3 Rules for Perfectly Practical Resume Design

resumes-right-thing1I love designing a resume as much as I enjoy writing them.

After all… a well-thought out design only makes great content that much better. And of course the opposite also holds true:  ineffective presentation detracts from the quality of the content, and negatively impacts how well it’s received.

Today, I share practical insights into the principles of effective resume design and presentation tactics that I incorporate into my work, and that you can adapt to your own process for designing eye-catching, storytelling resumes that stand out from the crowd of blah.

Let’s examine three resume writing rules and their impact:

Rule 1: Seek to Set the Reader at Ease

Our capacity for learning is linked with our emotional state. Create a favorable path for your message by setting your user at ease.

This idea examines the behavior of the “users” who are reading your document, your web page, or anything else. It states that your audience will naturally gravitate toward familiar and easily accessible information in preference to sources that require greater effort. So think about this in the context of readability and scan-ability. Is the information laid out on a page in a way that encourages your audience to scan through it easily, or are they likely to be deterred by big blocks of text, lengthy bulleted sections, or distracting formatting elements or justification?

E. St. Elmo Lewis, a pioneer of American Advertising, supports this idea in saying, “The organization of content directly affects our ability to receive a message. If the information appears jumbled and overwhelming, viewers will disconnect.”

Rule 2: Avoid Information Overload

Information overload will affect a reader’s ability to process and understand information due to the overwhelming amount of data available.

Information overload leaves us unable to determine which information and relevant and credible, and in the case of a resume, cramming too much information can limit your chances of fair consideration by clouding your core message. In addition, it’s equally important to make sure you’re including only the most relevant information, versus bloating your job descriptions and summary statements with everything you’ve ever done.

For example: if you’re going for an Art Direction position and your current role also has you wearing a lot of hats, it might make sense to leave out the part about being the interim office manager so as not to detract from your key qualifying points.

Rule 3: Don’t Decorate… Design

We try too hard to impress with artificial design elements… let the content tell your story.

As I’ve always said, resumes (and their cover letter, bio, social media, and LinkedIn counterparts) are content driven, not design driven. Snazzy design will never make up for poor, unconvincing content. Keep the design of your resume simple when incorporating visual elements or formatting aspects. Focus on clarity by doing the minimum necessary to convey each idea. That’s not to say you can’t experiment with different fonts, layouts, or even text colors. But If it doesn’t serve a communication function, leave it out.

What I love about applying the concepts of information design to the resume process, besides that few people think to do it, is that these are tried and true methods from experts on communication, knowledge exchange, and how we as humans interpret information through design.

Most important: these are also concepts that can make or break the effectiveness of your resume… and your ability to secure those job interviews!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studios!




Dana-LeavyAbout the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses, through career transition coaching and business consulting for creative professionals and entrepreneurs.

Dana has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design and other industries execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities, and her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay, CareerBuilder.com, GlassDoor and About.com. Follow Dana on Twitter!



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