should I use a two-column resume?

A reader writes:

I am going to school for a master’s degree for a health adjacent profession (think psychologist, clinical social worker etc) and I have a question about the best way to format my resume.

Most of the things on my resume take up maybe half of the space on a line. For example:

Llama Therapist Jan 1885 – Aug 1889
Llama Therapy Farm, Winterfell, Westeros
* details, details, details

It ends up meaning that my resume is usually two pages long with a lot of wasted space. Furthermore, due to my career requiring specific education to practice (a masters degree), as well as professional registration, I am often stuck putting that stuff on the second page if I put jobs first, despite its clear relevance to my career (especially early on when I won’t have as much experience). However, if I lead with my professional registration and education, which there are multiple entries for, it distracts from my work experience.

So I have been trying out having two columns, career on the left, education on the right. Is this so out of sync with normal practice to be wise? Or is it perfectly fine?

Separately, how important is what you use to make the resume? I always keep a generically entered format of my resume for when I am clearly sending it to a computer not a human, but many jobs I will apply for are at smaller places, like private practices, and so I don’t have to worry so much that an unorthodox format will confuse the system. Specifically, I like to use an app that gives me more control over formatting, then I download it as a PDF. Is this a bad idea? Or is it okay to do something like this when you know you’re submitting directly to a human in order to create a more appealing aesthetic?

You will hear lots of different opinions on using one column versus two on your resume, but I’m going to strongly argue for one column and here is why: When you use two columns — so your work experience is allotted only part of the page width — you lose a lot of space for the real substance of your work accomplishments.

You’re right that the lines listing your job titles, employers, and employment dates won’t take up the full line. But the majority of what’s listed in that section — the actual work you did and your accomplishments at each job — will take up a lot more space. If you limit them to only the right half of the page (or even two-thirds), you have far less room to talk about the things hiring managers care about most. Using the full width of the page (one column rather than two) gives you more space to flesh out the most important info: what you did at each job. When you allow yourself a fraction of that space, most of the time your description of each job will feel less substantial.

Now, a lot of people like using two-column resume designs (and you’re undoubtedly going to hear from them in the comments section). For some people, it works fine. But in most cases, it’s prioritizing form over function. And hiring managers don’t generally care if you have a beautiful resume design — they care about the content. You should use the form that best serves the content — and in most cases, that’s a single column format that lets you include more substance about your work.

That said, you asked if using two columns is out of sync with normal practice. It’s not. Plenty of people use two columns. You can do it if you want. But for most people, using the full width of the page to talk about what you did at each job will make your resume stronger.

As for where to put your education and professional registration: For most people, it should come after work experience, because work experience is what employers generally care about most. But when you’re in school to get the qualifications to practice in your field, or when you just recently graduated, it often does make sense to lead with education (although only for a few years and then you should swap them). However, try to minimize the amount of space it takes up so you’re not bumping work experience very far down the page. In fact, you could do your education section in two columns to compress the space it takes up, while still using the full width of the page (one column) for the rest.

As for where you create your resume: Use any program you want, save it in a PDF, and submit the PDF. It’s smart to also have a Word version available because occasionally someone will request it and because it can be easier to copy and paste from, but most of the time submitting in a PDF is optimal anyway (because it preserves your formatting, etc.).

Last, keep in mind that hiring managers aren’t assessing you on the aesthetics of your resume. As long as your resume is neat, well organized, easy to quickly skim, and puts info in the general places people expect to find it, you’re fine. So don’t sacrifice function or content in the name of design.

{ 107 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    You can also use some sort of hybrid, where you make the job information take up fewer lines. For example:
    Llama Therapist Jan 1885 – Aug 1889 Llama Therapy Farm, Winterfell, Westeros
    * details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details
    * details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Yep, I do this. In fact, I list my technical skills in 3 or 4 columns:

      programming language CAD tool version control orgranizing software
      programming language CAD tool version control orgranizing software
      programming language CAD tool version control orgranizing software
      programming language

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        I do the same as a freelancer. One column for jobs & education, one column for titles I’ve worked on.

    2. Blue*

      Yes, I was going to recommend exactly this. You can put all the logistical details of each job on one line. I use em dashes between each piece of info to make it clear, like:
      [bold]Llama Therapist, Llama Therapy Farm[/bold] — Jan 1885-Aug 1889 — Winterfell, Westeros

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Every resume I have ever seen (I am in law) has the format that Eric is showing above. I didn’t know there was another way to do it.

    4. Zombeyonce*

      Agreed, making the job specifics take up less room will be helpful in getting back precious lines. Separating them with more than just spaces (like with a | ) will help differentiate them visually as well, and you’ve got plenty of space to do it. Something like:

      Llama Therapist | Jan 1885 – Aug 1889 | Llama Therapy Farm, Winterfell, Westeros
      * details, details, details

      1. Six Degrees of Separation*

        This is my preferred formatting as well. It’s really helpful for previous roles at an organization, where you may have had a couple different positions.

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        I have used “pipes,” the way zombeyonce does, for a long time. I had no idea you would not put all the info on one line.

    5. RecoveringSWO*

      That’s how I do it. I format the top line of job info to essentially read as 2 columns with Title/Company on the left hand side and Dates/location on the right. I prefer having some dead space in the middle to avoid making the resume look like it’s a giant wall of text.

    6. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Yeah this is what I do!
      I like to format so my title and company are left aligned and my dates are right aligned, to still give it a little bit of white space. It makes it feel like there’s some breathing room, but it all still fits on one line.

      1. No Regerts*

        I do the above like this, as a bold faced line:

        8/xx – 9/xx: Italicized Job Title – Company Name, City, State

        I also have a bunch of jobs with promotions. To make that very clear to reviewers, I do this:

        8/xx – 9/xx: Company Name, City, State (in bold)
        8/xx – 2/xx: Senior Job Title, Specific Department if useful (italics)
        ~useful bullets

        3/xx – 9/xx: Junior Job Title, Specific Department
        ~useful bullets

        This format also allows me to skip repeating info, I just note as the last bullet in the more senior position that I also performed all the duties of the more junior position.

      2. Koalafied*

        I mentioned this in another comment before reading yours, but the other thing that’s handy about right-aligning dates is that as a resume reviewer, you can just run your eyes down the right edge of the paper and quickly absorb the timeline of their work history without having to hunt for the dates all starting at slightly different positions in the line depending on the length of the title and company name.

      3. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Yep, mine is:

        Company Name | Position | Time Period *********white space********* City, Country
        [This info is left aligned] [This info is right aligned]

        When I have worked multiple jobs at the same company, I use the exact same format vs. having the company name on a line of its own since I would need to include all the other information anyways. It only saves me 2 lines, but that’s two lines of accomplishments I get to keep.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Ugh, there was supposed to be a lot of spaces so that it reads like this:

          Company Name | Position | Time Period *********white space********* City, Country
          [This info is left aligned]………………………………………………… [This info is right aligned]

    7. emmelemm*

      Yeah, I haven’t updated my resume in a long time, but when my partner was working on his resume much more recently, he was doing it like:

      Llama Therapist, Cure Your Llamas, Inc. March 2018-June 2020

      (putting the dates over at the right side to kind of stretch out the line)

      I thought it worked pretty well.

    8. Mel_05*

      Yes, this what I do.

      I also still use 2 columns, but I’m a graphic designer, so that’s one of the few cases where it’s extra important to put form & function together nicely.

    9. Koalafied*

      I do something like that as well:

      Role, Company Start date – End date
      Full-width job detail
      Full-width job detail
      Full-width job detail

      My resume has 4 headers/sections: Professional experience (just over one page), Software & Skills (3 bullet points listing (1) software, (2) certifications, and (3) languages applicable to the job available), Speaking Engagements (about half a page), and Education (two lines, one for undergrad and one for graduate). Altogether it’s two pages.

      1. Koalafied*

        Whoops, didn’t quite come through as intended, but “Role, Company” is left-justified and “Start date – End date” is right-justified, so I’m only using one line, but the two columns make it easier for the reviewer to scan the dates in a glance when the dates are all aligned with each other on the right margin, instead of starting wherever mid-line the role and company names of different lengths ended. Other than that, all the duties/accomplishments bullets are single column full width.

    10. Koalafied*

      I’m realizing reading some of these that I also phased out the city and state at some point years ago. This may be different in a small town, but living in a major metro area, putting the city and state seems like it’s not worth the precious resume space it takes up. The header indicates where I’m living and looking for work now, and is it really adding that much to my candidacy for the hiring manager to know which specific different cities I may have lived or worked in? It doesn’t particularly help narrow down the business’s identity, when so many businesses only have a single location and so many of the ones who don’t are likely to have more than one location in the same city.

      I can allow that maybe in some industries working in particular cities could carry more relevance – doing law or finance in New York might be different enough from doing either in Tulsa that it might convey something significant to know where someone’s finance experience was obtained, but I can’t imagine that’s really true for the majority of jobs. I might care that there’s a difference between doing X job for a small local business and doing X job for a big national brand, but the salient factor there is the company size/reach, not the specific city the office they worked out of was located. I don’t thing there’s much difference in doing X small business job in one small town vs a different small town or X corporate job in one major metro area vs another. It seems like at best it adds nothing of great value and at worst potentially invites bias based on stereotypes about particular regions.

  2. Kristi*

    Many applicant tracking systems don’t parse two column resumes correctly. Don’t run the risk of having your resume get excluded because it wasn’t read correctly by the ATS technology. Use one column.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I was going to comment similarly that it risks being illegible on a screen if it isn’t immediately obvious to the reader to scroll across.

      Having three legible pages is better than two crammed pages. It’s a resume, not a newspaper. If you need the space, use it intelligently.

      Columns for true bullets such as qualifications, languages (natural or programming) and certificates is one thing. I honestly think it would be distracting for work experience.

      1. jmkoni*

        I would also say that most (but not all) people with three pages don’t need three pages… they need to learn how to edit. I’ve even seen a lot of two page resumes that don’t need to be two pages. Don’t get me started on the 7+ page resumes (and I’m not talking about academics, where it’s expected).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Ugh, yes.

          But if you are the rare person who has such a complicated job history that you need three pages’ worth, don’t neglect white space (which aids comprehension) just so you can say it fits on two pages. You could probably fit it all on the one page if you used a small enough font after all …

          I had a real job squeezing mine down to two pages in my most recent application round. Pruning ruthlessly made for an absolute killer document in the end!

          1. jmkoni*

            So true! I do a lot of resume reviewing for various communities I’m in and OOF it is rough when I see a resume that looks like the NYT.

    2. Blackcat*

      They also cause problems with screen readers, so if your resume lands in the hands of someone who needs one, it won’t be easy for them to parse.

    3. MissGirl*

      Nope. Every ATS system I’ve used let’s you copy and paste everything where you want it. Your form doesn’t matter one bit because you fix it. I upload the version that looks best, move things around if I have to. When I go to the interview, the managers have printed out the designed one from the PDF I uploaded.

      I’ve gotten a lot of great responses on my two column. They aren’t equal columns. The one side is about a third with education and skills. The works side is 2/3 the page. It’s much more friendly to bullet points and titles.

      I’ve had hiring managers compliment me on it and I have a great ratio of interviews to resumes.

      1. anon73*

        Just because your experience is positive, doesn’t mean it will be for everyone. My resume is 1 column and I still have to fix most of it each time. If this isn’t a big deal to OP that’s fine, but it’s a reason to consider keeping it 1 column.

        1. MissGirl*

          Exactly, yours is one column and you still have to fix it each time. Mine is two column and I have to fix it each time. It doesn’t matter to the ATS system so the OP should go with what works best for them because no matter what they’re going to have to fix it.

    4. Koalafied*

      I find that they parse the way I split title/company into a left-hand column and dates of service into a right-hand column without any trouble, but what none of them handle very well is any format I’ve tried for listing a job where I was promoted in place. So I have two titles with their own set of dates, but it’s really just one job and the title change was a semi-retroactive recognition that I was doing it at a higher level than originally hired for. It throws off every other job in the resume somehow to have two titles associated with one set of accomplishments/duties.

    5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Not just ATSs, but also if someone puts your resume on Google Drive or Dropbox for team sharing, both Google Docs and Office for Dropbox eat Word formatting like columns in strange and unpredictable ways.

  3. Fellow Therapist*

    If you’re a therapist, I’d recommend putting the licensure/credential after you’re name at the top (so it says “Firstname Lastname, XYZ” with the XYZ being LMFT or LCSW or whatever the therapy licensure is for you. Then on a later page, you can provide detail about the date you received that licensure and which state/regions it’s good for.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I agree (posted similar above) but the LW is in grad school and as you know, typically you don’t have a license for a year or two — in which case starting with your degree makes the most sense.

  4. Anne of Green Gables*

    If jobs you are applying for have specific degree/education requirements for the job, I would argue for putting your education close to the top. Make it easy for the hiring manager to quickly determine if you meet those requirements.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I would argue for a variant of this – perhaps a summary at the top of your license/certification and any related things, especially as you progress. When you’re just starting out, the degree is the most important thing; as you progress, your license will matter more and show that you have the degree as well.

      My husband for instance is an LPC (soon to be LCPC) and he lists that right away because it’s important – Fergus Warbleworth, LPC – but his grad school is listed closer to the bottom.

    2. Nesprin*

      Yup, most important achievement goes on top. If you’re an early career academic/professional degree user, that’s your education. Late career, your work history. FYI for an academic CV, education is almost always first, but those have a very different format (i.e. my CV is ~9pages long and that’s a good thing. My resume is 1.5-2. )

  5. whistle*

    When I am reviewing resumes for hire, all I want is a resume that is easy for *me* to read. This means one column, left justified (indentation is ok), bold or italics used appropriately (e.g. consistently and sparingly), and a normal font. The more creative formatting you use, the more likely it is that I will miss the info I am looking for and mistakenly move on to another candidate.

    Caveat: The positions I hire for have certain inflexible requirements that I do not have any control over. So if, for example, the position requires a certain certification, and I don’t see the certification on the resume and I already have some resumes that do show the certification, I’m moving on. If I was hiring in a different environment where I had more control over what qualifications could be waived, I might take a different approach.

  6. Hiring Manager With Strong Resume Opinions*

    I disagree about the comment regarding esthetics. I hire for jobs that require a degree of creativity and at least an eye for esthetics. I way form almost as heavily as function when I am looking at a resume. That said, I don’t care as much about one column or two as long as I get all the info I need. I also don’t mind at all that a resume is two full pages long. Three is uncalled for, though.

    If you do go with a two-column resume, keep in mind that it won’t upload well into an applicant tracking system. Keep a .txt version of your resume for uploads and .pdf of your pretty one for attachments.

    1. Lovecraft Beauty*

      Yeah, if you’re hiring for a design job, wanting a résumé to demonstrate design skill (including presenting content well) is perfectly reasonable. For most non-design candidates, though, the Word or Google Docs templates are fine.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      If you’re assessing resume aesthetics for a creative position, it makes perfect sense that this would matter and be considered. Most of the people saying, “don’t care, just make it readable” are not in creative roles and weighing form equally with content would not make sense and, in fact, be letting a personal preference supersede job requirements. It’s like typos – attention to detail is important to me because my folks proofread and edit regularly, so typos on a resume are a big problem in my line of work whereas they are not for others.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, if you’re going to work on a shop floor etc., who cares about a typo or two? But if the job involves any writing at all, and most jobs do these days, typos are a sign of sloppiness, a big no-no in any job. That’s why it’s important to let someone else take a look at your resume and cover letter before you submit them, because typos can happen to anyone.

    3. Sharkzle*

      FWIW I’m a graphic designer and have helped many non-creatives with their resumes. I do things for their resumes that I wouldn’t do with my own simply because it doesn’t matter for non-creatives. The feedback I’ve received is that the hiring managers have been impressed to have a well laid out, easy to read resume. I like to throw a little personality in there (if it’s ok with the client) with a quick monogram or a nicely typeset name plate for the header. In the LW’s case it sounds like content over look and feel is immensely more important, but I would also advocate for someone with a design eye to look it over any make any recommendations regarding the look and feel. You never know what might set you apart!

    4. DiplomaJill*

      Yes, came here to say the same. When I’m hitting designers I throw out Word docs first, and PDFs that are obviously generated by Word second. If you can’t design your resume in the tools you’re claiming to know, you’re not qualified.

      1. SK*

        A smart designer also uses whatever tool is most efficient for the task, though. Like if you’re really looking for Adobe InDesign skills, fine. But I’m a motion designer and I have a very nice looking resume made in Google Docs, which is very easy to tailor to the role, and I absolutely 100% know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. I’d rethink this unless you’re specifically hiring, like, magazine layout designers.

        1. DiplomaJill*

          I’m obviously not talking about motion design. There’s plenty of other roles than magazine designers that live their work-days in InDesign. My expectation for a motion designer would be that the resume look thoughtfully designed and branded to that person’s personal identity, and not look like a Word template. Sounds like you’re doing exactly that.

  7. atthebeachmom*

    I hire clinical social workers. When you’re coming out of graduate school, you should begin with your education. The experience section should be your internships and then other experience in the field. Then you can have a section for “other work experience,” for those jobs you did while paying for undergrad and grad school. My clinical team just reviewed about 25 resumes and conducted about 18 interviews for 3 positions. We did interview one candidate with a weirdly formatted resume, although not two columns. She was the last choice of everyone on the team as she lived up to her odd formatting.

    Good luck.

    1. Adultiest Adult*

      Agree with this 100%, and I hire entry-level social workers and their counseling equivalents. I want to see where you went to school, when you went to school, and what your internship experience was. If you’re later-career and have a license, that should be in your header. I’ll look at non-related work experience but don’t give it much priority. And make sure that your resume is legible in Google Docs–we had one recently where the formatting translation ate several middle letters from most of the words, which made it an interesting guessing game. We did end up hiring her because I could make out enough of it to like what I saw!

  8. H.C.*

    I’m mostly single-column except for skills & relevant coursework (under Education), since they are only a couple of words each & two columning those areas let me fit more in within the limited page space.

    But seeing a two-column resume wouldn’t set off a red flag for me, but I will notice that there’s less space used to highlight experience/accomplishments/etc.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say — it’s not a red flag by any means; it just usually will make the resume weaker because there’s less space to talk about accomplishments.

  9. Must I?*

    Can you put your education and license requirements after your name (e.g., “Jane Doe, MSW, LCSW”) and then move your education after work experience? This may not work while you’re in school, but often for these kinds of jobs, they just want to see that you have the education credentials and then move on.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I do this with mine, following advice from senior people in my field. That was it’s immediately obvious that I have a relevant academic and professional qualification and I can put the details down very sparsely and further down the page.

    2. Adultiest Adult*

      The issue with this is that candidates out of grad school won’t have a license (that’s later-career folks) and might not even be done with their Master’s degree. That’s why education and internships go first on our resumes in mental health, at least in early career. Once you’ve had a job or two you can move it down.

  10. AlliedHealthProfessional*

    I work in a health-adjacent field with required master’s degree, professional registration etc. I put my education at the top when I graduated, but generally very briefly.

    One thing I found that may or may not be true for you was that I needed to split my ‘work experience’ up into experience in FIELD – which was entirely practicum experiences through school, but is closer to what my actual job would be, and ‘other work experience’ (which was all older and not that relevant (think retail etc). Despite the fact that a practicum is not completely “work experience” (mostly because they expect you to still be learning) that’s going to be more relevant for in field jobs than other experience.

    Just my thoughts from the healthcare adjacent world

  11. hbc*

    Space isn’t wasted if it makes your resume more readable to the human who is stuck with it. As long as you don’t look like you’re trying to fake a longer resume with 2.7 spacing between lines, there’s really not a problem. I *like* being able to see the white space indicating the breaks between j0bs or degrees.

    Personally, I have trouble tracking when confronted with columns as described. I’m not supposed to read it like a newspaper, from top left to bottom left and then continuing on to top right. There’s no correspondence between what’s on the left with what’s on the right, so I’m not supposed to look across the line. So I guess I’m supposed to read Page 1 Left, Page 2 Left, Page 1 Right, Page 2 Right? Kind of annoying.

    Sounds like the better option is to have a Summary statement at the top that hits the high points of education and experience at a glance, and then go to the major sections. “Experienced licensed Llama Therapist with a Masters in Camelid Psychology, with experience in both solo and herd behavior patterns.” They can flip to page 2 to find out where you got your degree or where you’re licensed, but the important info is right up top.

    1. Annony*

      Exactly this! Filling up the page with any many words as possible is NOT the goal. White space is needed to help make it easier to read.

    2. musician*

      I was going to say this as well. I work in a healthcare adjacent profession and just reviewed the resume of someone in my field who used a two column format. It was really tough to read and make sure I saw everything, especially since the entries in column A weren’t necessarily as long as the entries in column B. I was not only jumping back and forth between the columns, but also had to go up and down within each column. It did not impress me.

    3. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Yes – I did a Typography course for graphic design. A lot of it is about layout and helping the eye move smoothly over the page and highlighting the most important details. This includes white space! When someone is looking at a huge number of resumes great boxes of impenetrable text is not going to help you.

  12. insert pun here*

    For standard, run-in text (i.e., paragraphs), you will actually fit more words on a page with two columns rather than one. However, this may or may not be true of the kind of text that a resume typically features (bulleted lists, short paragraphs, etc). It would vary (a lot) based on the structure of the text itself. (Source: have worked in publishing for a decade+, this question comes up often when designing books.)

    1. Koalafied*

      This is fascinating, thanks for sharing! I never would have thought of it but it makes sense – you’d have fewer lines that wrapped around a single word or two and then left the remaining 80% of the line blank. Now I understand why textbooks favor this format!

  13. juliebulie*

    I hate reading a two-column layout on a screen. I scroll to the bottom of the first column and then I have to scroll back to the top and scroll down again. I realize that’s a small thing, but if I’m doing it on a phone there’s an excellent chance I’ll mis-click and end up somewhere else. The less “navigation” I have to do with a document, the better.

  14. BRR*

    Is a two column resume out of normal practice? No. But I usually find them very cluttered. I would suggest looking further at different formats to find one that uses up space efficiently but isn’t using up every spot of white space, even if that means ditching the app.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think for people just starting out, with only 1-2 jobs, they can be ok to fill space to make a full page.

      I didn’t mind it for hiring interns or coops, but I find it unusual for those with more experience. It’s not wrong, but I see it as trying to be trendy or creative.

  15. Lady Heather*

    If you use a resume creation app and export the resume as a pdf, make sure it’s a “text pdf” and not a “picture pdf”. Picture pdfs can be horribly difficult to read – especially if you’re not on a big computer monitor, or if you have a visual impairment.

    It’s a “picture pdf” if you can’t select the text, it’s a “text pdf” if you can. Usually if you create something in word it’s automatically a text pdf, but your app may make it a picture pdf.

  16. A Genunine Scientician*

    Also, as always, know your field.

    There are some job categories where it’s common for even people very well established to lead with their education. Higher Ed, for instance, often has even tenured professors starting out with the degrees, and then work experience on their CV. What they need to keep in mind is that while that is often the standard in the field, it’s not the standard everywhere, and they should adapt as need be. So if someone is leaving academia to go work for another type of organization, their resume should not just be a copy of their CV, but should be formatted in accordance with the field they are moving into.

  17. Llama Wool Specialist*

    I do two columns but one of them is smaller
    So it’s a header with my name and contact information.
    On a thin column to the left education, awards & recognition, language and software skills (that don’t need to be detailed in my function. Stuff like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop). This takes maybe a quarter column.

    On the right I then write the work experience. If you space it well it looks neat and it’s easy to scan, with enough room for more details.

    I also condense the information a lot more so that it’s something like:
    Senior Llama Wool Specialist, Mar 2011 – Jun 2015. Llama Dreams INC, Amsterdam.
    Details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details, details,

    I’ll admit that having something like inDesign does make this easier but I’m sure is perfectly doable even on something like word :)

    1. Fabulous*

      I do this too. It’s a bit more difficult in Word, but definitely doable because that’s what I use. I actually had an idea how to make it easier using text boxes that talk with each other so the text runs onto the next page into the appropriate columns during edits rather than from left to right.

  18. ExcelJedi*

    This is the perfect place to add an alphabet soup after your name without looking snooty about it. I know several people with LPCs, and the top of their resume will read something like:
    Catra Applesause Meowmeow, MA, LPC, ACS

    The small offices you’re sending your resume to will likely know exactly what those letters mean, and that will mean more to them than how many different practices you’ve been at in the last 5 years (especially if you’re in the kind of mental health field/career stage where lots of people are doing multiple concurrent contractor jobs just to keep 25-30 clients a week).

  19. spideyLlama*

    What are your thoughts on a “functional” resume (I think that’s what they’re called). Where you list things in sections by skills instead of by job. I’ve heard this can be helpful for career changers to show transferable skills. But my tingling spideyLlama senses are telling me (based on what I’ve read on here) that that is probably not best practice/a good idea.

    1. noahwynn*

      From the hiring side I hate them. Way too much work to figure out an applicant’s work history. My personal thoughts is that a cover letter is the better place to expound on how your skills can transfer to the role you applied to, but not sure that everyone shares that view.

      1. WellRed*

        Oh no. I have full and part time retail work that has nothing to do with my journalism career but would leave a three year gap without. Also, who wants to continue in media these days but I have no other experience. Ugh. No wonder I’m stuck on pulling the trigger.

        1. A Genunine Scientician*

          Well, in that case, there’s nothing wrong with

          Relevant experience
          Llama groomer, Stark Enterprises (dates)


          Other experience
          Teapot Salesperson, King’s Landing Enterprises (dates)
          Tapestry Designer, Myr Exports (dates)
          Innkeeper, Prancing Pony (Bree) (dates)

          The hatred of functional resumes is having no idea when you did what job, and for how long. You can absolutely highlight the most relevant stuff in one section, and then have the “I wasn’t just unemployed” jobs elsewhere.

          1. allathian*

            This is what I did the last time I applied for a job. I’ve been in my current one for almost 15 years, so under relevant experience I list this job and the jobs I had before that provided me with the experience necessary to get this job. Everything else is listed under Other experience.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      A combined functional / chronological resume can work well, if you’re trying to significanly change fields/functions, or if your recent roles are irrelevant to the position you’re trying to achieve.

      You lead with your experience as it relates to the role, and then have a section that details your job history. The experience function should be tailored to the requirements of the role, wherever possible, and do try to give good information (eg. with metrics and achievements, as opposed to just a statements of tasks).

      This format is better than a pure functional resume, as it allows the reader to understand your overall career path, while ensuring that your most relevant experience is highlighted.

      1. Volunteering on Resume*

        Yes, this is how I have my resume set up!

        I analyze every job ad, pull out three or four skills and include them with accomplishment bullets below, then include my work history in a section below. I can quickly show my relevant skills while still providing the hiring manager with my work history.

        As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. Still, it never hurts to consider using different types of resumes for different points in your professional life.

        Good luck, OP!

  20. noahwynn*

    I’ve never had an issue getting a job, but after this and the comments I’m likely reformatting my resume to single collumn. Right now it is two collumn. Left side is education, credentials, and current experience (current job). Right side is past experience (former jobs). It has always fit well, but it is probably time to change anyways and the right side is getting tighter too.

    From a hiring manager standpoint I really don’t care as long as it is legible. I’ve had a few creative or infographic style resumes that were impossible to follow, but I think they were just poorly designed. I’ve also had a few creative resumes that were very easy to read and highlighted the applicant’s work beautifully.

  21. Anon hiring manager*

    Form and function go hand in hand sometimes- I hired someone whose resume was more like two columns than one (it had a sidebar for a section). When I saw the resume I thought it was a little unusual, more difficult to parse, and not at all the way I would have chosen to present the information. This employee is generally fine, but lo and behold, we have very different communication styles and every so often they write something that members of the team–including me–have to read very, very carefully to understand what they are trying to convey. Focus on making it easy for the hiring manager to locate information that checks their boxes.

  22. anon73*

    I’ll admit I’ve never seen a 2 columned resume, but it just seems odd to me. I’ve been working professionally for 25 years, so my resume is 2 pages long, but I have the duties of each position in paragraph form so it runs across the width of the page. I’ve thought about removing my oldest jobs since I was a developer and the languages I coded in are dinosaurs today, but I feel like it shows the trajectory of my career and that makes them more relevant so I’ve kept them on there.

  23. AlphabetSoupCity*

    I wonder if the issue here is the person doesn’t feel they have very much to say (details) about their jobs and that’s where feedback should be? It seems like if your details only take up half the page they probably aren’t adequately showing your accomplishment and generally following Alison’s resume advice.

  24. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    What I do is a table with 2 columns. One short/narrow one for company, dates, and position. The other for the description of my job
    This way the short sentences are in the narrow space and the job description has more space. You can also use this to add or move your education and other details in above or below your job information.
    pizza pauls|. This area is the job description
    Cashier |. Or tasks or achievements
    2008-2010 |. If you can figure that information out

    1. Not A Manager*

      This is how I’ve always done my resumes. I like it because it’s easy for people to scan companies and job titles if that’s super relevant to them, and it’s also easy for them to look at descriptions/accomplishments.

      I personally don’t like resumes where the company/title/dates take up a single line with the descriptions beneath them. But I think what you and I are describing is maybe old-fashioned?

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        Probably, since I’ve been using the this for 15 years. Though I originally had my job title in the description, I moved it below the company in my last version (but I also expanded on the job description and changed the font and size. I felt that Ariel 13 was easier to read than TNR 12 (the default). With the size increase mostly to increase the space between lines). It’s plain, and if I wasn’t so lazy or afraid of wrecking everything I’d make it a bit more creative. But it got me a new job, and that’s the important part.

  25. Mouse*

    I use a “sidebar” with my education, short list of relevant skills, and contact info. I like it because it gives my resume a simple design element (I’m a non-creative in a creative field) and also allows me to put my education (good school with lots of local alums, interesting BA thesis topic, etc) in a more prominent space than the bottom of the page without putting it ahead of work experience.

  26. now retired*

    I’m recently retired, but when I was reading resumes/hiring, I wanted something legible first. You’d be surprised how many resumes are “creative” and almost illegible. That’s an immediate no for me.

  27. Bex*

    I use a modified 2 column for my first page, and then one column for my second page. My first page looks standard, except for the far right quarter of the page is its own column which gives information on specific IS&T systems I’m familiar with, along with years of experience. Because honestly, there are so many now that trying to put them into resume highlights with the jobs would be nuts.

    That said, I think my industry is a bit afield from standard, so…

  28. Tania*

    I read a lot of resumes for work and I HATE two column resumes. I’d much rather have a longer, one column resume. I want to focus on your most recent experience and key accomplishments from your last 5 years of work, and I want to scan it quickly. That’s what gets you to the interview pile. I’ll be completely honest and say that resumes that are hard to read often go right in the shredder. I’m a controller, for what it’s worth, so I’m usually looking at accounting, operations, business management, HR resumes. Education is the least of my concerns, unless you are fresh out of school and have no experience at all. Same with computer skills – if we use something you haven’t used before and your skill is strong enough to get you an interview, we’ll train you on the software.

  29. Pigeon*

    The people I work with, generally speaking, have no appreciation or understanding of aesthetics. All they want out of a resume is for the information to be presented clearly, and for it to be accurate, relevant, and easy to read. That’s it. If your resume has a lot of white space in some sections due to the issues described here, they will not even notice.

    We had one applicant attach 20+ pages of his publications to his resume, and it wasn’t a deal-killer.

    While I think it’s good to stay within the bounds of broad expectations like the two page rule, it’s also worth remembering that nobody is going to scrutinize the format of your resume as much as you. Give it to a friend, ask if it’s easy to read and if you made any typographical errors, and then let it be.

  30. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t really recommend two column unless you mostly email the resume or attach it to Indeed.

    Otherwise, when you upload the PDF resume into the company application “systems” you’ll end up with some really weird results because a lot of systems “pull” from whatever PDF resume you upload/attach.

    I have one somewhat different section where I list 4 contract jobs I worked concurrently in 2 columns to save space. It never reads it right.

  31. Des*

    White space is not a bad thing. It can help readability. A resume that’s too “busy” had better be really full of outstanding accomplishments, otherwise it just looks cluttered.

  32. Blaise*

    I’m a teacher and I keep my education and certifications as the first two sections of my resume, even though I’ve been teaching for a decade.

    The absolute most important thing in teaching is being “highly qualified”; you’re automatically disqualified from all public school jobs otherwise. So without knowing that info, my work experience is completely irrelevant for hiring committees. They need to know that they CAN pick me for the job before I bother telling them WHY they should pick me! So if OP’s field is similar in that way, I think it would make sense to keep that stuff at the top indefinitely (in fields like that I’d guess they’d need to keep the certifications at the top but maybe not the education, unless it’s something like social work that absolutely requires an MSW)

  33. Adultiest Adult*

    After reading the advice, I wanted to jump in and offer the OP some allied health/mental health specific advice, since I hire people like the OP. I don’t care about one column versus two, as long as it’s legible, but if you are right out of grad school, your education always goes first, followed by your practicum/internship experience. I want to see your relevant experience first, to determine what skills you have, and if you went to any local program, I know how they train their students. I am not particularly interested in non-relevant work experience. I’ll look at it if it’s there, but keep it brief: too much detail is a red flag that you will have trouble shifting gears, especially if your experience was in a truly non-related field like accounting or business. We do things quite differently in mental health. If your previous experience was in human services somehow, I am more interested.

    What I really have to push back on is the people suggesting that you add an “alphabet soup” of letters after your name to make it seem more impressive. Those titles actually mean things in our field, and the quickest way to get yourself blacklisted before you even truly enter the field is to claim a title you haven’t earned. The “L” in those titles means licensed, and new grads by definition are not. It takes 2-3 years of full-time supervised work experience in the field and 1-2 board exams to qualify for that licensure. Before that, you are working under your supervisor’s license, which means that the supervisor is ethically and legally responsible for you. In many cases when I hire, that license is mine, and I will not risk it on someone whose self-promotion has compromised their ethics. Some of those other letters indicate advanced therapy credentials which, while not always legally regulated, are also out of reach of new grads, who have limited clinical experience. A good hiring manager will know that.

    Bottom line: simpler is better. Tell me when and where you got your master’s and your relevant work experience, and let me take it from there. All places that take new counselors and social workers are mostly hiring on potential anyway!

  34. A commenter!*

    Noooooo. Please stick to traditional format. I hire a fair amount and it drives me up the wall when I get a resume that I have to wade through to get to actual activities done and successes achieved

  35. Doc in a Box*

    This is going to be field-specific. I work in health care, and for what it’s worth, a creatively formatted resume (multi-column, sidebar, pull quotes??) would end up in the circular file.

    Because of the extensive education and licensure requirements in most health-related fields, a 1 page resume really doesn’t work and isn’t expected. Every health-related job I’ve applied for wants a CV — the first page or so being taken up by contact info, education, internship, and state licensure information.

    OP, please check with your career center or recent alumni about this.

  36. Anon Admin*

    I’m currently printing resumes and sorting them for an open position we have. I have been reading this blog for awhile so as I am printing/sorting, I’m thinking “nope, too much text”, “21 page resume? nope”, “this isn’t a resume, it’s a pamphlet” with full page magenta color, etc. One resume has multiple columns. Most didn’t bother with a cover letter (which was in the listing) and those that did basically repeated their resume.

    I’m sure I have made many mistake with cover letters and resumes before becoming a dedicated reader of this blog, but it’s amazing how many career centers and/or helpful people give bad advice for resumes and people take it. I know why- it’s a pandemic and we hope any little tip or trick will get us noticed and interviewed- but some of these are downright atrocious.

    The 9 page pamphlet one where the pages are magenta is so bright it hurts to try to read it, so I know my boss will tell me send a rejection letter without reading it.

    1. Fabulous*

      I have a former coworker with a 20pg resume. I offered to fix it for her a couple years ago when she showed me but she said she’d been using it for several years and gotten many jobs with it. All I could think was “Oof”.

  37. short and sweet*

    I have a two-column resume I use internally for my company when applying for different jobs. (I have not applied to a different company in 20 years!) Left side has education, a bullet list of technical and soft skills keywords, and a bullet list of other interests (ex: I’m writing a book relevant to my field of work, I recruit and assess graduate hires, etc). The right column has a high-level personal objective/profile statement, a list of key experiences, and a short bulleted list of roles.

    The bulleted list of key experiences is the meat of it and is the largest section of the whole resume. I list achievements (ex: led cross-business, global team to develop company-wide xxx program with an audience of 500k, engaging with C suite on strategic content) and proof I have specific relevant skills for my field (ex: planned and facilitated xxx studies and reviews, reported yyy data internally and externally). Since I have done some of these things across several jobs, it doesn’t make sense to repeat them job by job. All of these bullets are about a sentence long.

    The job bullet listing is very short. No city/location.
    *job title, part of the company, job grade, dates
    *job title, part of the company, job grade, dates
    *job title, part of the company, job grade, dates

    I don’t think they need to know what job I did what thing in. They need to know the skills I have and the outstanding things I have delivered and can repeat. Even in the key experiences section, I am not writing full sentences and paragraphs. A resume is not a dissertation. It should have enough to give someone a feeling of your skills and accomplishments to get your foot into the interview where you can then give all the gory details.

Comments are closed.