Tips and tricks for a clean resume

How to make your resume clear and legible
Helen Xu/Senior Staff

Searching “how to write a resume” on Google turns up hundreds of millions of answers, but slogging through every single link will produce similar results.

While it’s easier to find lists of standard resume formats and buzzwords online, there are a few small features that can make or break a resume. Design elements, such as the resume’s spacing and font choices, can make even the bleakest experience list seem sleek and job-ready.

Here are some tips to make your resume look smart and professional for the career fair. 

Introduction (or who you are)

Just below your contact information header should be your introduction. This is where you tell your potential employer everything that you want them to know about you as an applicant. That being said, what you include in the introduction is contingent on what you want your employer to focus on.

If you don’t have a lot of outstanding achievements, it might be best to focus on your career goals. Let’s say you are applying to be a news radio host at a local station. If you don’t have a lot of experience in the field or you don’t have many achievements, then it would be a good idea to note what you want out of the position. Start with the phrase “Seeking to…” and expand upon what you want out of the position.

On the flip side, if you’ve been working in the field for a few years and have racked up some notable awards, then you should write your intro to highlight your accomplishments. Jotting down a small, unfinished-sentence of the years of experience that you’ve had and the types of positions you’ve held will showcase your broad spectrum of useful knowledge.

Contact information (or how they can find you)

Your contact information should be at the very top of your resume. This may seem obvious, but it also begs the question of what kind of contact information you should provide. Of course, your name should be at the top, in the largest font on the page. After your name, you should list a professional email address, a permanent postal address and a phone number — ways through which a company can contact you. 

Considering the importance of digitalization in the modern era, another good tidbit of advice for the contact information area would be to link to your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is almost like a resume with no maximum on how much information you can provide — it’s a place where all of your experience in every field can be consolidated — thus directing hiring officials to more information about you.

Be mindful of what contact information you provide, though. While including your LinkedIn profile link is be a good idea, it’s definitely not recommended that you put any other social media links in your contact section. 

In terms of design, too, the contact information is a great part to embolden with color. Picking an accent color for your resume and using the color in the header to highlight your contact information and name is a great way to make sure that the most important information — your identity — stands out. 

Organization (or how it looks)

A clean, approachable resume is the first step to eventually being hired — your potential employers need to be able to read your resume. Some things to focus on are spacing, font size, font weight and how the different sections are arranged.

One important feature is spacing, specifically utilizing the page’s negative space to group things together. If you have a section labeled “Work Experience,” then you want to keep the things in that section closer together to make sure that it’s clear that any bullet points are indeed work experience. For the same reason, you should add spaces between different sections of your resume. 

Regarding organization, a two-column set-up works well to separate the more pertinent information from the necessary information. Having a thicker central column in which you can emphasize your topical work experience helps to separate the more important details from other, less significant information that must be included in a resume, such as your education.

Syntax (or how it’s written)

It might be tempting to use full sentences, but brevity is of the essence. You want a hiring agent to be able to quickly scan your resume and understand what your skillset is in as few words as possible.

This pertains mostly to the bits of information you provide on your various work experiences. You should jot down a few bullet points, maybe three, about each of your listed positions. These notes shouldn’t be too comprehensive, though — a quick tidbit like “wrote one 800-word article per week” will give context to the positions you held.

Content (or what to include)

If this resume is for your first job, chances are that you don’t have enough experience to warrant multiple pages of work experience. The point of a resume is to provide your employer with a quick fact sheet of things that might help you get the position you want, so peppering your resume with a lot of information would defeat the purpose of a “quick fact sheet.”

Part of this has to do with how things are worded, but another large part has to do with the content. Look at all of your past work experience and ask yourself what might be useful in the position you want. To continue using our journalism metaphor, it might be more pertinent to include a summer internship at a news radio station rather than experience in babysitting. 

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t include babysitting experience. If your problem is less about truncation and more about filling the page, then include as much work experience as you need to fill the page nicely, but give priority to positions that are more topical. 

Contact Sakura Cannestra at[email protected].