resume piss me off.

Although I personally find the idea of placing infographics and ‘rating’ oneself on a skillset is ridiculous, people still go on to do it. A pictorial representation of knowledge on one skill at 70% makes the resume look a little half-baked. Go on, be confident. If you don’t have that skill for that job, accept it and learn it. Don’t set a scale and put yourself on it in your resume.

Conclusion

The job market is an actual market where you sell yourself. The resume is your pamphlet and you sure want it to stand out from the lot. A resume is a sheet where the company learns who you are and it is better to keep it clean, simple and readable. More margins, less colours, list-like arrangement of content from top to bottom and legible fonts go a long way in the making of a resume. Cut down non-relevant information and de-clutter and simplify the experience of going through your resume.