Tech & Work

Quick resume tip: Don't go overboard with formatting

It's good for your resume to stand out, but you don't want to overdo the formatting. Here's a quick example of what not to do.

There is a lot written about the fact that you have to have a resume that stands out from the crowd. One way to do this is with formatting (lines, boldface, italic, etc.).

The problem I've encountered most often with resumes is that people take this advice too much to heart and overdo it. When you overdo formatting, you do the opposite that you planned for and actually obscure your message.

If you want to clearly delineate between your work experience and your certifications, you can do this with bold or italic headings, or type the headings in all uppercase. But when you do all three of these things, then the eye doesn't know where to focus. The result is visual overload and it tires the eyes out. No one, especially someone who is poring over a bunch of resumes, wants to be visually assaulted.

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As you can see in Figure A, using all elements at once can make your resume look as cluttered as the Vegas strip. Many of the design elements are not needed. All-capped subheadings already do the job of separating the elements of your resume; you don't need to add lines — dividing or underlines — to it also. Figure B shows the page without all the extra formatting. As you can see, the divisions are clear enough.

Click to enlarge.

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Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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