Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Avoid These Top 5 Resume Formatting Blunders

An eye tracking study conducted by The Ladders in 2012 found that recruiters initially spend only 6 seconds reviewing an individual resume. The study’s “gaze tracking” technology showed that recruiters spent almost 80% of their resume review time on the following data points: Name, Current title/company, Previous title/company, Current position start and end dates, Previous position start and end dates, and Education.  Beyond these six data points, recruiters did little more than scan for keywords to match the open position, which amounted to a very cursory “pattern matching” activity. Because decisions were based mostly on the six pieces of data listed above, an individual resume’s detail and explanatory copy had little to no impact on the initial decision making.1

What can we glean from this study? Although strong resume content is important, it is critical that your resume be formatted in a way that is visually appealing so that the reviewer can quickly locate the information they are seeking. To make sure your resume is not quickly discarded, avoid these 5 resume formatting blunders!


  • Resume templates. You are unique and your resume should be too!  Resume templates are easy to spot and using a template can be interpreted as a lazy way to create your resume. Templates are often in a table format making it difficult to make your own adjustments. In addition, information in tables can be difficult to read by an Applicant Tracking Systems. (WGU Students and Alumni : use our resume builders to craft an attractive resume!)
  • Multiple fonts and text sizes. Choose ONE standard font, such as Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, or Garamond to use throughout your resume. For the body of your resume, you want the font size to be between 10 – 12 points. Whatever size you choose, be consistent throughout your resume!
  • Font style overkill. Bold, Italic, underline, and CASE are all ways to highlight key resume information but you want to do so sparingly. Too much highlighting can minimize the effect and make it harder for the reviewer to identify key information. Focus on the areas mentioned above that the reviewer is seeking: name, position title, company name, start and end dates, and education. Make sure to highlight similar information the same way throughout your resume.
  • Poor use of white space. Blocks of dense text can be intimidating to a reviewer and make it difficult to identify key skills and qualifications. On the other hand, too much empty space on a page can make it appear that you are lacking in experience or spread critical information across multiple pages unnecessarily. Manage white space by customizing the amount of space added before and after paragraphs and be sure the spacing is consistent throughout your resume.
  • Misalignment. If alignment is not consistent, the reviewer will waste time tracking down information sought. It is suggested that you align your text to the left (rather than centering your text) since we read left to right. Typically, you want the left side of your resume to contain the most important information, such as your employers, job titles, and your achievements and/or responsibilities. On the right side of the page, to create visual balance, you’ll want to include information such as dates and/or job locations.

For more resume formatting tips and resume creation information, please visit the WGU Career & Professional Development Center. To submit your resume for review, please fill out the career appointment form and attach your resume (in Microsoft Word or rtf format) to the form.

1.     Evans, Will. (2012). Keeping an eye on recruiter behavior. TheLadders.com. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://cdn.theladders.net/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf.

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