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8 formatting mistakes to avoid on your resume!

Did you know that you should never add tables or columns to your resume?

Read on to find out why!

In the same way that you try to make a photo look good for Instagram, it’s important to make a resume look great to stand out from the crowd. Here are some quick formatting tips to make your resume look great:


1) Avoid tables at all costs


Unfortunately, most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) do not read tables correctly. Including a table on your resume increases your chances of getting filtered out before a recruiter ever sees your application.

Note: Tables are especially common in the “Education” section of resumes. See this post for details on how to represent your education without using tables.


2) Avoid column formats


Same problem as above. Not all ATS can read column formats, and this could also increase your chances of getting filtered out.


3) Avoid headers and footers


Similar to the above points, not all ATS can read text in headers and footers. Putting your name and contact information in these spaces can get your resume excluded immediately.


4) Avoid bright colours


Colours like red, pink, and orange have no place on a resume. If you are using anything other than black (not recommended), try picking muted colours instead. Deep grey, deep green and deep blue are possible options and make sure to use no more than two colours (including black) on your resume.


5) Choose simple fonts


Do not choose fancy fonts. Instead, use standard fonts like Arial, Calibri, and Times New Roman. Using a font downloaded from the internet may break an ATS in the same way that tables and columns do. If you choose to do this (not recommended), you should submit a PDF copy of your resume when applying because non-standard fonts may not display correctly in a word document on a recruiter’s system.


6) Pick at most three font sizes


Do not use more than three font sizes on your resume. ATS sometimes struggle to evaluate resumes with too many font sizes. Typically, applicants put their name in the largest font (like 16pt), titles in a medium size (like 12pt), and bullet points in a smaller size (like 11pt).


7) Pick reasonable margins


It can be challenging to fit all of your accomplishments on one page. However, do not fall into the trap of shrinking margins down to squeeze everything in. Pick the “narrow” margin option on Microsoft Word, which translates to a 0.5” margin on all sides. Anything smaller than this may result in your content being cut off when a recruiter is printing out your resume. On the other hand, choosing much larger margins may signal to a recruiter that you are using formatting tricks to hide the fact that you do not have enough experience to fill up a resume.


8) Only use bolding and underlining in titles


Do not use bold or underlined text for anything that is not a title. This is important for two reasons. First, bolding and underlining make it harder for a recruiter to read bullets in your resume. Second, you may not be bolding and underlining the words a recruiter is looking for. This makes it difficult for a recruiter to assess whether you have the required skills and may even suggest that you do not understand what attributes are important for the job.


That’s all for now! Good luck with your applications!

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