6 Resume Design Tips

A graphic designer weighs in with her essential tips for an eye-catching CV.

Amy Dozier studied art history and graduated in 2009—not exactly a great year for recent grads looking for employment. “My solution to the anxiety of searching for work was to endlessly redesign my resume, in hopes that the next email I sent out would be more effective at catching an employer’s eye and getting an interview for a coveted position,” says Amy. “I know how frustrating and exhausting it can be to put your heart into every email, only to be rejected or receive no response.” Over the next few years she also helped friends out with their resumes, and she ended up with a few different designs that varied based on her friends’ industries and personalities. “I had an ‘aha’ moment when I realized that I could turn the resumes I had created into customizable templates to help people who were out of work or stuck in unfulfilling jobs,” she recalls.

Today, Amy works as a teacher by day. “I knew I wouldn’t have time to create resumes for every individual, but, through customizable templates, my hope is to help someone land a job they really want, or a job when they need it the most.” (She sells her beautiful templates online, at notably generous prices.) Amy believes—and we agree!—that a well designed resume can have an incredibly positive impact on your job search. “Putting effort into making a clean, well-composed and beautiful (yes, resumes can be beautiful!) resume can boost your confidence and help you represent who you really are,” she says. “People are naturally drawn to harmonious, well-designed text and images—think of a book jacket, for example. A well-designed cover will inspire someone to pick up the book more than a poorly-designed one will. Of course, it’s the words inside that really matter, but that first glance may compel a person to take a closer look.” 6 Resume Design Tips Amy shared her essential advice for a beautifully designed resume.

1. Play with typography

So many resumes are submitted in a “default” font. These fonts are included with word processors for a reason—they’re easily readable and have stood the test of time—but having a serious, professional resume doesn’t have to mean Times New Roman and bullet points. There are many gorgeous fonts available online (try Google Fonts), that can help a resume look fresh and clean. Fonts have an incredible effect on the mood of your resume. Your name should be in a font that is “you” and draws attention—and that’s different for everyone. The main body of your resume should be in something clean and readable. When in doubt, keep it simple!

2. Layout is paramount

Good alignment is a little step that goes a long way in making sure your resume looks tidy. Try text boxes, which you can move around the page, to make perfecting your layout easier. Don’t shy away from experimenting, either, particularly if you’re applying for a job in a creative field. Play around with your elements until it feels organized. One of my most unconventional resumes is one with a landscape orientation. Just keep in mind your audience; a job in a creative field gives you license to be a little more unique in your resume, while others may not.

3. Use fun details—in moderation

Elements like color, shapes or icons can make a huge impact with very little effort. The key here is moderation. Using one or two colors in a resume draws attention, but too many can look overwhelming and distracting. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your word processor's built-in tools. Several of the resumes I’ve created make use of the basic shapes that Microsoft Word has available, and then I adjust them in ways that work with the text. Add a splash of color if you’re in a creative field, or use graphic lines to add personality in a way that’s appropriate for a traditional workplace.

4. Keep it clean

A lot of people have a wealth of experience and want to include every last item that might show it, but this can make a resume look chaotic and overwhelmed by text. Too many bullet points or long blocks of copy can distract from your experience and mask its value. Keep your descriptions concise, and try not to cram too much into one page. The most vital key to a clean layout is maintaining a good amount of negative space. Each heading should have enough space around it to draw attention and break up the text. In Microsoft Word, adjust the “paragraph spacing” in small increments, instead of hitting the enter key a few times. You don’t want a solid wall of text, but rather a (literal and figurative) window into your experience and personality.

5. Create hierarchy

Organizing your resume through a logical hierarchy is the first step. These headings should be emphasized in some way, so that it’s easy for the eye to navigate and jump between categories. Be sure that all your headings and descriptions are aligned perfectly to keep that information visually organized—the rulers at the top and side of your document can help you make sure each element is in place. Creating emphasis (for categories or other headings) is important so that there’s a balance between heavy and light text. To do so, try bolding, CAPITALIZING or even S P A C I N G out the letters of each category. Be careful when mixing fonts, however. Stick to one or two fonts unless you’re confident that your combination works!

6. Submit it as a PDF

This is the most important tip. There’s nothing worse than sending an employer a resume that they can’t read, because they don’t happen to have the fonts you used. Saving as a PDF means that all the fonts and formatting are preserved inside, and won’t change from computer to computer.