I’ve written many posts about the pitfalls of designed resumes, infographic resumes and other disruptive approaches to getting noticed. What I haven’t talked much about is the flip-side of the coin – a much more pervasive issue... Most applicants are using formats that are outdated, ineffective and boring.
Here’s the truth. Despite all the (bad) advice regarding designed resumes, few people actually even attempt them. The bulk of the resumes that come across my desk – and there are many – employ Word resume templates or some other extremely common and tired format.
Here are some common elements of a tired resume format:
White space – White space is good. However, one of the most common formats that I see uses the entire left side of the page for section headers, leaving just half the page available for actual content. On the opposite extreme, I see a lot of resumes that have almost no white space at all. This is what I call the wall-of-text approach and is very common among more senior professionals.
Objective – This one is simple. Templates that include a spot for an Objective are outdated, even if they were created yesterday.
Columns – The resume should flow like a funnel. Columns disrupt that flow and compromise readability.
Bullets – Bullet points are meant to highlight key information. If everything on the resume is bulleted, nothing is being highlighted. If the resume has no bullets, it is also very likely that nothing is being highlighted.
Lack of visual interest – Straightforward. Minimalist. These are the words often used to describe the approach that I see the most – a resume that is devoid of any visual interest. You can add in some interesting formatting conventions without compromising professionalism or a clean look.
The most effective format is one that enhances readability and complements the content, allowing the power of your accomplishments to set you apart from other candidates.