Resume Layouts ... The Hidden Pitfalls

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Options for Resume Layouts

There are many options of available to today's job seeker. With a quick change of graphical elements such as fonts and style, the feel of a resume can change from traditional and conservative to creative and modern.

In addition, today's job seeker has the added benefit of being able to mail and hand deliver resumes in the old fashioned way as well as surf the web with their resume.

A job seeker who wishes to take advantage of the many different resume layouts available, should be aware of when and how to use the various options, in order to get the most impact from their resume.

Printed Resumes

A print version of your resume refers to the version of your resume that is ready to print; either for mailing for job leads or for hand delivering to potential contacts.

This version may contain bold print, italicized text, bulleted lists and less well known fonts, however these should be used sparingly. Too many graphical elements can result in a jumbled mess where nothing jumps out. Design elements should be also be used consistently.


The amount of whitespace should also remain consistent throughout the resume. The use of whitespace in a resume can be critical. Too much whitespace will draw attention to a resume that may be lacking in skills and experience.

However too little whitespace results in a jumbled mess. Using a 1-inch margin on all four sides of the paper will generally result in an acceptable amount of whitespace.

Scannable Resumes

A scannable resume contains the exact same information as print version resume layouts but is presented in a less 'fancy' manner.

A scannable resume is to be used for those situations when you wish to cut and paste your resume into online databases. There are a few guidelines that should be adhered to when creating a scannable resume, however to avoid disaster.

Due to the high volume of resumes they receive after posting a job, more and more employers are using computer databases to sort and categorize resumes.

Graphical elements that would perhaps be used in a print version resume should be avoided in a scannable resume. While they might encourage visual attention from humans, they can be a death trap when scanned into computer databases. Some computer systems might not understand special characters and react by tossing out your resume.


Stick to safe fonts such as Ariel, Helvetica or Courier. Use a font size anywhere between 10 to 14 points and refrain from bolding, underlining or italicizing any text. Also do not use any symbols such as parenthesis, asterisks or bullets.

One Column Resume Layouts

A one column resume layout is much more traditional. This type of format would be more appropriate for use when applying for a position in a conservative job market.

It might be a disadvantage when applying for work in a more upbeat or creative job market. All lines are left justified; objective, work history and education are placed in blocks on the page.

Two Column Resume Layouts

A two column resume layout is more creative. This type of format would be better suited when applying for a position in an industry that is known for its creativity. It would not be appropriate for more traditional type jobs. Headings are left justified while the corresponding information is placed in the right column.

Left Aligned Resume Layouts

Left aligned resume layouts are particularly good for resumes that are short in nature. All headings and corresponding information are aligned to the left.

Centered Resume Layouts

A centered resume layout can be hard on the eye and difficult to read, however this can be minimized with skillful use of formatting and style features to clearly delineate information. For example, all categories would be bolded and underlined; sub-categories would be italicized and bullets would be used to draw attention to impact and action statements.

Indented Layouts

This type of resume can feel traditional, but the paragraphs can be hard on the eye; particularly for employers who simply want to 'scan' a resume. An indented resume features left-aligned text, but the paragraphs are indented.

There are many ways in which you can combine the above design elements into your final layout. To get the maximum impact is partly a science and partly an art... your best option is to follow the guidelines and aim to keep the overall design as uncluttered as possible.

Article courtesy of Top Career Resumes, where you can get the answers you need about writing winning resumes, cover letters and more. The author, Roger Clark (BSc) has over 25 years experience in career development & recruitment at a senior level through top management positions he has held with major international companies.

Career Articles - Advice on resumes, career planning, goal / objective setting & aptitude testing.

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