The Job Search: Writing a Better Resume (Part 1)

Jonathan JenkinsBy Jonathan Jenkins4 Minutes

In the middle of a job search, writing your resume can seem like the most complicated assignment of your life. At the same time, it is at once both a small part of the application process and the pillar upon which your success can often rest. However, writing a good resume isn’t an impossible task. Once you understand what an employer wants to see, you can create something that will show the best side of who you really are.

One of the biggest struggles is how to format a resume. There are many opinions online and numerous templates available, but not all are effective at actually getting your profile into the hands of recruiters. Here are three basic design principles that will help you get started:


The best resumes are often the simplest. While those fancier templates may look nice in-hand, online application systems have a hard time pulling the content out of them. That difficulty can negatively impact your chances of being seen during the application process. Remember, a resume’s purpose is to showcase your experience and qualifications for the job, not to simply look nice. If your current template makes it more difficult to find that information in any way, I suggest finding a simpler one.


When it comes to resumes, font choice is a relatively standardized process. Many people recommend using a Sans Serif font, one lacking the flourish on the ends of each letter, for titles and section divisions while using a Serif font, one with the extra flourish, to make reading the longer body text easier. Most professionals also suggest using fonts between 11 pt. and 13pt. in size depending on the style.

Use only one or two fonts to keep your style simple. Too many fonts can make your layout confusing, but a couple of distinct fonts will keep it clean and professional.


Spacing is vital to creating a readable resume. Recruiters only have a short amount of time to skim over most applications, so if one is too dense to effectively read it can easily be skipped for the sake of time. Regardless of the amount of content, the easiest way to increase readability is to focus on white space.

White space, or negative space, is the blank area around your text. If you have too much white space, your resume can look empty and void of substantial content. If you have too little whitespace, it can look overwhelmingly dense and becomes difficult to read.

White space is a balance that must be determined on a case-by-case basis, so there is no one solution to creating the perfect amount of spacing. However, there are ways to test for readability. Experts suggest having a friend take a 30 second look at the completed resume to see what they can glean from it. If you find that there is so much densely-packed information that they can’t remember any specifics, then you may need to trim down your content and add in some white space. Even if you can’t include every detail you want to show, getting someone to actually read your resume is far more important.

While resume writing has specific boundaries that are agreed upon by most experts, there is still room for creativity. Focus on working within those bounds to create something unique that can be easily read by anyone who sees it. With clarity of design and intent, you may find your resume ends up being on the top of the application pile more often than you might expect.