Resume Formatting and Design: Making Your Document Stand Out


Many people care so much about what they put in their Resume/CV but pay little attention to the document’s layout and overall design. Don’t be like them!

Picture this: you are a recruiter whose job is to sift through hundreds of Resumes daily to find the best candidate for each position. Would you prefer reading documents with cluttered information or ones with clear layout, structure, and formatting? 

This is the last piece of the puzzle that makes some Resumes stand out quickly while others get thrown aside. 

If you want to make your Resume “pop”, stick to these 10 simple tactics for professional resume formatting and design.

1. Use clear fonts

Your resume should be free of fancy or weird fonts, no matter what your job is. Even in creative fields like art and design, it’s best to use fonts that are easy to read and understand. This approach ensures your qualifications shine through clearly.

Popular royalty-free image site Shutterstock recommends trying out fonts from the Sans Serif and Serif font family. 

2. Consider adding a headshot

Whether or not to include a headshot on your resume is a question that job seekers everywhere grapple with. The answer often depends on the customs in your region or where you’re applying to work.

In certain countries, including a professional headshot is not only anticipated but may even be obligatory on resumes and CVs. In contrast, in places like the United States, the practice is generally discouraged to mitigate the risk of bias in hiring or job discrimination.

Before making your decision, it’s crucial to research and understand the prevailing norms in your specific geographic area.

3. Use white space judiciously

In crafting a resume, it’s not just about what’s present but equally about what’s absent. In this case, we’re referring to white space, also known as negative space!

Insufficient white space can lead to a resume that appears crowded and chaotic, regardless of the content’s relevance. It’s advisable to incorporate ample white space – more than you might initially think – to ensure the recruiter can easily and comfortably review your document.

4. Use subtle design elements 

You don’t need a resume with a ton of flashy design elements to make a good impression. In fact, a simple, clean design can be more professional and eye-catching. It’s all about making sure your resume is easy to read and highlights your skills and experience in a clear and concise way.

Subtle embellishments can include:

  • A clean and straightforward header or footer
  • Subtle graphic accents in the background
  • A discreet border or frame framing the resume
  • The incorporation of a recurring shape, brushstroke, or other design motif.

5. Make it scannable

The key to making your resume truly stand out boils down to one critical factor: scannability.

After all, the person tasked with reviewing your resume likely has a stack of dozens, if not hundreds, of other resumes to sift through. It’s not the flashiest colors or the latest graphic design trends that will grab their attention.

Rather, it’s the presentation of pertinent information in a manner that’s easy for them to read and scan effortlessly. Here are some resume design strategies to enhance scannability:

1. Utilize different font sizes, weights, and colors to highlight the importance of various text elements.

2. Consider introducing dividers between sections to visually break up the content.

3. Maintain a strong sense of alignment, either through columns or a grid structure.

4. Employ bulleted lists and keep each bullet point as concise as possible.

5. Eliminate all extraneous text, retaining only the most pertinent information.

6. Use numbers where necessary

Becoming a compelling candidate involves more than just focusing on graphic design. Be sure to allocate time to enhance your content, particularly in the realm of data.

The greater your ability to quantify your prior experience, whether in terms of years, financial figures, project volumes, deliverables, and so forth, the more appealing you’ll be to prospective employers.

7. Add some creativity

The art of setting yourself apart on a resume is a delicate balance. Naturally, you aim to leave a memorable and distinctive impression, but it should never be to the extent that your resume becomes challenging to read, perplexing, or readily labeled as “unprofessional.”

While there’s some flexibility in this guideline, the key consideration is whether your resume exudes a sense of professionalism foremost and creativity second. Striking this balance is the ideal approach.

8. Prioritize visual hierarchy

“Visual hierarchy” may sound like a complex design term, but it’s a relatively straightforward concept. In essence, establishing a strong visual hierarchy involves purposefully using design elements to guide the viewer’s eye along a clear path.

Visual hierarchy encompasses all your design choices, ranging from typography and white space to color and alignment. To ensure your design is on the right track, take these steps before finalizing it:

  1. Squint your eyes to identify focal points. Is there a clearly defined visual path to follow?
  2. Ask a friend or colleague to give your resume a quick scan. Does it appear well-organized and easy to grasp?

9. Make key items stand out

Are you pondering how to distinguish yourself in a resume? The secret lies in aligning your unique traits, skills, and experiences with the job you’re pursuing and doing so with utmost clarity.

In terms of visuals, consider incorporating graphic elements to draw attention to your most compelling attributes. These elements can take various forms, such as:

  • Different colors
  • Subtle shading
  • Arrows or callouts
  • A bordered, shadowed, or colored box
  • An underline or a dividing line
  • Icons, illustrations, or graphics

Remember to give special attention to your objective or summary section. Use this space to provide a high-level overview of your most noteworthy achievements.

10. Seek Help

Feeling overwhelmed by all the tips above? Why not give yourself a head start by subscribing to a PTMA package so we can help you design a professional Resume that will always stand out?  

Beyond getting you a beautiful clean resume, we’ll also help you review your LinkedIn profile and other vital documents. And when you have upcoming job interviews, we’ll also provide you with guidance and expert tips to fast-track your success.

Receive the latest news

Unlock Success!

Download your FREE guide on career secrets and discover remote job opportunities waiting for you NOW!