Five Easy Steps to Executive Resume Readability
Sometimes, people write things they don’t really want others to read. The fine print that flashes by other commercial. That long text at the end of the credits on every “The Big Bang Theory” episode. The note you passed to your best friend in sixth grade.
But not your resume. If your resume is not readable, nobody will try to read it no matter how amazing your experience may be. Here are five easy steps you can take to ensure that your resume is readable, presentable, and sending the message you, as an executive, need to send to your future hiring leader.
- Use the right typeface. Whether you call it typeface or font, be sure to use a style and size that is easy to read. My personal favorites are Times New Roman and Arial, as they are universal to every computer. Second bests are Calibri and Cambria, Tahoma, Verdana, and Century, all in 11-point type. You may also try Arial Narrow or Garamond, but do not use either one of these in a size smaller than 11 points. While you don’t have to make your resume scream in the style of John Hancock, you do want to ensure that the typeface you have picked is more or less universally available and in a size that an ordinary person would consider large enough to read. It should go without saying that typefaces with scrollwork or shadows are better suited to documents that are not professionally oriented.
- Use horizontal rules and shading appropriately. Feel free to break up your text with horizontal rules and highlight important pieces of data with tasteful shading. Good color choices are gray, green, tan, and blue. I tend to stay away from red, as percentages of red come out pink, which I don’t like on professional documents. Of course, you will need to evaluate your specific industry and the expectations of your future hiring manager to determine how design-heavy you want to be. If you are applying for a marketing directorship or design a leadership role, you may be expected to present a resume that is heavy on design. On the other hand, if you are applying to be a bank executive or a financial leader, more plain may tend to be better for your specific outcomes.
- Use the right margin size. Although there are many ways to present resume date up well, a good rule of thumb is to decrease your margins from the standard 1-inch level to .5 inch to .65 inch. The benefit is you will have more page real estate to use, and your resume won’t look like it was styled after a college paper.
- Use page numbers and headers for page 2 and beyond. I agree, that headers take up space, but it would be tragic for one of your two-or three-page resume to go missing from the stack without a marker to tell its reader with which candidate it belongs. You can feel pretty confident that a busy professional with a stack of resumes to read won’t take the time to sort out which paper belongs with which candidate, so please make it easy for that person to solve this potential problem.
- Standard resumes for executives do not exceed three pages. You may find a one-page resume or executive biography suffices for a particular purpose. Most professionals typically need two pages to do justice to their entire career history. And many executives often find their resumes go on to three pages, which at that level, it’s perfectly acceptable. It is not a good choice to exceed the three-page limit for the basic information of your career history. If your resume is too long, your reader simply won’t read to the end. Take advantage of your resume real estate in the most effective way possible, and be concise about your accomplishments. If you have additional information you want to present, for example a list of publications, presentations, or volunteer leadership roles, then please do include a separate document with a separate heading as an addendum. But the rule of thumb of one to three pages overall is a good one to follow.
In conclusion, readability of the resume document itself can be as important as its contents. It is possible that a hiring manager might find your resume hard to read and put it aside simply because it doesn’t match the expectations for usability. Do not be one of those whose resume is consigned to the trash simply because you didn’t consider the documents overall readability and design.
Learn why your executive resume isn’t making the cut: Top 5 Resume Mistakes That Say “Don’t Hire Me”