Probably one of the greatest misconceptions (even if unknowingly) about résumés is that the content will speak for itself. After all, you’ve got years of experience, college degrees with awesome GPAs, certifications, and impressive volunteer work. But, sadly, that alone won’t always get you the interview—which is the goal of a résumé, after all. A résumé needs to be impressive on all accounts. And the design really does matter.
Well-known cognitive scientist Donald Norman has repeated argued (and he has gobs of research to back him up) that attractive things work better. In other words, if you have the choice between two potato peelers and one simply looks nicer, you will likely convince yourself that it works better, too—even if it isn’t true. Employers do the same thing—if they see comparable qualifications on two résumés but one is designed to look much nicer, the impression will be that the person who made their résumé look nice will do a better job as well.
Think about it: design shows you care, it shows you pay attention to detail, it shows you know how to communicate, and it shows that you take the extra effort. Strangely, an employer doesn’t necessarily think through all of this logically when looking at a résumé; he or she simply reacts to it. We humans make very visceral (emotional, non-logical) decisions all the time (like when we choose our toothbrush based on how cool the bristles look, even if we don’t know anything about their effectiveness). And employers make very visceral judgments about you when they look at the design of your résumé—if it looks nice, the employer will think much higher of you, almost automatically.
So what does this mean? Take a few extra steps to design your résumé well! Don’t stick to the defaults (like Times New Roman or Calibri typefaces), don’t center-align your headings, don’t just use lame circle bullets, don’t use a Microsoft Word template, don’t be like everyone else! Trust me, if you take the time to design, your marketability will shoot way up!