Desk of person looking at resumes

Dos and Don’ts for Designing a Stand-out Resume

The most important thing about a resume, is, of course, the content — education, experiences, activities and skills. But another crucial element to a resume, often overlooked, is its layout and design.

Well-designed resumes are critical not only because they look different and stand out, but also because they make it easier for recruiters to cover and digest all the important information. The ideal resume differs across industries — creative fields like advertising and design appreciate funky layouts and a splash of color, while finance and science-related industries often prefer simple black and white formatting. Regardless, there are a few design dos and don’ts for every professional resume, so we’ve compiled them below for you:

Photo from The University of Arizona Career Services


1) Separate your information into columns

Columns allow you to fit a lot of information onto one page without making it appear overcrowded. You can include education and skills in one column and experiences and activities in the other (but you can switch this up). Having one column considerably wider than the other makes the resume interesting to look at and draws attention to specific parts of the page. 

2) Be aware of, and include, white space

Resumes generally contain a ton of information, but it’s important to design them in a way that still allows for white space. Space out your sections and even individual lines of text (not single spaced), don’t fill up the page all the way until the margins — provide enough white space so that the resume doesn’t feel overwhelming to look at and go through for recruiters. 

3) Include hyperlinks (but only sparingly)

Nowadays, with most resumes being sent online, it makes sense to include hyperlinks in your resume instead of typing out URLs — it provides a cleaner look and takes up less space. Don’t overcrowd your resume with hyperlinks, but use them strategically — for your LinkedIn or portfolio, for published work on other sites or for small companies where you’ve worked.

4) Save and send it as a PDF

What’s the point of spending all this time designing a resume only for the formatting to get changed when you send it out? Whether you make your resume on Canva, Word, Google Docs or InDesign, make sure you format it as a PDF when you’re attaching it to applications or sending it to recruiters. If it’s a PDF, resume formatting won’t change (and it’s often easiest for recruiters to access).

Photo from The University of Arizona Career Services


1) Don’t include photos (even if they’re professional headshots)

Many companies prefer that candidates don’t include headshots on their resume, to avoid unconscious bias from recruiters and prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, race or age. Photos don’t add anything relevant to your candidate profile. From a design perspective, photos take up valuable space on a one-page resume that could be better used for skills or experience.

2) Don’t use script or hard-to-read fonts

Could you imagine reading a resume that used Impact, Lobster or Pacifico? Recruiters only spend about 7.4 seconds looking at an entire resume, and clunky, curly fonts hinder the speed at which they can scan information. These fonts also make the resume appear unprofessional. It’s best to stick with simple Serif or Sans Serif Fonts. Make sure you keep the font consistent throughout the resume’s body copy — if you want to switch things up, you can do with the headers. 

3) Don’t adjust the original margins

Maintain the document’s original 1-inch margins. More often than not, extending margins to include additional information makes the resume look crowded. And you risk cutting information off the page when it’s printed. If you’re thinking about extending margins, that’s probably a sign there’s some information you can remove from your resume!

4) Don’t overcomplicate color schemes

Other than black text and a white background, it’s best to only have one additional accent color. Pick a bold color that will draw attention to specific parts of your resume and stay away from ones that are too neon or light. This accent color can be used in your header or for section titles. You can also carry the color scheme over to your over letter, which will provide a more unified personal brand.