Resume Rules

4 Rules For Every Resume


A graphic designer asked an online forum if she should highlight her skills by creating a unique design for her resume. Every hiring manager who responded answered, “No!”

They wanted a resume formatted for easy reading, scanning, and printing. If a professional graphic designer has to reign in her artistic talent, you should, too. That means:

Using A Standard Font Like Arial, Times New Roman, Or Helvetica

If you wander away from standard fonts, the computer that receives your resume may not have that font. Suddenly, your resume file is unreadable.

Being Careful With Clip Art, Color, Or Other Ornamentation

Black-and-white printers/copiers reduce every color scheme to grey. Some scanners turn ornate designs into a mess. Besides, you never know how a hiring manager will react to a resume bordered by flowers, in green ink, on baby blue paper. It is OK to be creative if you are in a creative field and using a paper resume to hand to a person you know; however, even then, you will need to also provide a standard resume which is able to be scanned.

Avoiding Templates

Some Word templates cause receiving computers and scanners to choke. In addition, if you use a Word template, your resume will look exactly like the hundreds of other applicants using the same template.

Making The Resume Easy On The Eyes

Somewhere along the line, a human being will read your resume. Save bolding, italics or capitalization for your most important points; use it consistently and sparingly. Chose a font size of at least 11 pt. for Times New Roman or 10 pt. for Arial or Helvetica.

With resumes, content always counts more than style. Make sure your style lets your content stand out.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Robin Schlinger

Robin Schlinger is the founder of Robin’s Resumes which provides excellent services to those who value the best in resumes and career marketing documentation.


  1. Cut to the chase, the ideal guidelines for the best resume is that they should be to the point in subject of what client wants. Explain yourself in the right way, and chances of getting an interview call would be great. If you do not know what’s the right way to do that, the professional resume writers should be consulted to boost tone of your description.

  2. Network, network, network.

    With due respect to HR, HR is a negative screen. They exist in large part to filter you out. As a job seeker, you need to develop relationships with people in a company who can act as your advocate.

    RE Functional resumes: I have a hybrid. I have functional stuff up front, and then my work history on the second page. But I find it a sad comment that a functional resume – which IMHO is designed to highlight what you’ve done – is automatically assumed to indicate you’re trying to hide something.

    • Isn’t networking only useful when the other party is replying back or reciprocating or if the hiring manager at a place actually listens to a valued worker who is also the internal contact of a person interested in applying? What ate some other good routes to pursue for the job seeker who means the best and is proactive but gets stuck in one-sided networking dilemmas that are not effective? I appreciate any suggestions as I like learning the most.

      • Unfortunately, we sometimes cannot get the job we think we want – whether it be we do not have the requisite experience required to apply via the “front door” Applicant Tracking System (ATS) method (which means we need to match the job requirements and have a fairly stable job history) or able to network effectively to the hiring manager (which means using both existing friends, LinkedIn, and other social media correctly). If you can’t get there – it may be time to work with a professional to identify (and write a resume for) a more appropriate goal – or work with a professional to identify and learn how to use more effective networking techniques. You also may need to develop a stepwise plan to get to your ultimate goal (if you can’t get in touch now with the hiring manager AND you do not have the experience on paper).

  3. I’d say a really good font for readability is Gotham. Save the file to pdf if you’re worried about people being unable to read it because they lack the font.

    • Maybe it is readable – but not all ATS systems read PDF files. Embedded fonts in Word and in PDFs are also an issue, since it can increase the file size of the document greatly.

      I simply recommend using common fonts.

  4. Richard Zimmermann

    Considering the shallow nature employers seem to evaluate prospective employees, no resume really seem to be right. In addition to just the right “style” there is a disconnect with the real world. First thing, NOT everyone is a sales person to blather about increasing sales and profit margins by 250% in the first week on the job, NOT everyone has had jobs where money was much a factor as with just about every example for resumes I see: “shaved off 80% of expenditures by doing blah blah blah.” NOT everyone has had a supervisory job to have “lead the team through the business apocalypse to charge forth unto the field of market battle slay dragons and planting the flag”… etc etc. What about the many of us who had more “mere mortal” jobs where a resume cannot be really anything other then the shunned and passe “functional” type of work outline?

    • Richard,

      If you are applying for jobs these days, a functional format is much less effective for most than a chronological / combination format. Because employers use ATS systems, if you do not use the right format your resume will never be read. In addition, many hiring manager think if you use a functional format you are trying to hide something. With lots of resumes and applicants out there – they may, in all likelihood, go onto the next person when they see one.

      A Functional Format can work in certain circumstances if you are doing a network search – and the companies you are seeking jobs from do not go through ATS systems. This is not the majority of companies.

      Accomplishments are there even if you doing your work at a lower level. For example, if you are a telephone-based customer service representative:

      Handled quota of 60 phone calls per day by following script and maintaining a high, productive workload while using the XYX telephone answering system.

      Lauded for providing excellent customer service by solving problems and carefully explaining all issues.

      Neither of these are particularly high level, yet they clearly show accomplishments at a lower level.

      If you have a question on how to take your experience into a chronological format with accomplishments, I suggest you talk to a professional resume writer.

  5. Since the applicant is a graphic designer, she should prepare a portfolio to showcase her talents. Often, on-line application systems provide an opportunity to attach additional documents (such as a cover letter). She should attach her portfolio (or examples) as a pdf.

  6. Is functional style best if you have a huge employment gap and should you include all work history on it even if the past experience not related to the new job position you trying so hard to get?

    • Functional resumes are in general discouraged for applying for jobs. They are not read correctly by Applicant Tracking Systems – and signal you are hiding something in many cases to hiring managers. That said, if you are doing a search via networking, in some situations, a functional resume may work. You also may want to consider a combination format that incorporates aspects of both a functional and traditional resume.

      Note, I have had clients who thought they had “unrelated” experience that really was not unrelated. It is sometimes hard to see a connection between jobs and a professional may be able to see that.

      Also, it is, many times far better to fill a gap with unrelated experience then to have no experience at all. People will assume things, such as you don’t want to work, people don’t want you to work for them, or even worse, you were in prison.

      Until I know your experience and goals, I cannot determine the best format or answer for your unique situtaion. You may want to speak to and engage an expert to help you determine which experience to include and the best format to display that experience.

  7. Note, as the author of this article and an expert in this field, I disagree with the statements by Keith and Mark. See below for my explanation.

    The purpose of a resume is to get a job applicant an interview. These days, 2 ways are used to screen candidates and resumes. The first is Applicant Tracking Systems – where all resumes (including those directly emailed to companies) are uploaded, read for word content, parsed and matched to keywords from job announcements (or to words entered by the recruiter/hiring manager). Only those resumes that have a good keyword match are selected for further review by the hiring manager for reading. If a resume cannot be read by the Applicant Tracking Systems, it will be rejected. Based on my expert knowledge – many Applicant Tracking Systems can only read Text or Word files without tables reliably.

    The second method being used these days for recruiters and hiring managers to find candidates is “sourcing” candidates by searching online resumes for possible matches using keywords. Again, if a resume words cannot be read by search engines, a person will not be selected.

    Therefore, the use of JPG and PDF files should be discouraged. Applicant Tracking Systems CANNOT read JPG files at all – and if a person uses a JPG file for their resume – their resume will not even be seen by the hiring manager. In addition, many older Applicant Tracking Systems also cannot read PDF files, and if an applicant submits a PDF that is not readable, it will also be rejected, and the applicant, even if qualified, will not be selected.

    This is why I recommend using simple formats for Word files – with standard fonts, no tables and margins of at least 0.6 inches – so they will print on all printers and not be rearranged. It is better to have a slightly “not as good looking” resume if a person has a really strange version of Word – then to have a resume not readable by the systems used automatically (even if you send a resume to a contact) for finding candidates.

    If you want a fancy resume on a website, using PDF as a format is far preferable to JPG, since PDF files can be searched for words by search engines. However, if you use JPG files on a website – they will not be searchable – since JPG does not allow characters to be read by search engines. As noted above, a major purpose of posting a resume online for an applicant to be found by hiring managers and recruiters conducting online searches. If there is no text for a search engine to crawl (as is the case for JPG files), the candidate will not be found.

  8. Keith that is great point, when we have students turn in resumes we always recommend they are turned in as PDF. Especially because sometimes Macs and PCs will upload/download the resume in a crazy format if it is in Word.

  9. I don’t think that’s a good idea. In fact I make it a point to include my resume as PDF rather than word, it’s a lot better that way. You can never trust Word. The best is also an online resume, or even JPGs.

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