40 Questions Worksheet Series: Resume Design

If you haven’t had the chance, sign up and download my free worksheet that has all 40 questions. The questions will help you rewrite your resume like a pro – even if you hate writing. 

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A few things to keep in mind 

Before we launch into eye-tracking patterns and aesthetics, I want remind you to think like a marketer.

When you think like a marketer, you present yourself as the solution to their problem. All of the information you give them should be absolutely true, but the truth can be framed in such a way that it looks even better that it would on its own.

Marketers love to toss around the word convert. The goal of everything they do is to get people to take the actions they want them to take, i.e. covert. Buy, click, join, engage.

Your goal as a job seeker is to persuade the recruiter to give you a call, to make you one of the top candidates that he or she presents to the hiring manager. Make them want you. 

Go on and flatter yourself

Question: Would you go out for a night on the town wearing a 10-year-old, ratty T-shirt and lounge pants? No.

You would probably wear an outfit you look really good in. Something that flatters you. Did you lose 10 pounds or grow 2-inches taller? No, you used clothing that accentuates your positive attributes and camouflages the not-so-positive stuff. (you're gorgeous no matter what, right?)

With a smart resume, design can do the same thing. With a little strategy, you can present your best information first.  Let's get to it.

Design design design

In this installment, we're talking resume design. Resume design is one of those things that if done well, you probably wouldn’t notice. But if done wrong, it can be incredibly distracting for the reader. 

You may also be thinking, what does design have to do with writing? Well, the better organized your resume is, the more information about how great you are can be skimmed.

If you lead with your best stuff, the person reading the resume will want to read more. When I was a reporter, the goal was to hook the reader as quickly as possible. You either had to come up with a clever tease or hit them with the best info first.

It's unlikely a busy hiring manager will appeeciate a tease. 

Besides, you only have 6 seconds to impress a recruiter.

I spent just over 10 years trying to hook the reader in a few words. It's a challenge, but it will pay off.

In marketing communications you persuade your audience to take action.

In the writing and editing post of the series I go into great detail about how to put words on the page. But for now, just keep in mind which portions of your resume are the most important.

Hint: watch the video. 

Question # 1 Is your resume laid out well?

I’ll admit it, this question is a little vague and subjective. It's questions such as this that prompted the 40 questions blog post series. What the question means is, is your resume user-friendly?

Does it take into account the eye-movement pattern of the reader/skimmer? For instance, you wouldn’t put your name along the bottom of your resume.

Resume readers (the human kind) have certain expectations. They expect to see your name and contact information front and center. They want to see start and end dates to all of your jobs.

The eyes have it

In the online marketing world, eye-tracking studies are used to determine the prime real estate of an ad. 

 Back when people read the newspaper, editors and page designers thought in terms of above the fold and the Z pattern.

Today, the F-pattern of reading on the web dominates our information consumption. For now I want to focus on Z. The Z-pattern starts in the upper left corner. The eye then tracks across the top of the page and then heads over to the left lower corner and across the bottom of the page.

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The bottom line

Does your resume have the most compelling information at the left and top of the paper? You could work up a couple of designs – one that features your skills and another that highlights relevant experience.

If the job you are applying for is not closely related to the one you have now, then focus on transferable skills. If the job is like the one you have, only better then lead with your experience.

Writing for your reader is one of the major points we go over in the writing and editing post.


Question #2: Is it pleasing to the eye?

Yes, you want a fine-looking resume, but you also want your resume to be highly efficient to the eye. Eliminate visual clutter and use a bento box approach -- no foods touch.

In every little compartment, make sure there’s a juicy morsel of information about what you bring to the organization.. 

You, unless design is your thing, you need to buy a template. There are tons out there. I love Creative Market.

All of the templates I suggest are from there. They are super cheap, and if you join their email list, you get six freebies a week. A couple of weeks ago, this beauty came up.

If you want to cut to the chase, you can get a resume and matching cover letter template for around $15. 

Not a bad investment if you get a great job out of it.

Now that you have a better idea of what should go where, let’s talk about length. Size matters, but not how you think.

Question #3 Is your resume less than one page if you are a student or new to the workforce?

Don’t B.S. If you are a student or have little to no experience, then own it. Your resume should only be a page. Make it the best dang page you ever wrote. Every word counts.

There's a saying in the news biz when a rookie reporter would ask how long a story should be. If the editor knew his or her stuff the answer would be: long enough to have a beginning middle and an end.

In other words, make it as long as it needs to be to put you in the best possible light. 

In his book (free on Kindle Unlimited), The Winning Resume: Get Hired Today with These Groundbreaking Resume Secrets, Steve Williams stresses the importance of importance.

We are not writing about what we think is important, but what we think is important to our reader. Precisely the mindset of marketers and journalists. Give the people what they want.

Question #4 Is it less than three pages if you are an experienced professional?

Now unless you have 30 years of experience in a multitude of career shifts, I would keep your resume to two pages. The resume is not a data dump. Don’t blather on and on about every detail. Highlights only. 

Question #5: Have you chosen legible fonts to use throughout your resume or do the fonts detract from the context of your resume?

Monster job site ranked common fonts. Your resume gets all of six seconds from a recruiter. If it is hard to skim due to some junky, funky font, then it will get tossed.  Check out the list of fonts.

Any one of these is easy-to-read. Just make sure the print is big enough for someone to see. 12 points is the norm. You don't need a PhD in typography to make your resume look stunning.

There are, however a few basics that will boost the look of your resume in mere seconds. Web Strategies, a digital marketing and website development , offers a 10 commandments of typography to steer you in the write direction.

Here's a big one: Don;t mix serif with serif and San serif with sans serif. See the about chart for which fonts have feet. Calibri and Times New Roman play nice together. 

At the end of the day

So I hope you got some clarification on these design questions. Head over to the Real Word Agency Facebook Group to see what the most popular fonts are among the group.