Revamping Your Resume, Part 3: Looks Matter

Shallow as it may sound, the overall look and layout of your resume are important pieces of the initial impression it will make with admissions officers and interviewers. If your resume looks exactly like the last four your reader has seen, she may be feeling bored before she reads a word – not the lens through which you want someone reading about your work and accomplishments.

On the positive side, you have an opportunity to set yourself apart from the first glance and to showcase your polish and creativity. We also find that starting the resume revision process with a redesign can be an energizing first step; it’s easier to sit down to do a line-by-line edit when you feel excited about how the finished product will look. What follows are some design guidelines to get your resume out of the doldrums.

First, if you’ve been using a template without much modification, you’ll want to make come significant changes to make it your own. Templates serve as a nice structured starting point when one is first drafting a resume, but they can also become constraining. Many resume writers don’t realize how much freedom they have in categorizing and placing content on the page. Conducting a quick Google image search for “resume design” serves to illustrate this, and may provide some inspiration. Don’t be intimidated; the admissions committee won’t be expecting a graphic designer caliber layout (unless, of course, you’re a graphic designer). The goal is simply to get some ideas and see how they might translate to your resume. Even something like right-justifying your name and contact information may be outside the box for applicants to business school, so the stakes are fairly low here.

Using two different fonts—a sans-serif font for headings and a serif font for body text—is an increasingly popular and easy to implement resume design convention. It may take some trial and error to arrive at a combination that’s visually harmonious; we recommend seeking out examples and expert opinions if you’re eye is untrained in this area. Done well, though, this could further differentiate your resume from that of others using a similar layout or template.

Finally, be smart about space. You do want some white space in the body of the document to create some breathing room, otherwise your resume will appear crowded and unapproachable. Meanwhile, you want to avoid designs that contain so much white space that there’s no room for content.

Happy designing!

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