At one time or another, most of us are faced with the joy of creating a resume. If you’ve never created a resume before and don’t know much about Microsoft Word, you may be wondering where to start. As someone who has been on the hiring side of the equation and scanned through many a resume, I can report that many people seem to forget that the first job of a resume is to communicate.
Always remember that the person tasked with reading your resume doesn’t know or care who you are. These people may have to sort through hundreds of resumes every day, so they are an extremely tough audience. Using just that one little piece of paper, your mission is to communicate your skills, education and experience as quickly and easily as possible.
So with that in mind, here are a few tips for creating a resume in Word that actually gets read.
1. Set Up the Page
To enhance the readability of your resume, remember the importance of white space. Everyone has seen resumes that have been squashed down to fit one page. No one wants to read a resume set in a 6 point font. So with that in mind, set up your page with reasonable margins. Personally, I like .75″ all the way around, which isn’t as huge as Word’s default margins, but still gives you quite a bit of white space.
2. Set Up the Body Text
Now, you should set up the standard “body text” in your resume. These blocks of copy will be indented .5 inches, so the headings will stand out. This heading technique is called a “hanging indent.” For the body text, first you create a new style called ResumeBodyText. In the sample shown below, the resume is formatted using a font called Plantin, but you might use any serif font. Now type your name and address at the top. Format the text using a larger font and center it. In the sample, the font matches the font in the Headings (see step 5).
3. Change Spacing to Exact
One thing you can do increase readability is change Word’s the spacing from regular “single spaced” to actually use fixed leading. (Leading is the term for the space in between lines of text.) Standard leading (a.k.a. Word’s “single spaced”) is generally about 2 points larger than the font size. For example, a 10 point font would have 12 pt leading. If you change that leading to 13 point, sometimes it can make your document seem less dense and easier to read. To change the spacing, go into the ResumeBodyText style and change the paragraph spacing drop-down to Exactly. In the sample, the font is 12 point and the leading is 15 pt.
4. Use Styles
If you set your resume up with styles, you have much more flexibility if you need to make it fit on one or two pages. For example, if you increase the leading, you may be able to decrease the font size to make the resume fit on one page. You also can experiment with various fonts that have larger x-heights, which can make the type easier to read at small sizes. The x height is the height of the letter x in relation to the upper case letters. This ratio actually varies quite a bit among typefaces. For example, Garamond has a very small x height and Bookman or Arial have a large x height.
5. Set Up the Headings
Now create a style called ResumeHead for your headings. The headings are a san-serif font with a ruling line below. These horizontal rules below the headings help break up the page, but the techniques only works well if you have multiple headings on a page. It can look off balance if you have a two-page resume and one section is really long, so there is only one heading on the page.
6. Set Heading Spacing
When setting up headings, you always want the heading to be closer to the text below it than the text above it. Because people will skim your resume, you want it to visually appear in text “clumps.” Headings always need to look like they belong with the text that goes with them. So add space before in your ResumeHead style by changing the Spacing Before in the Paragraph options. In the sample, the headings are set in Franklin Gothic Medium, with 14 point leading. The space before is set to 18 point and the border below is a 1/2 point dotted line.
7. Create Subheads
Under your main headings, within your text blocks are subheadings for your job titles. Again you want to set these off using spacing. So create a new style called ResumeSubHead. This style is based on ResumeBody, but it is bold, has 6 points of spacing added in above, and has a right tab set at 7″ so the dates of employment all right align with the right margin.
If you set up your resume up using styles, you can endlessly tweak it, so it still fits on one or two pages. The key is to not add any extra blank paragraph returns in the document. If you use only the spacing commands in your styles, you can make very fine adjustments to the spacing if you need pull one or two words or a paragraph back onto a page.
Armed with these little style and design tidbits, you are well on your way to creating a resume that stays out of that dreaded “do-not-hire” pile.