How to Write a Resume – Step No. 4 – Design to Inspire

Most published resume writing advice is focused on content. In this 4th post in my ‘How to Write a Resume’ series, I want to get you to focus on something I think is every bit as important – resume design.

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it:

Have you ever been to the website of someone you consider an expert and found an ugly, outdated, template-based site that looks like the expert’s 12-year-old nephew designed it on a rainy weekend? Whenever that happens to me, I instantly think less of that person’s expertise. The bad design screams ‘out of date’ to me. If their web design is so outdated, what am I to make of their advice?

First impressions count. We all know that. You wouldn’t go to a job interview in a t-shirt and sweatpants, so don’t send a resume that is badly laid out. It makes exactly the same impression.

Design with the strategy in mind:

But there’s another aspect to a well-designed resume and that goes back to what I discussed in my last post – strategy.

If you’ve followed my steps. You have developed a strategy for your resume. You know your value proposition and you have decided on content that will help you communicate that value proposition. This is where design comes in – now you must choose a resume design that reinforces your strategy.

If you’ve decided that the most important thing employers need to know is that you have developed successful brands for leading Fortune 500 packaged goods companies, then perhaps you should create a bold headline that communicates exactly that fact. You might also choose to bold the names of the Fortune 500 companies whenever they appear throughout your resume.

If a sales rep decides that his consistent ability to increase sales is his value proposition, then he should make sure that sales numbers jump off the page all the way through the resume. That can be done with selective bolding or colors and lots of white space. (White space is key to making sure that key information is visible).

Content is not king:

When it comes to resume writing, content is only one piece of the puzzle. The best content in the world won’t work if people can’t read it easily, or if the information is bunched up on the page so that they don’t even see the most important facts.

Writing a great resume is a challenge. Balancing design and content, knowing exactly what to include and what to leave out, targeting every word to your selected audience … all these are tricky. But when you get it right, the rewards come in the form of phone calls and interviews. It’s worth spending some time to get to that point!

Louise Fletcher co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. She admits to being a ‘wordnerd’ at heart and loves to write. She developed the Blue Sky resume approach, has written two books, and has been a featured expert for sites such as Monster, The Ladders, and HR Guru. 

Don’t miss the other steps of this series: 1 – Feel the Employer’s Pain, 2 – Know Your Value, 3 – Strategy Wins the Battle.

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