What Hiring Managers Really Think Your Résumé Should Look Like

That big interview is coming up and we want you to be as ready for it as you possibly can. Thanks to our friends at Levo League, here are some tips directly from hiring managers on what your résumé should look like.


We all know by now that unless you're talking to your grandparents, the ability to use Microsoft Office is not a skill worth mentioning in a job interview. But when it comes to résumés — a vehicle of the job application process that may soon be outdated itself — many antiquated elements persist, especially when it comes to formatting. So what should a résumé actually look like in 2016? We asked the experts.

The Big Picture

Say goodbye to . . .

Among those antiquated elements are some you may already know and a few that will surprise you. First and foremost, every single hiring manager I spoke to confirmed that you need to ditch that space-wasting "objective statement." "Half of the time that component is actually limiting you when you apply to roles," says Kelly Poulson, VP of Talent at Allen & Gerritsen. And you know that line that says, "references available upon request?" No, really? We assumed you would refuse. Get rid of it.

Here's one that might still be lingering on your résumé over a year out of school: your GPA. "Unless you graduated in May, nobody needs to see that you maintained a 3.087 grade point average in college," says Bill Fish, President of Reputation Management. "Frankly it's irrelevant and looks tacky." If you had a 4.0, you can have a grace period of one extra year. Finally, no photos. "Most companies prefer you don't include your picture on your résumé," says Jonathan Ceballos, a hiring manager based in TK. "Mainly because they want to adhere to the Equal Employment Opportunity legislation that prohibits companies from making hiring decisions for discriminatory reasons."

[Related: 9 Things to Remove From Your Résumé Right Now]

Creatives: design matters.

Michelle Robin, award-winning résumé designer and Chief Career Brand Officer at Brand Your Career, gave me some tips she uses to bring her clients' résumés into the 21st century. "A résumé in today's world needs to be focused on the value you bring to an employer, and it needs to show your brand — what is unique about you," she says. For creative fields, that means design matters. "The top third of your résumé needs to tell your story in quick sound bites — think Twitter!" She also encouraged creatives to add a splash of color to their résumés. "This alone will make you stand out from the competition at first glance," she adds. If you are not graphic design-inclined but want your résumé to reflect your creativity, don't try to forge into InDesign and figure it out yourself — get a friend to help or even hire a professional!

[Related: How to Make Your Résumé Stand Out]

Everyone else: keep it simple.

"If you are applying for an in-house graphic designer position, it is nice to have your résumé reflect your creativity while still looking professional," says Ceballos. "For everyone else, I believe a clean and straightforward look goes a long way — something that is pleasing to the eye and appealing to read from beginning to end." Career counselor and executive coach Steve Langerud agrees. "Digital scanning kicks out most design elements and your résumé will never get read," he says. "Simple, simple, simple. Yes, this means boring." As for the age-old "one or two page" debate, Ceballos says that one page is great, but if it looks cluttered, there is no problem with having a two-pager. To get it down to one page, he says, "simplify information on readable columns and cut flowery grammar in favor of clear and concise information telling me exactly who you are."

[Related: How to Make a Concise Résumé]

The Nitty Gritty

Let's get down to the details shall we? For starters, pick a font and stick with it. As a graphic designer myself, I feel confident in urging you — especially if you're sending your résumé digitally — to use a sans-serif font — Calibri at point size 10.5 or 11 is my personal preference. Sans-serif fonts are not only more modern, but easier to read. You'll be able make the text smaller and fit more on the page without it looking crowded. As for all caps and bolding, use them sparingly. "My goal is to hold a paper copy at arm's length, read fewer than 20 highlighted words and know enough about the candidate to want to speak with them or not," says Langerud.

Try a new supplementary format.

"Searching for a job is about so much more than the résumé these days," says Poulson. "We recently asked for candidates to create a Tumblr showing us why they'd be the person for the job. It allowed them to show personality, creativity and leveled the playing field so hiring managers would be more inclined to take a closer look at people who might not have all of the exact experience." Brilliant. Check out who they ended up hiring for a great example of using a new medium to supplement your paper résumé.

And guess how else you can do this without any coding skills whatsoever . . . make a Levo profile already! For inspiration, check out some of our favorites on Levo Front and Center.

[Related: Your Top 6 Résumé Questions Answered]

Make sure a computer can read it too.

If you are a graphic designer or hire someone to format your résumé for you, you're still going to need a boring back-up. Juston D. Smith, Lead Developer at Spectacle Marketing & Design, warns that a fun format can sometimes be disastrous when trying to land your dream job. "Applicants shouldn't forget that an algorithm ultimately decides whose résumé shows up at the top of the hiring manager's list," he says. "I almost learned this the hard way when I applied for an IT position with Amazon a few years ago. My résumé had all the bells and whistles — awesome layout, mini-portfolio, and so on." Luckily, an employee warned him that if he submitted his résumé as it was, the computer would not process the formatting and he would never hear back.

[Related: How Creative You Should Get With Your Résumé]

So sure, bring a modern, beautiful résumé to any in-person appointments and attach that PDF when emailing a person directly, but you need to have another plain version. If you're applying for positions via any electronic systems, you must send a PDF made from Word that is damn near plain text.

But no matter what your résumé looks like, always send a PDF.

[Related: 3 Things We Are ALL Doing Wrong on Our Résumé]

— Kelsey Manning

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