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Six common resume formatting mistakes – and ways to avoid them

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The most important factor in an interview-winning resume is obviously the content, but that doesn’t mean that job seekers should eschew proper formatting. If your resume is not well-organized, it will be more difficult for recruiters & hiring managers to easily review it and extract the critical information necessary to make a decision. Put differently, if you make wise formatting choices, the focus will be on the content—which is where it should be.

Here are 6 common formatting errors that job seekers should avoid:

Headers & footers – Headers are particularly useful for giving you extra space on the first page of your resume for your contact information. Unfortunately, they can also confound applicant tracking systems (ATS), which many, if not most, employers use today to manage the volume of applicants. If you’re primarily applying for jobs online, you may consider whether it is wise to use a header or footer.

Font selections & sizes – Selecting the right font can make the difference between giving your resume a more modern appearance and making your resume appear dated. Also, the font size is important. Sizes 11 or 12 are preferable, but font sizes smaller than 10 should be avoided, as the document simply becomes too difficult to read when smaller fonts are used.

Bullets – Bullets are great for highlighting the things that you want recruiters to notice. But, when every item on your resume is bulleted, they have the opposite effect. Use bullets primarily to highlight accomplishments

Tables & multiple columns – Tables and columns provide a great way to organize information neatly. Unfortunately, much like headers & footers, applicant tracking systems don’t handle table,s or multi-column formats well—many will reject the formatting entirely. If you are applying for jobs online, it is best to avoid them.

Bold & italics – Like bullets, bold and italics are useful to add emphasis. When overused, however, they make the resume more difficult to read. Consider using bold and/or italics only for specific items on your resume, such as section headings, job or company titles or employment dates.

Clinging to the ‘one page’ myth – This is really a mentality mistake that manifests itself as a formatting error—the result is often a resume with either margins that are too thin or too much information packed into one page. The idea that your resume can’t be longer than one page is an antiquated idea that is simply no longer true for anyone other than recent grads and/or new entrants to the workforce. If you are a working professional with 5 or more years of experience, it is OK—even expected—that your resume is two pages. That said, there are very few circumstances, however, where it is ok for your resume to exceed two pages.

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