Contrary to what some people may tell you, there is no one correct way to design a résumé. There are, however, many things you can do to enhance the way your résumé looks. And how your résumé looks can significantly affect how an employer perceives you. If you don’t have a lot of design experience, though, designing a résumé can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, with just a few quick (and easy) tricks, you can significantly improve the way your résumé looks even if you’re a design novice.
If you want a more detailed look at what to include (and not include) in a strong résumé, see The Anatomy of a Really Good Résumé. If you want to review an infographic on what’s wrong with a bad résumé, see What a Bad Résumé Says When It Speaks.
Quick Trick #1: Make your name big and bold. Your name should stand out more than anything else on the page. Don’t be afraid to use a 20- or even 30-point font (depending on the typeface). And don’t feel like you need to center-align your name. Make it pop and make it more dynamic by moving it to one side.
Quick Trick #2: Use two typefaces on your résumé and don’t use the default fonts. Most non-designers have a tendency to use the default font on the computer (Times New Roman or Calibri, if you’re using MS Word) and they don’t change anything but the size. I recommend using a sans serif font (like Century Gothic, Arial Black, or Trebuchet) for your headings and a serif font (like Cambria or Palatino Lintotype or Garamond) for your body or content text.
Quick Trick #3: Align everything on your page nicely. According to the alignment principle (best explained by Robin Williams in her bood The Non-Designer’s Design Book), nothing on your page should be placed arbitrarily (or even appear as such). This means that everything on your résumé should be aligned with something else. Align all of your headings together, all of your job titles together, all of your dates together, all of your skills together, etc.
Quick Trick #4: Make your contact information look dynamic. In other words, don’t simply center-align your address and phone number under your name. Find a more creative way of showing it (like using a rule across the page and using a smaller font and vertical lines (|) between information or like putting a subtle gray box behind the info).
Quick Trick #5: Use shapes. This may seem strange, but résumés are, by their nature, dull and text-heavy. Use white space and rules (lines that span across the page) and find ways of using more interesting shapes that go vertical or horizontal. Also, the traditional bullet shape (a circle) is pretty dull and overused. You might try using small triangles or the “+” symbol to replace your bullets. Of course, don’t overdo it! Find one shape that works well and use it only once or twice.