here’s the right way to format your resume

The hardest part of writing an effective resume is figuring out the content – how to talk about your achievements in ways that tie to what an employer is looking for. But people also do an awful lot of agonizing about the smaller details of a resume – things like format, length and even font choices.

Let’s put those worries to rest. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about how to format a resume.

Is there a basic resume format that works for most people?

In general, your resume should have the following sections in the following order:

  • Name and contact info
  • Work history, listed in reverse chronological order (for each job, list your title, the employer’s name, the dates you worked there and a bulleted list of achievements)
  • Education

Some people also include a short profile or summary section before their work history. This is optional, but has increased in popularity in recent years. The idea is to provide an overall framing for your candidacy.

Some people also find it useful to include sections for volunteer work or special skills. Again, this is optional, but in some cases it may strengthen your candidacy.

Does it ever make sense to use a functional resume rather than a chronological one?

Functional resumes – which are focused on one long list of skills and accomplishments rather than connecting them to a chronological work listing – are widely disliked by employers, since they make it difficult to understand what the candidate’s work progression has been. Hiring managers also tend to assume that candidates using this format are trying to hide weak experience or significant work gaps. Since using this format is likely to start you out on the wrong foot with hiring managers, stick to the chronological format over the functional.

What belongs in the education section?

Generally your education section will be just a line or two. You should list any degrees you’ve attained since high school, and the college or university that granted them. You generally don’t need to go into detail about your coursework – just the degrees themselves are sufficient.

You might also list certificates or other forms of continuing education here, but be choosy about what you list. Anything listed in this section should be substantial, so you shouldn’t include, say, a list of 15 day-long seminars you attended or every conference in which you’ve participated.

Should you talk about your work experience using bullet points or paragraphs?

When you’re describing your work experience, always use bullet points. Hiring managers are skimming your resume, and big blocks of text are harder to absorb quickly than bullet points are. Plus, many hiring managers’ eyes will glaze over if your resume appears to be one long block of text. Save that for your cover letter.

What about length? Is it okay for resumes to be more than two pages?

The old one-page resume rule is dead, but that doesn’t mean you can throw out all the rules about length! Your resume still should not be more than two pages. If you’re a recent graduate, stick to one page.

If that feels painful to you, keep in mind that the longer your resume is, the less likely hiring managers are to see the parts you most want them to see. Most hiring managers spend just a few seconds scanning resumes initially; if your resume is several pages long, how many highlights will they really spot? Plus, a long resume can make you come across as unable to tell what information is important and what’s less important.

Should you stick to a plain, basic layout or can a creative resume design score you points?

In most cases, you should stick to a plain, basic layout. The most important thing about your resume design is that it should be easy to scan and well-organized. Few hiring managers want to see unusual colors or innovative templates. The traditional resume layout may feel boring, but hiring managers know how to quickly find the information they want on it, and that’s to your advantage.

Does font choice matter?

Hiring managers won’t care about what font you use as long as you choose one that’s easy on the eyes. Your resume is not the place for a flowery cursive font or anything that’s going to make it difficult to skim quickly. Sample different fonts and pick one that you like and that’s easy to read. Georgia, Calibri, Arial and even old-school Times New Roman are all fine. (Really, a good litmus test for your resume font is that no one should be thinking about it. You want your content to stand out, not your font selection skills.)

And don’t forget that font size matters! Don’t choose a font size smaller than 11; anything else can be hard for some people to read.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 227 comments… read them below }

  1. ArtK*

    I remember getting a 9 page resume years ago. I have no idea what all the content was because it went in the round file immediately. I probably should have kept it as a bad example.

    1. Janelle*

      I regret not keeping some of the amazingly awful resumes I have received over the years. One just had a name and address and school. Otherwise blank page. I alway wondered if they accidentally sent me a prior saved, incomplete version.

      1. Joa*

        I got a cover letter once that was a template without the fill-in-the-blank fields completed. It had spaces like . I can just imagine the applicant realizing it afterward and being mortified.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I recently got a 7 page one and the actual job history wasn’t started until page 5. Did not interview.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Paragraph long descriptions of the skills the applicant had, but without any evidence because it took until page 5 for her to list that she had every had any job. It was really weird.

      1. emalia*

        I received a student application for a work-study position that was 4 pages. The only content was the student’s contact info. The rest was the template for a very fancy resume format. Didn’t interview.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      We got one at OldExjob we nicknamed “The Manifesto.” It was more like a rambling essay than a resume, and the guy had inserted a scan of his driver’s license at the top. Uh, no.

        1. Jadelyn*

          You know, I always think I’ve gotten too jaded to be amazed at the things applicants do with their resumes, and then something like this comes along and throws me for a loop all over again. What???

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      How strange..especially considering most people will just see it in black and white anyway, on their screen..

      1. Duck Season*

        “They’re humid, prepossessing homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps.” – Joey Tribianni

      2. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I agree, mostly – but some words really are overused. It is my personal mission to banish “ensured that” from my employer’s corporate vocabulary, for instance.

        (and I have a resume that isn’t in black text! It’s in dark blue, which prints as black :) )

    2. GermanGirl*

      Well, I’ve had success with a slightly simplified version of the LaTeX modernCV template ( ) which includes black, gray and 1 color, which you can customize if you want to. I left out the gray and simplified the header part a bit but I kept the blue lines and section headers because I think it structures the CV quite nicely. Also it does well on black only Xerox machines (I tested that).

      I don’t think you need to put color on your resume, but I don’t think it hurt me either.

  2. Anonymous Educator*

    I wish every applicant could be involved in hiring or screening résumés at some point in her career. It’s a real eye-opener when you’re on the other side. In other words, Alison’s advice is spot-on.

    1. Dawn*

      SO. USEFUL. Suddenly you understand on a deep level the need for bullet points, short sentences, and bolding of the important bits.

      1. Specialk9*

        How does the commentariat feel about very judicious use of color (eg dark blue for headers) or light grey lines for section demarcation (line between education and work history, etc)?

        I ask because I have had a number of different roles at one employer, and a very minimal use of a slightly different color, or a line for section break, helps keep things separate, to my mind.

        Or should I just stick to ALL CAPS, bold, and italics for differentiation?

        1. Jadelyn*

          I use thin dark blue lines for demarcation between sections and my header (my name and contact info) is in the same dark blue.

          I think the bigger thing is just making sure that if you use color, it’s understated and not detracting from readability. The color shouldn’t be the focal point of the resume, and the resume should still be readable if printed to a black-and-white printer – nothing in light colors that won’t show up in greyscale!

        2. Elemeno P.*

          I have some color on my resume (light blue background for one section) since it helps differentiate pieces. Nothing distracting, and it still works when printed in greyscale. I don’t think it’s a problem as long as it’s not distracting.

        3. Cherith Ponsonby*

          This is coming from more of a desktop publishing / general document layout perspective rather than resumes specifically, but: clarity is the most important thing. If you use colour judiciously to highlight particular bits of your resume, or to group or separate blocks of text, and if it reads well on screen and on paper (colour and B/W), then (a) go for it, and (b) there’s a good chance people won’t even notice.

          I mentioned above that my resume is in dark blue rather than black; on a B/W printer it prints out as black or close to it (I checked). Obviously I can’t know if it turned anyone off so much that they threw my resume away, but I did get a couple of compliments in my last round of jobseeking, so I’m sticking with it.

        4. GermanGirl*

          Yes, imho better use color than all caps. Honestly all caps makes me cringe so much.

          That said, I’d use only one color and only for one purpose (in my cv that’s section headers) and I don’t like background color.

          Also, it has to work when you print it black and white.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Oh my god, yes. After I started screening resumes at work, seeing which ones did and didn’t move on, and getting a sense for what the person screening/hiring is really looking for on the thing, I did a complete overhaul of my resume.

      1. Zen Cohen*

        I have moved so many people who just barely met minimum qualifications up as preferred applicants just because they had a resume that was easy to read. Because honestly, if they were willing to do the research of what makes a good resume and work on it until it popped, that gave me a really good indication that they could learn the ropes at a new job.

        1. Sled Dog Mama*

          I am honestly convinced that this is how I got my most recent job. I spent hours pouring over my resume going “does this word add anything? no, gone.” Until I had to down to the barest minimum to show I had the required skills at a glance. There is not a single complete sentence on my resume and only one bullet point runs longer than a line.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Totally agree. A well-formatted short easy-to-read resume screams “I can communicate professionally.” A rambling 4-pager gives the opposite feeling.

          Not only that, but the former resume also sends the message that the applicant tries to understand what the other party is looking for rather than just serving up whatever is on their mind. This is another key skill when working with teams.

    3. Joa*

      I always include an entry level staffer on my hiring teams just so they can have the experience observing others in interviews and hearing the types of conversations hiring managers have. Nearly all of them have said afterwards how surprising and helpful it was to see things from the other side.

  3. Jadelyn*

    I once received a resume that was all in Comic Sans font, multicolored text with various colors of highlighting (so like, blue text over red highlight, then yellow text over green highlight, etc) – and it didn’t progress rationally, like each bullet point was a separate color combo, it would randomly change mid-sentence and all over the place – and the margin at the bottom of the page was crammed with clipart and logos. Like, Daffy Duck, and the Starbucks logo, and some 90s-looking clipart of a cartoon person sitting at a desk, the Nike swoosh…this resume was truly a work of garbage art.

    I honestly couldn’t tell you a thing about the content. I was so blown away by the visual vomit on my screen that I couldn’t even process the actual text itself.

    Less extreme, but still irritating, are the people who send those infographic-y resumes. I remember one in particular that had like…experience bars for each skill he listed? So it looked like:
    Microsoft Office ||||||||||
    Salesforce |||||||
    [other skill] ||||

    It just winds up looking like you’re going for flash over substance.

    1. Cassandra*

      My shoulders are up around my ears even imagining that resume. Yiiiiiiiiiiiiikes. Was it at all clear why this person thought that styling was a good idea?

      (Smells of “gumption,” too.)

    2. Lurker*

      One time and ex-director received a cover letter and resume in some sort of bubble font with 3-D shadowing. To her credit, she called the candidate and explained to them that was not an acceptable font for job applications and said she’d look at the person’s application if they resubmitted it with some semblance of a “normal” font.

      My friends and I have actually had in-depth discussions about whether to use a serif or sans-serif font. Does sans say “I’m hip and modern” while something with a serif, like TNR, indicates “I’m old and traditional?” Does it depend on where you’re applying (e.g. sans for a trendy start up; serif for a fusty law firm?) Is Helvetica overused or a modern classic?

      1. Jadelyn*

        Your ex-director was far more sympathetic than I would have been, unless I was some unholy level of desperate for candidates for the position.

        I combine – I use serif fonts for my section headers, and sans for the body text. And you can pry my Helvetica from my cold dead hands. ;)

        1. Lurker*

          I don’t think she was seriously considering them. If I remember correctly, it was actually for an internship. (It was a small organization so the director was involved in intern selection.)

  4. whistle*

    I just wanted to second Alison’s comments on font. If your resume makes my eyes bleed, I can’t really determine if you have the skill set I’m looking for or not. I hire for a lot of hard-to-fill scarce specialties where I don’t have the luxury of pitching a resume just because it makes my eyes bleed. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to open a resume in word, hit cntrl-a, and then un-italicize or un-center or embiggen everything just so I can determine if the candidate merits further review.

    Oh, and if everything is bold, nothing is bold. Please use sparingly.

  5. Amber Rose*

    OK, question about plain, boring templates. At what point does it stop being plain and boring?

    Like, right now, under each of my headings, I have a black line that runs from one edge of the page to the other. I find it helps visually separate the sections for me, but is that too much formatting? Should I remove it?

    Otherwise my entire resume is one font, and the heading are two sizes larger than the body. So like, 12pt for bullets, 16pt for headings.

    1. Elizabeth*

      This sounds perfectly fine. Differentiating between headings, body text, etc. helps readability even if those differentiations wouldn’t be classified as “fancy.”

      Honestly, no one has ever gone wrong using one of the templates from Microsoft Word. Yeah, a lot of other people use them, but they use them because they *work*. They’re “design-y” enough to make them easier to read, but not so overdone that I wonder if you’ve been focusing on superficial qualities over the content of what’s in your resume.

      1. Janelle*

        I like templates. I can format word to an extreme degree (please never tell anyone that or they will make me do it) so it isn’t so difficult to change a template up a bit.

        Frankly when I receive the templates I’m far happier because they just are easier to read.

    2. CAA*

      The horizontal line is fine. Even using a different color on the headings would be o.k. as long as it’s easy to read and not something like red or yellow.

      Things that I have seen that were too much were:
      – a wide left margin with the graphic logos of all former employers next to the jobs
      – an image of an apple tree on the background and the jobs and education hanging off the branches in the apples
      – too much personal information or photographs (this is more common with applicants who are not from the U.S.)
      – very long resumes that list everything you’ve ever done. I am actually o.k. with 3 pages for an experienced software developer who has mastered a lot of different technologies, but I have seen some that are upwards of 10 pages. That just tells me you don’t know how to summarize, so communicating with you is likely to be arduous.

      1. Amber Rose*

        The apple tree is fantastic. I can’t even comprehend the thought process behind something like that.

          1. Jadelyn*

            We got some AMAZINGLY creative resumes when we were hiring for a designer earlier this year. There was one I remember that was definitely an infographic-style resume, but it was so beautifully designed that it was as much testimony to the designer’s skills as any of the experience listed on it.

            Although the funny thing is, in the end, we hired someone whose resume was very simple and traditional – not at all a “designer’s resume” in any obvious way.

          2. designbot*

            If I were hiring for a graphic designer for say, a middle school yearbook. Not for a high quality professional firm. I’m sure you mean well, and I’m not intending this as snark, but I really seriously want any aspiring designers to know, please don’t do that. And don’t use 11 point type either (unless it’s Mrs. Eaves or something else with a super low x-height). The average book or magazine is written in 9 point type, and if you’re applying for any job where typography is one of the skills you’re required to have, this stuff will be important and the norms will be very different. Alison’s advice on this may be great for general business purposes, but please if someone reading is a young designer, take it with a grain of salt.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        – a wide left margin with the graphic logos of all former employers next to the jobs

        I totally did this on my first personal web page (in tables, no less!). To be fair it was 1998 or so, and it was not a resume, just a personal brag page. :-)

        1. Engineer on the Dark Side*

          To be honest I sort of do this but instead of the left I put the Logo on the right in what is dead space of the resume after the title section of each job. It adds a little color but isn’t gaudy … I hope.
          For my education/credentials section I have each school logo and my PE stamp graphic on the right in what would be dead space.
          I try to maximize without over saturation. It is easy to do with Word and the right formatting on the graphic. Then to save space I convert it all to a .PDF for loading on to website of the company.
          To me it shows a little bit more skill than the basic user and helps it to pop details without being in your face.
          My biggest sin is probally to much \b\bold\b\ for titles, etc. No one is perfect I guess.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Don’t do that. It’s actually illegal (and considered rude) to use a company’s logo without their permission.

            Plus you don’t need all those graphics and they’re junking up your resume. Hiring managers want actual content about your work.

            1. Seal*

              This. We’ve had candidates use our university’s logo, trademark symbol and all, on resumes and even on hand-made thank you notes. In all cases, it was an instant rejection. Don’t do it.

            2. Engineer on the Dark Side*

              Thank you to everyone, especially Allison for pointing out my gaff. I will fix all my documents and make sure never to do that again.

      3. GermanGirl*

        The photograph is pretty normal in Germany. Not having one would stand out as odd. Although there are some companies that don’t want them anymore, but they’ll say that explicitly on their website.

    3. Shadow*

      For some reason I don’t like seeing recognizeable resume templates. Maybe it’s bc mentally they feel like they took less effort.idk

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I’m a big fan of the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. If there is already a template out there for something, why should an applicant create their own formatting? A template accomplishes the goals of a resume perfectly – it’s easy to scan and looks professional.

      2. Elizabeth*

        There’s one particular Word template that bugs the bajeezus out of me because of the font they put your name in, but I’ve gotten over the “I’ve seen this template fifty thousand times” feeling because I remember not everyone has a good sense of design or the skills to pull it off even if they can envision something better looking. Put your effort into the content, not the design.

  6. Robbenmel*

    I once got one that was like a 50th generation copy of a CV, with a single line written in pen off on the side somewhere, that said, “Why should I come work for you?” (in place of a cover letter, since there wasn’t one of those.)

    I did not have an answer for him.

  7. Stelmselms*

    Please do not add things to make your resume “stand out”, i.e. shaded boxes with text, etc. We have the ability to generate all of the resumes we receive for a position at our university into one continuous PDF document for easy printing. However, when I have to reprint individual resumes out of 50-100 or so because it doesn’t convert to PDF, it makes me twitchy.

    1. Shadow*

      You really print everything? I have this ongoing debate with colleagues about printing/not printing.

      1. whistle*

        I print every resume I review in detail because it is easier for me to digest the information from paper than from a screen and so that I can make notes directly on the resume while conducting a phone interview.

        1. Shadow*

          I used to do that. But I usually get a ton of resumes and just hated trashing so much paper after I screened them. Now i just print the ones I call for a phone interview.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            That’s my preferred method too. I need a physical copy to takes notes on before and during the phone interview. But only for people I phone screen, or else I wouldn’t have any room at my desk for anything else.

    2. Hey Nonnie*

      I’m always surprised that people aren’t sending their resumes as PDFs in the first place. The formatting in a Word document changes depending on the brand and type of printer is the default for that computer/document. It can also change if one person is using Open Office to create or view while the other is using Word. Some printers would reformat my Word resume from two pages to three, with the second page being mostly empty space. So I format the document for the PDF printer as the default, and then convert it to PDF so there are no formatting issues due to the hiring manager’s computer having a different set-up. I want them to see what I intended.

      Also, PDFs are harder to edit (and there would be clear signs of tampering), just in case the intern sorting resumes accidentally puts a book on the keyboard while reviewing them.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This is what I tell all my friends. Send your resume in PDF format if at all possible. Like, if the employer requests a Word doc, okay, but if they give you no guidance default to PDF! That way you know the formatting will be the same no matter what they open it on or with.

        1. GermanGirl*

          Yes, and if you’re not 100% sure that they have the font you use on their system, be sure that the font is included in the PDF (should be the standard setting but who knows which PDF making software you use), otherwise strange things can also happen in PDFs.

  8. NotAnotherManager!*

    I love this post so much! I see A LOT of resumes, and Alison hit all my highlights on what to do/not to do. I wish this post had been out a few weeks ago when I was helping a former colleague with her resume – I literally gave every piece of advice on Alison’s list when I updated a draft for her and explained why I had moved/cut/reworded/reformatted everything.

    Seriously, unless you work in a creative industry where you get style points, I’m far more interested in your resume being readable so I can easily get the content I need.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      A key part of design is knowing how to visually guide the eye to key information, so there are no style points for floof that achieves the opposite.

  9. Shadow*

    I always think people early in their careers should list degree before experience as that’s usually the most significant qualification/selling point. At some point at around the 5 year mark of professional experience it makes more sense to move it after work history. Also I like seeing any professional affiliations listed

    1. WellRed*

      Eh, if my degree had been a bigger selling point then my limited work experience, I might have gotten a job quicker after graduation.

    2. TeacherNerd*

      I always take these columns about how to format resumes with a grain of salt, even from the effervescent Alison, because there are so many caveats. I list my education at the top of my resume because I’m a (high school and college) teacher, as opposed to the bottom of my CV, since (at least teaching) jobs require a minimum amount of education in a particular field – there’s more emphasis there. Ditto with professional affiliations – probably more important as a teacher than in other fields. YMMV.

    3. Cassandra*

      I advise my professional students against this because it immediately communicates “I’m brand-new and wet behind the ears!” Also, in our fields (rightly or wrongly), educational institution carries no particular prestige — indeed, thinking it does and trying to lean on institutional prestige in a resume will earn considerable side-eye from employers.

      If they can sneak their newness under the radar — and quite a few of our new graduates can — why wouldn’t they want to?

    4. Clever Name*

      I have 10 years’ of experience and I still list education at the top, but maybe that’s because I work in a field where my college degree is actually relevant and important. When we hire, we look to see what degrees they have, and I don’t think we’d ever interview someone who doesn’t have a relevant degree. (I’m in a STEM field).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I had a consultation with a resume reviewer and he said normally he’d recommend moving education to the bottom since I had plenty of work experience, but in my case the degrees are at least as much a selling point (STEM-adjacent field, positions I’m considering require MA/MS and often prefer PhD) and it’s still just 3 lines that can be quickly skimmed.

  10. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    Question: what is the general policy about using colloquial language in a resume?

    1. Elizabeth*

      How colloquial? Depending on what it is, it could be way to casual for a resume (and I’m sure this is region-specific).

        1. Duck Season*

          Not because I’m a hard ass or anything, but because part of this job is being able to communicate fairly formally.

      1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        Sure. For example something like: “Proactive in heading off discrepancies so that molehills don’t become mountains”

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          I like “so molehills don’t become mountains!” Just the right amount of casual for me, and still gets the point across. But I feel like it jars with the first part of the sentence, “proactive in heading off discrepancies.” That seems very formal and…resume-y, and it doesn’t flow with the colloquialism at the end.

          I would check the overall tone of your resume, and either make the whole thing colloquial (but not too much!), or make the whole thing formal. I wouldn’t refuse to interview you on that one sentence alone, but it kind of makes me squint a bit.

        2. Shadow*

          I would find it more compelling if you quantified the discrepancies you caught and gave some context on how it benefitted the company

        3. Trout 'Waver*

          I personally think that would be more appropriate in a cover letter than a resume, but that’s just my person preference. It wouldn’t sway whether or not I phone screened someone.

            1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

              The phrase is actually in my cover letter as well. Perhaps I should take it out of the resume (?)

              1. Rookie Manager*

                Yes! Don’t use that same phrase on both your resume and cover letter. That would really jump out to me as a negative – even though it’s a great phrase.

  11. Elizabeth*

    I have SOOOOOOOOOOO many resume horror stories. These are my two favourites.

    Horror #1 — Cover letter had a background that was a green to red gradient in the background, i.e. covering the entire page, with black font that was impossible to read. Resume itself had “creative” graphics that looked like swashes of paint or something but because the resume was sent as a Word document and not a PDF, the graphics (in addition to just being ugly) managed to push several boxes from the resume’s sidebar into the margins of the page and disappeared. I had to turn off the margins in order to see what was there, which I did out of idle curiosity in my horror, but no resume screener should ever have to reformat your resume for you.

    Horror #2 — This was a beautiful, beautiful piece of stationery work but so, so inappropriate for a resume. The applicant had printed everything on a white cardstock with a pale iridescent sheen to it. In the background was a watermark of her initials that she had clearly designed as a logo mark. The same logo mark was on a piece of vellum on top of the resume, with no other information included on it. In case all this nonsense was not enough, the resume came with … a reply card. Like for a wedding. It had a series of tick boxes on it that said things like “Yes, we’d love to interview you and we’ll be in touch!”, “No, but we’ll pass this along to some colleagues who may be interested”, and my favourite, “No, and never apply to a job here again!” She clearly thought the latter was hilarious, but my boss was like ” I want to add an option called ‘D, never send a resume like this again’.” The whole thing was super ridiculous.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      A REPLY CARD? I would kind of love to know how many of those the resume-submitter got back. That sounds like something my HR recruiter would pin on her wall as a reminder that things could be worse while digging through a large pile of standard-issue resumes.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I definitely kept that resume in a drawer until I quit that job! It stood out, but not in the way the applicant probably hoped it would.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I remember my mom coming home from work one day and laughing until she couldn’t breathe because they’d received a resume on a soup can.

      Like, a can of soup, but instead of a label with nutritional information it had a label with bullet points about work experience.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Was this one of these “I’m applying for a graphic design job and need to show you how creative I am” disasters, or something totally unrelated to what you were hiring for?

        1. Amber Rose*

          I think it was a marketing position, but she was working at the airport so I never did see the connection with soup.

          1. Naomi*

            It’s probably some kind of silly pun, like the people you hear about who mail in a shoe because they’re “trying to get a foot in the door.”

    3. Duck Season*

      That second one may be one of my favorite things ever. I should feel bad for her, but that’s hilarious.

      1. Elizabeth*

        We debated whether or not we should reach out and tell her it was inappropriate (we’d done this in the past for another candidate who sent resumes to literally every staff person listed on our website, plus the board of directors), but ultimately didn’t because while it was overkill, it seemed more like an aesthetic choice rather than having received really bad advice at a resume seminar (which is what had happened to the other person). I occasionally still wonder if we should have reached out, though.

    4. Rookie Manager*

      Oh my! Even before you got to the reply card I was thinking weddings. I presume you weren’t hiring for a wedding coordinator role?

      1. Elizabeth*

        We definitely weren’t! It had a definite wedding invitation vibe in general; I kept waiting for it to be packages with a ribbon around the centre of the stack of pages.

    5. JulieBulie*

      If someone sends you a reply card, it’s rude not to RSVP. You should have sent it back with “2 guests: fish and chicken”.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I’m imagining her following up three weeks later going “We haven’t received your reply yet and I need to know numbers!”

    6. Jadelyn*

      My jaw has dropped open in horrified delight. Those are both just…so stunning, although for very different reasons.

      A reply card. GUMPTION!!! GET NOTICED!!!

  12. MD*

    All other things being equal, is it better to have a 1-page resume with a slightly smaller (but still readable) font, or a 1 1/2 page resume with a larger font?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      For my positions, a 1.5-page resume with readable font. I recently got bifocals, and the tiny font needs to come with a magnifying sheet for me. I also kind of roll my eyes at people who format resumes within an inch of their life to get them onto one page (e.g., small font, squished-up paragraph spacing, super narrow margins, etc.) – just roll it onto a second page. (This assumes some professional experience. If you’re fresh out of school, cut it down to one page unless you’re in a field that needs a CV instead of a resume.)

    2. Rookie Manager*

      Larger font. You don’t know who will be reading it so make it accessible to all (eye sights (obviously no need to include braille or super large print, eye sights that are reasonably normal).

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      Larger font! If you’re going over by a sentence or two, then you could make an argument for playing around with the font and/or the margins. But if it’s a half page of content, definitely just put it all on the second page.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      1 page and larger font. Be more concise on self editing. Anyone can get their resume to 1 page.

  13. tired-boss*

    On the one-page or more thing for recent graduates, I’ve had a few lately that really shouldn’t have violated this rule. I wish I could tell them to keep in mind that everything that’s on your resume is fair game for you to be asked about. The more you put on there, the more you have to be prepared to talk about – if you list six projects in detail, and I pick the fourth one to ask about, don’t tell me “that’s a long time ago”. If you list 17 programming languages, and don’t realize that I’m a programming language geek, don’t be surprised when I ask you to differentiate SETL and Haskell.

    Meanwhile, the longer your resume is, the more typo’s you’ll need to have someone catch for you, but I don’t grade on a curve. Use the one page rule to help cut out detail and show me you know how to make a decision on what to exclude.

    1. Glass houses*

      “Meanwhile, the longer your resume is, the more typo’s you’ll need to have someone catch for you, but I don’t grade on a curve.”

      This is precious.

        1. PM Jesper Berg*

          Eh. You may not nitpick, but from where I sit, nitpicking is appropriate if someone publishes a typo while haranguing others about the importance of avoiding typos. That’s particularly true if, as here, the lecture is particularly sardonic or schoolmarmish (“I don’t grade on a curve”).

          And apropos about the below comment about the difference between a resume and an internet post, sorry, but I’m not especially buying it. If I hire someone, I want to know that they know how to write in grammatical English generally, not just when they’re on their best behavior.

        2. There are only two things I can't stand in this world: People who are intolerant of other people's cultures, and the Dutch.*

          Nitpicking involves showing excessive concern about a given thing. I see Glass houses holding a mirror to tired-boss’s nitpickiness. Gh is expressing amusement at a perceived irony that happens to involve a solecism, which might veer into cockapert territory but ain’t pershittie in my book.

          Of course, tired-boss may have done it deliberately, which would be admirably clever use of language.

          Either way, I believe that pointing out someone’s fussiness doesn’t make you the fussy one, not unlike how (as mentioned in other posts on this site) pointing out someone’s rudeness doesn’t make you the rude one.

    2. MassMatt*

      Terrific points! I’ve interviewed people that seemed oddly unfamiliar with items they list on their resume. One person even seemed annoyed that I was asking about a job they listed that, while a couple jobs ago, was very reason why they got the interview.

  14. Duck Season*

    I recently got a resume from someone who must have received very bad advice. There was a lot of color; some colored text, colored blocks to the left of each job title; colored bars in the “Skills & Competences” section. (It was the same color throughout with 1 exception.) It was a 2-column resume that also included an “interests” section in which they listed some interests that had absolutely nothing to do with the job for which they were applying.

    There was also a picture.

    I work in a fairly traditional industry, so this was really out of place.

  15. Rookie Manager*

    Two of mt team are currently having a ‘CV competition’. Anyone with hiting experience they ask which is the best. Person A has done a sylish 1 page design with all work amd educational history, but is very young and so has little to say.
    Person B has a 2 page ‘boring’ cv with work history, key achievments etc, they have 25 years of work experience and much to day. Person B’s is much more useful for hiring for a professional but A’s does look good, as soon as he has more to say the whole thing will fall apart. I’m tempted to direct them to the article but I really don’t want them to start reading AAM and guess this is me!!

    Another of my team gave me a CV during their first 1-2-1 with me. It includes their wife and children’s educational accomplishments and current job. Reader, my gob was smacked!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      “Another of my team gave me a CV during their first 1-2-1 with me. It includes their wife and children’s educational accomplishments and current job.”

      I … can’t even.

      What did you say?!

      1. Rookie Manager*

        I deliberately didn’t read it while the person was there (he was a manager before I was even born, he wanted me to know such things). Once I did read it I just laughed and immediately told a couple of family members (confidentially of course!).

        If I’d read it in the moment I have no idea what I could have said as it was so outside professional norms.

    2. Sled Dog Mama*

      That reminds me of the set of helicopter parents I had while teaching high school. They brought in a four page resume for their son (in tenth grade) that went back to kindergarden. They were highly offended when I set it aside without a glance.

      1. Rookie Manager*

        Wow! At least my guy eas talking about degrees and the like not “successfully created a sausage from playdough”!

      2. Jadelyn*

        Wait wait wait. Why did they bring a resume for their 10th grade child to the child’s teacher? What is that intended to do? I am…so unbelievably confused right now.

    3. hbc*

      I’ve probably shared this before, but we had an applicant included his son’s sports accomplishments and his daughter’s pageant placement. Just…no.

  16. Shadow*

    Whatever you do do not fudge accomplishments? I can’t count how many times I’ve asked about specific accomplishments only to find them suspect or flat out made up.

    1. Liz2*

      Oh is that why I always get asked about them? I finally took them off my resume because I got tired of taking valuable time to explain this one day certification course or some work reward system rather than the specific applicable work experience.

      1. Shadow*

        Oh yeah you should be prepared to be asked about the Details which can include the
        Your specific role/task
        The steps you took
        The outcome/results
        The lessons learned

  17. Steve Jobs wannabe*

    Since this is the second time Alison has offered this advice: I disagree with the “formatting and fonts don’t matter” advice. They do. (Obviously you don’t want garishly *bad* formatting, such as in many of the above examples.)

    I have been evaluating about 200 proposals for a demo day this week. We have to narrow it down to 10 candidates, so the process is not unlike that of evaluating resumes. It’s very clear what companies have given thought to graphic design, and which haven’t. And some of the latter may have a kernel of a business idea in their slide deck, but it doesn’t come across.

    Design thinking is important. (I say this as someone who is not a professional graphic designer, but with a Steve Job-ish interest the area.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be clear, I’m not saying font and formatting don’t matter. Of course they matter! But that just means that you need to produce a clean-looking, easy-to-scan document. You don’t need to agonize about whether to use Arial versus Georgia, and you’re fine just using an already-created resume template. And you can ignore articles saying you should never use Times New Roman on a resume (that was a viral article a couple of years ago). Good hiring managers (and even most of the bad ones) genuinely do not care, as long as it’s clean and easily readable.

      1. Steve Jobs wannabe*

        I don’t think “agonize” is the word I’d use, but I will say this. If I’ve received ten resumes with average formatting (Times New Roman, etc.) and one that is not garish but looks well-thought out (e.g., with a readable font like Garamond or Palatino Linotype), then the latter may stand out in my mind.

        Conversely, I also think that using notoriously disliked fonts such as Arial or Calibri does risk the drawing of negative inferences (e.g., “candidate can’t be bothered to change the default font in Word, so candidate isn’t particularly detail-oriented”).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I really have never encountered a competent hiring manager who would make that inference about a basic font. I just don’t think that’s a thing that happens unless the person is truly terrible at hiring (and even then, usually not).

    2. VC*

      I am a professional designer who is deeply opinionated about promoting visual literacy and design craft… and I agree with Alison. You can achieve an adequate level of design for a resume — readable fonts, logical layout — by using a decent template (which a professional designer probably made anyway).

      Past that, the marginal value of spending extra effort on the aesthetics of a resume is small, and most non-design-job-seekers are far, far better off wordsmithing their resume’s content ather than fiddling with tab settings or agonizing over Arial vs. Calibri.

      1. Steve Jobs wannabe*

        “most non-design-job-seekers are far, far better off wordsmithing their resume’s content ather than fiddling with tab settings or agonizing over Arial vs. Calibri.”

        I don’t disagree, but this is not an either/or tradeoff. There’s an old maxim about “matter, manner, and method” all being important in making a successful presentation. Matter may be the most important of the three, but manner of presentation isn’t unimportant.

        Furthermore, you may achieve an “adequate” level of design, but the reality is that hiring is competitive. Merely adequate doesn’t always cut it, as Mrs. Field’s cookies reminds us. And like most aspects of marketing, design can work in subtle, almost subliminal, ways. People draw inferences they’re not even necessarily aware of. Ten resumes of Times New Roman precede one with (say) Garamond, and the reader may subconsciously remember the latter one.

    3. MassMatt*

      I think you are talking about something very different, sending a proposal for work/hiring a company with a deck of slides is not like a resume for a job. Many resumes for large employers especially are going to get fed into a system likely to strip away many design elements anyway, in many cases plain formats come through looking better.

    4. Clever Name*

      I’ve been on a few hiring panels at work, and nobody has ever said anything about the font of someone’s resume. Never. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a font. If someone notices a font, it’s normally because it’s not one of the commonly-accepted “business” fonts. So don’t send a resume with Comic Sans or Papyrus as your font, but literally no one will care if it’s Times New Roman or Helvetica.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        Last time I noticed fonts it was because the fonts were so small I needed my strong glasses, and the cover letter was 7 pages long. (Academia, but still. Don’t do that.)

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          A seven-page COVER LETTER? I can see that length for a c.v., but the actual cover letter? (Was the c.v., like, 40 pages?)

      2. Steve Jobs wannabe*

        We’ll have to agree to disagree. No doubt some resume-readers will share your view; some may share mine.

        The question for the job-seeker is whether a few minutes to improve layout is worth it to impress the latter. In my mind, it’s an easy cost-benefit tradeoff.

  18. Amber Rose*

    Confession time: my first resume used tables, in Word. It was sort of like a spreadsheet, so there was a column for job headings and a column for bullet points and a column for dates.

    Learn from me: don’t write your resume as a spreadsheet. It looks like crap. You’ll never get it formatted right.

    1. Fabulous*

      I disagree slightly. If you know how to customize the tables in Word and don’t just rely on a default table template, it can look really sharp (when saving as a PDF). A table is better than using columns, by far. HOWEVER, the issue I found is when I was using tables it never uploaded the information correctly when it tried to auto-populate application fields.

    2. Shadow*

      It’s not that hard to make tables look fine. They’re not an absolute no. As long as they don’t look like tables in PDF

    3. Jadelyn*

      Tables, with no cell outlines anyway, can actually be really helpful for Word. I use them fairly often to help me keep tight control over margins and spacing and multi-column formatting, since Word’s automatic attempts to be “helpful” tend to make me want to chuck my computer out a window.

      As long as you don’t use the cell outlines (except for underlining purposes with headers and stuff), tables are a great tool.

  19. Relocating*

    If you’re trying to relocate, would you recommend not including your address in your resume or would that look weird/suspicious? The cover letter could of course explain the reason for relocating – just wondering if leaving out an address on the resume could be beneficial for hiring managers who only skim the resume and screen out non-locals.

      1. what's my name again?*

        I’m a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) who subcontracts for a few placement agencies. Those agencies have often advised us to only include City and State, rather than full mailing address. This for a couple of reasons:
        1. In these days of internet insecurity, including full mailing address is just one more means phishers have to pull personal data.
        2. Some hiring managers use the full mailing address to estimate commute times and even current salaries (based on housing value).
        Is this reasoning off base, Alison?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think including your address on a resume — which is a very, very normal and common thing to do — significantly increases your risk of of someone stealing your personal data. Someone who wants your address can very easily look it up online in most cases. Same for hiring managers who want to do #2, but using it to estimate your current salary is Not A Thing. That doesn’t mean it has never happened in the history of the world, but it’s not happening nearly enough for anyone to worry about it or change their resume content out of fear of it.

    1. JulieBulie*

      In a similar situation about fifteen years ago, I put both addresses (just city/state) on my resume with dates:
      Gotham City (after 5/15/2003)
      Metropolis (until 5/15/2003)

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Me too. I use city and state, along with email and phone number, and so far all job contacts have been through email.

  20. Jilly*

    Almost every job that I have ever applied for has been for a contracting/consulting firms that have a particular federal agency as their primary client. That agency’s style manual requires that all proposals be submitted in Times New Roman 12 point. So I always submit my CV using that with minimal formatting because one of the first things I have to do as a new hire is submit a copy of my CV to the new business team so that whatever recruiter is putting together the CV section of a proposal can copy and paste my info rather easily depending on whether they are submitting full CVs or just tables with skill matrices.

  21. Anony McAnonface*

    I remember seeing my Dad’s resume a million years ago and the last thing he put on it was that he was married with two kids and our ages. And from what I know of the world he worked in (big business, an old boys club) I’m sure that was a point in his favour, but can you ever imagine a woman doing this and having it not be terrible?

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      I was reviewing proposals this summer and an (academic) had listed his wife’s name and his children’s names and ages on his CV. We weren’t evaluating the CVs in the proposal review, just using them as reference to ensure they had adequate experience in the topic but we request 2-page CVs (which, for us, is very very short, mine is 4 and I’m only a year post-grad) but to dedicate 2 lines of his CV to his family made me cringe hard.

    2. Franzia Spritzer*

      I saw my dad’s resume from the mid 70’s and another from the early 80’s, not only were his kids (gender and age) listed on the document, but also his height, weigh and build. Perhaps back in the day stating that you’re a fit family man was useful (?)

  22. lionelrichiesclayhead*

    I’ve received great feedback from my functional resume and both myself and my partner got our current jobs using one (we were both changing careers) but it’s good to know that from a hiring manager perspective, this may not be the favorite format to use.

    1. Violetish*

      I’m unsure about the functional resume vs chronological resume point. I see that a skills-based resume could seem to be hiding something, but I’m still stuck. My jobs have included increasing responsibility in education (teacher, teacher coach, trainer of teacher coaches, school administrator), but job descriptions don’t always make that clear. Plus, now that I’m searching for a new position outside of public education, it seems like everyone I talk to just sees my job history as “Teacher,” ignoring the leadership work I’ve done and programs I’ve managed. Switching to a skills-based resume has let me showcase the type of work that I’ve done, rather than focusing on the education-focus of my work. I still have a list of roles on the resume, but on page 2. I wonder now if this is more of a turn off than it’s worth. Any ideas for ways I could stick to the chronological resume while still making my experience clear to those outside of education?

  23. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    Hmm…I have skills listed as the first item on my resume, since I assume that’s what a hiring manager in my field would want to know about first. I have sections for molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and so forth. What do you guys think? I’m not actively looking now, but I like to keep everything up to date.

    1. Jadelyn*

      For something like that with hard skills that are really important and relevant, I think it could go either way. As long as the skills listed up top are reflected below in the work history. The skills section takes up resume real estate and is redundant if the skills are reflected in the work history (and if they’re not in the work history, that would make me question how you got those skills or even whether you really had said skills, so they’d need to be in both places)…but it’s a quick one-stop summary that lets a manager decide very quickly whether to even bother reading the rest of it in detail, which can be convenient for them.

      If it’s soft skills, though, hard NOPE. Waste of space.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        I agree, no to soft skills. In my last resume overhaul, I chose a 2-column format with work experience going in the main column, and skills listed in highly-scannable format in the sidebar. I think it’s to my benefit if the reviewer can see in a 2-second glance if I have the specific technology/platform skill they are looking for, rather than listing it amongst bullet points which describe responsibilities in more detail, where it might be less easy to see (or end up on the second page). In work experience I describe more what I have DONE with those technologies/platforms, rather than calling out specific software by name. It is obvious from context which platforms I’m talking about; if I say I have designed marketing materials, one can reasonably assume that I mean that I did it using the Adobe creative software I have listed at the top of the page, and I don’t need to repeat that.

        I group my tech skills by category, and then list the specific ones, like:
        Adobe Creative Suite: Photoshop, InDesign, [etc.]

        It doesn’t take up that much real estate, so all the crucial information (my current two workplaces, skills, education, and achievement highlights) are all on the first page, and the second page is my extended work history (5-10 years ago).

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Also, it’s a good way to stuff keywords for automated application systems, without looking weird to a human reader.

  24. Professor Ronny*

    Keep in mind that all the recommendations are general in nature. Much of what she recommended would not work on a vita for an educational position. My vita is nine pages long and has education at the top (naturally). I’ve hired a lot of professors and my vita is actually fairly short.

    1. Sigrid*

      Yeah, I’m in medicine, and we use similar CVs to academia. But Alison is not writing for us! Sometimes I dream about back when I was in the normal corporate world and only had to update a one-page resume instead of my behemoth of a CV that lists everything professional I have ever done ever.

    2. designbot*

      But also, don’t submit a CV if you’re applying for a business/non-educational type job! I just got one of these and I was genuinely sitting here going, I can’t tell what’s professional and what’s while he was in school. I can’t tell real accomplishments from student awards. I can’t tell that ANY of this means ANYTHING to the role that I’m hiring for!

  25. M is for Mulder*

    I hate having to do a chronological resume. As a contractor/freelancer, it makes me look like a job hopper. Since first impressions/quick glances are what resumes are all about, it hurts my chances when applying for FT work.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Yeah, that’s what I do. On my resume my first work experience entry is basically “me, freelance creative work” from the year I started to the present. My bullet points are specific responsibilities I do/have done for my various clients, and I have a client list on my portfolio website. I don’t call out clients individually otherwise because that would make my resume 8 pages long (MANY of my clients are short, one-off projects that may come back around once in a year or two, so it takes a lot of them to fill my time).

        Many of my other job entries have concurrent dates, since I have also freelanced on occasional weekends while holding a “regular” FT job, but only once has that ever confused anyone.

  26. Lurker*

    I once received a cover letter and resume that had a NYC subway theme. The candidate spelled their name using various colored “subway line” circles and had subway lines that traversed the page and divided up the different sections of their resume. Their cover letter tied into the theme — it talked about how their life was like a subway ride through the city with different transfers and unique stops. It was totally not right for the position we were hiring for, but I admired their commitment to the theme and thought maybe if it was for advertising or something along those lines (heh – no pun intended) it might have been okay.

  27. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

    Depending on your field, it might make sense to put education first. For example, when jobs require a specific degree (e.g. MSW, MD, PharmD, PA, RN) and experience can’t be a substitute, listing the degree first makes things much easier for the hiring manager. For licensed professionals, I’d also suggest putting your licensure on the top, below your degree.

    1. Sigrid*

      I don’t know about RNs or MSWs, but I’m an MD and we use CVs, not resumes, so it’s a completely different beast. Mine is six pages, which is on the short side because I’m not that far along in my career, and education and licensure always goes first.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Sorry, I should have been more specific. The organizations I have worked for often hire MDs, RNs, etc. in non-clinical roles and request resumes, not CVs, so having the degree+license info up front helps. In an actual clinical setting or research institution, I have no idea how best to do it. I should have kept it general and said, “If using a resume for a job that requires a specific degree and will not take experience ‘in lieu’ put the degree in the beginning”

  28. MassMatt*

    How about professional designations, licenses, certifications etc? I agree don’t include fluff but in some industries these are important. List under education?

    1. designbot*

      I’ve seen them get their own column if there are multiple listings of this nature, or I’ve seen it listed just below the candidate’s name or as a title/qualifier afterwards if there’s just one. For example:

      Elizabeth Bennett, LEED AP


      Elizabeth Bennett, AIA
      CAL #56746, obtained 2011

      or separate from their name,

      CA #56746, obtained 2011
      AZ #18942, obtained 2013
      TX #49846, obtained 2014

    2. whistle*

      If the certification/license is expected for the job, I would put a separate section header of “Certifications” or “Licenses” etc. I hire a lot of certified individuals and can’t move forward if the individual doesn’t have the right certification, so it’s nice when they are easy to find on the resume.

      I would not put it with education, because those are two different things. Certifications/licenses generally expire, while education doesn’t.

  29. Revolver Rani*

    Among the most memorable resumes I have received was one that included a description of job duties that ran to 3/4 of a page, single-spaced — for a position that the candidate held for ONE YEAR. I wondered if it was a day-by-day account of the candidate’s work.

    Best part? In the middle of that wall of text was the following claim:
    “Wrote and edited documents to be clear, simple, and brief.”
    Yeah, no.

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    This may have been mentioned already in the comments, but if hiring internationally, resume conventions can be much different. In my previous job I was running a team based both in the US and Europe, and when hiring someone in Germany, the resumes would have a photo, marital and family status, they would be 6-7 pages long, things like that…all of which is common there

    1. GermanGirl*

      Well, having a photo on the CV is still very much a thing in Germany, but the more recent advice is to not put marital status and similar info and to stick to 2-3 pages. Maybe your experience is a bit outdated or your applicants wrote their first resumes some years ago and haven’t adapted their style yet?

  31. Red Reader*

    I was working for a nonprofit a zillion years ago that was hiring for a volunteer coordinator. Among the resumes we got:
    There was a piece of notebook paper torn out of a spiral bound notebook, complete with the little fringey bits, and a coffee ring on the bottom.
    There was a cover letter that said, in its entirety, “I am applying for the coordinator job. My salary requirement is $85,000.”
    And there was a portfolio. The volunteer coordinator had some training responsibilities in their bailiwick, so one applicant sent in a portfolio of training materials and student reviews along with her cover letter and resume. The cover letter was fine, her resume was pretty good. But the top student letter featured in her portfolio was from an 8th grade boy telling her how much he’d enjoyed her presentation and that he hadn’t known what blue balls were before she came to his class.

  32. puzzld*

    And no matter what you do, please email your resume to yourself (and maybe a couple of friends) and see what it looks like printed on different printers / on different screens… A while back we had one that came through with say a 17pt font and what was apparently about 2/3 s of each line.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      I emailed my resume in the body text (not as an attachment) once, as specifically required by the job listing. Copied and pasted it out of my usual PDF. It looked all right before I sent it off, but when I received a reply, the quoted text looks AWFUL – mixed font sizes, some huge, with line breaks all over. I had no idea it would display like that, and I should have tested it first.

      1. Anxa*

        Do you think it mattered?

        I mean, anyone who requests the email in the body of the text can’t really be considered about readability or format consistency?

        Or do you think maybe the person who posted the job ad or required that format isn’t the same person that’s going to be receiving and judging it. That’s my fear sometimes.

  33. Liz*

    Should experience always come before education? Even for recent grads whose education might be more relevant to the jobs they’re applying for (relative to say, the part-time job they had while studying)?

  34. Where's the Le-Toose?*

    We keep seeing a bunch (about 85%) of recent law school grads sending in resumes with 1-4 lines dedicated to hobbies and personal interests. And I keep wondering who is giving them this advice?!? We’ve seen it all: rock climbing, theater, weight lifting, yoga, paleo diets, foodie, amateur baker, cosplay, “nerd culture,” Dodgers fan (when we’re not even in Dodger country!), and so on.

    If you’re applying to be general counsel for a bicycle manufacturer and you want to highlight the fact that you’ve been a competitive cyclist for 15 years, just put it in your cover letter. I read those too and at least I understand the connection! But please, stop with the hobbies. Just stop.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I once had a recruiter insist I add a line about personal interests. I did, and it got me an interview, so I guess they knew their client. (I didn’t go as I ended up accepting an offer and cancelling).

    2. Anonymouse for this*

      Once received a resume from someone who under hobbies had only listed one thing – playing boggle.

  35. Hey Nonnie*

    I have a question about highlighting your achievements in your resume. I’m all for this, but my problem is that whenever I work for a larger (and presumably more impressive) organization, I am only one cog in a very large machine. This means I am almost never privy to actual results stemming from my efforts — I create my work product, and it’s passed along the chain to be deployed and results analyzed by someone else (who I’ve probably never met). I also work frequently as a contractor, so asking “so how’d the ROI turn out for that project” would be considered presumptive on my part. In my experience, those organizations that are small/friendly enough to be willing to answer that question, are those that are too disorganized or understaffed to actually track that information anyway.

    I have highlighted the specific numbers/achievements that I have been privy to, but universally these were from very small organizations where three people are doing all the work and so have a hand in everything. I can (and do) say my work contributed to a year-over-year revenue increase of 150%, and it’s true; but it’s also true that we’re talking dollar amounts of less than $10K. So I lead with the percentage rather than actual dollar amounts, and hope that’s good enough, but I have some concerns that it’s just not impressive enough.

    I am not sure what to do about this — or if I need to do anything at all. Big Corporations are so strictly siloed between creators and analysts that I have no idea how to get that information without rocking boats (they tend to treat creatives as interchangeable/disposable, so job security is always questionable). I wish I could stick to smaller orgs, since I like them better, but those are also the ones with no money to pay for such things.

    1. Winger*

      An accomplishment doesn’t always have to be an end result. At least as a first step, focus on numbers and info you do have access to. You can say “re-designed internal expense forms resulting in 50% increase in people turning them in on time.” Or something. It doesn’t have to connect to “…resulting in meeting our Q3 expenditure goals” or whatever data point you don’t really know. Also, percentages are always a valid way to talk about things, just be ready to get more specific in the interview. Nobody will be mad that you wrote “150%” instead of “$10,000.”

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Yes, I have a full case study write-up of this particular project on my portfolio, where I get into specific numbers and dollar amounts, with appropriate links. Everything is on the table, I just wonder if people check out the case study and think, “Oh, this is a really small organization, I thought we were talking about real money.”

        I do have “receive consistent positive client feedback” as an achievement, but that’s also not quantifiable with numbers.

    2. M is for Mulder*

      I also find this hard, because I often create content that doesn’t technically have what you would call ROI–it’s basically “we need this thing because this country or that regulatory body said so”. Quantifying value in such a case would look like “prevented company from possibly getting sued, but we’ll really never know for sure unless we gain access to the multiverse” or “allowed product to be sold in Europe without it being confiscated at customs”.

  36. Winger*

    I am currently hiring an assistant – this is the first time I’ve run my own hiring process. I have to vet each resume that comes in. Boy oh boy is this eye opening. I had naively assumed that ~50% of people would be basically on board with formatting a resume in a way that makes sense and is communicative. I was so wrong.

  37. SignalLost*

    Dates on education! Or dates in general! I have listed the approximate dates of employment (ie, month/year) for every job I’ve had. Following Alison’s advice of going at least ten years back if it adds something to your candidacy, the oldest job on my resume is one I held from 2006-2008, and got from a temp placement at the same company from 2004-2005 (end of year). I lost that job in the recession as the company I worked for significantly downsized, so I went back to school. My next job was a tutor -> lab aide -> part-time faculty at the college I was attending, and that ran from 4/2009-9/2011. So basically the dates in that section are 5/2006-8/2008 and then next up 4/2009-9/2011.

    I do not list dates on my education section because my BA was granted in 1999, and as you can guess, I am now firmly in age-discrimination territory, and I am looking for roles in a relatively young industry – not horribly so, but it does help that I come off visually and personality-wise as much younger than I actually am. I have a BA (1999), MPhil (2003) and an AAS (2010). Additionally, my BA and MPhil are not relevant for any job I’ve had other than ticking the box of whether I have X degree, and I often leave the MPhil off entirely. Can I and should I list the date for the AAS to fill in that logical time gap in my employment section? If I do that, do I have to put in the dates for the other two degrees, given everything I’ve said here about them, or can I just get away with listing the one date?

  38. Jolie*

    My situation may be a bit special,but I kind of struggle with making my CV chronological – would love your advice on that.
    Sony far my work history looks like :
    November 2013- May 2014: First serious internship after finishing my masters
    May 2014-July 2014- First professional job (horrible fit, horrible corporate culture, ran for the hills and never looked back)
    Then it gets murky :
    August 2014 : Get zero hours contract with company X, do regular but ultimately temp work for them on various projects.
    February 2015: Start consulting for start – up Y ;in the meantime,continue to do projects here and there for compay X, and projects here and there for other companies – basically I was more or less a freelancer with several major clients, except that the kind of work I was doing for X and others (research) was totally different than what I was doing for Y (comms, social media, project management – basically I was second in command in a tiny, tiny organisation still in the process of setting up).
    March 2016 : Get fixed term contract for 2 months 2 days /week with Company Z doing project admin. Continue with Y, but stop taking freelance research work, because of time constraints.
    May 2016 : Finish contract with Z, start 3 days /week ten months fixed term contract job for Charity A. Continue with Y 2 days /week.
    August 2016: Part ways with Y because of differences in where the start up should go.
    September 2016 : Start consulting work 10 hours /week flexible with Political Nonprofit B. Occasionally, but very occasionally take the odd freelance research project from Company X where I could fit it.
    March 2017: Contract with Charity A ends. I continue to work for B and in addition take freelance research work for an entirely new company.
    May 2017: Get full time job with Charity C. Stop all freelance work but continue with B.
    July 2017: Decide I don’t have capacity to continue working for B and give it up ; stay on in a voluntay/active member unpaid capacity, may become a board member in the future.
    August 2017: Take 6 hours /week Saturday job with Charity D.

    What I find the most confusing I :How do I fit in the “here and there from time to time” freelance research work in my CV? What I did so far is put it all in a big lump :February 2015-April 2017- Freelance Researcher, with bullet points clearly stating the real dates with individual projects underneath it.
    When I apply to research jobs, the order goes : Charity C/Charity D /Freelance Research /Political Nonprofit B/Charity A /Company Z / Nonprofit Y.
    For -research now, freelancing goes after Charity A
    What do you think?

    1. Yorick*

      To achieve reverse chronological order with jobs that overlap, I put the one that started last first.

      2015-2017: new FT job
      2014-2017: PT job
      2013-2014: previous FT job

  39. Greg*

    I think summaries are gradually shifting from optional to highly recommended, if not required, especially for later-career applicants. As Alison points out, the goal is to encourage scanability, and a good summary allows you to control what the hiring manager is scanning.

    Also, there’s a common thread between scanability, resume length and formatting “tricks”: The better solution to all three problems is to cut text from the resume. It will make it easier to scan and allow you to get it down to the appropriate length without resorting to microscopic font size or non-existent margins. Also, it is a valuable exercise to go through, because it forces you to consider every word and decide if it really needs to be included. You’ll likely be surprised how much better your resume reads once you cut the things you were previously sure just *had* to be there.

  40. Matt*

    I used to work for a copy/graphic design shop that formatted and printed resumes as a service. One customer (a slightly older lady) came in holding her daughter’s single-page resume. The resume looked fine, as it was clearly formatted and concise, however the customer wanted it to be reformatted, as her daughter had not gotten an interview off it.

    The customer presented a longer version of the resume with a lot of filler “facts” and wanted us to typeset it as three pages, with a fourth “cover page” that included her daughter’s name, desired job title and contact information. She then wanted us to print it double-sided on 11×17 inch marble paper (the kind of paper that looks like parchment used a lot in formal announcements), folded in half, so the whole thing read like a brochure.

    When we tried to explain to her that the single page, simple resume was better, she insisted that her way was “the proper way to lay out a resume” and it was “no wonder” her daughter hadn’t gotten any interviews with the plain resume she had made. Apparently, when the customer was first seeking a job in the 70s, this was the way resumes were done, and she was thoroughly convinced that it should be done the same way today.

    She was willing to pay for the rather expensive typesetting, paper, printing and folding, so we did what she requested. But I do remember, after she left, exchanging WTF looks with my colleague about that one.

  41. Strewbs*

    Wait.. Just to clarify does this also include coloured paper for a resume? I.e. i’m applying for a retail job and i’ve got a resume that’s been working for me, but I print it out on a creme coloured fancy paper.. Would this be deemed as inappropriate? Does this detract from me in any way? Is this considered a negative?

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