Resume Format Guide: Layout, Spacing, Fonts and Examples

Your resume is the first opportunity to make an impression on a potential employer. It can help a hiring manager decide if you will receive an interview or not. It is important for a resume to be formatted professionally in order to make a strong impression. This guide has everything you need to know to format your resume in an appealing and professional manner.

What is a professional resume format?

A resume is a brief document that highlights your qualifications for a job, including your work experience, education and skills. When applying for a job, your resume should be customized to match the job posting by focusing on skills and past responsibilities which align with key points in the job description. Your experience and skills should be presented in a layout as a neatly organized outline.

How to format a resume

There are many choices to make when laying out your resume. While there is not one exact set of rules to follow, you can create an attractive resume by understanding the guidelines. 

Follow these steps and tips to craft a winning resume:

1. First, choose a resume format style to focus on your strongest qualifications

Choosing the correct format style allows you to highlight your best attributes when applying for a position. 

There are three styles that can put extra emphasis on the area where you are strongest:

  • Chronological resume. The traditional style of a resume features your work experience listed in reverse-chronological order as the focus point. Each entry for an employer should feature a detailed description of your responsibilities and accomplishments while working for that employer. This style is ideally suited for you if you have relevant experience for the job which will appeal to an employer.
  • Functional resume. With a functional resume, your skills section is moved above your prior work, and more space is devoted to describing your talents. When applying for a job where you have applicable talents but lack experience, a function-forward resume allows you to shine a light on your qualifications for the position.
  • Combination resume. Applicants with a mix of prior experience and relevant skills can benefit from the use of a combination format. In a combination resume, you can place either your skills or prior work experience first depending on which is most relevant for the position, but both sections receive room for elaboration where required. 

2. Second, choose the best opening element to introduce yourself

When you’re looking to stand out from a thick pile of applicants, it helps to have an opening statement that catches the reader’s eye. 

There are multiple options for your introductory element depending on the position and your skills, such as:

  • Objective. An objective is a short declaration of what you are seeking from the position and why you should be considered to fill it. Many applicants now opt to replace an objective with one of the modern variants below.
  • Profile. A profile focuses on highlighting the skills you are bringing to the position which would make you an excellent hire. This is particularly useful if your skills outshine your prior experience in the industry in which you are applying.
  • Summary Statement. When you have a long work history within an industry, a summary statement allows you to briefly note some of your most impressive positions.
  • Branding Statement. If you value brevity, a branding statement is a catchy, single sentence summary of why you are qualified for the job by highlighting your best attributes.
  • Headline. A well-constructed headline tells an employer who you are with a single statement which focuses on your professional qualifications.

3. Third, choose a font to give your resume a professional, finishing touch

Choosing the right font for your resume is an essential piece of the layout puzzle. The font you select should be professional and easy to read. 

There are several important aspects to consider when determining the ideal font for your resume, such as: 

  • A sans-serif font is easy to read, particularly when dealing with dense blocks of text which may be read in a digital format. You should also select a font which has minimal artistic flourishes, opting instead for one with simple, clean lines.
  • The size of your font is a critical decision for your resume. A font size of at least 10 points should always be selected as this ensures that your resume is easy to read. Keep the font size at 12 points or less, however, as larger sizes may give the impression you are padding for space.
  • Use a consistent format to highlight the headings for each section of your resume. This can be accomplished with the use of emphasis modifications, such as bold, underlined or italicized text, or by increasing the size of the font by 2-4 points.

4. Fourth, consider the right amount of visual space between elements on your resume

One of the most underrated elements in formatting a resume is setting the right spacing for the information you are presenting. Proper spacing creates a clean look for your resume. 

Here are some tips:

  • The margin around the exterior of your resume should be between 1/2-inch and 1-inch. This avoids the risk of creating an overwhelming appearance when the margins are too small while also maximizing the amount of functional space to present your best case for the position.
  • Bullet points are an effective and efficient way to convey information and break up large blocks of text. They are an excellent option for highlighting key skills or accomplishments at a prior job or during schooling.
  • Use single spacing for standard lines of text, with an additional line break between jobs or sections.
  • Although a single-page resume used to be standard, it is now acceptable to have a resume with two pages. While you should not pad out your resume with unnecessary elaboration, you can create your first pass with all the information you think is important to get a feel for if a second page is required, and edit accordingly.