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Professional Resume Design Advice That No One Else Tells You

The Art of Resume’s quick dos and don’ts for the busy job-seeker. 

by Alyssa Daniells, Toronto, Ontario.

You’ve probably heard of the Clint Eastwood classic, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.”

We admit, we’ve never watched the film ourselves, but when it comes to professional resumes, we’ve definitely seen it all. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
Whether it’s an entry-level or executive resume, we’ve learned no one is immune to falling into the latter two categories. As for the good resumes, well, they could still be better.

Writing and Editing Your Resume CV

But what benefit is our experience looking at a bazillion (very rough estimate) resumes if we don’t help you avoid common resume errors? Even with common sense, crucial design or content elements are often overlooked by savvy job-seekers.

A simple Google search can uncover a dizzying amount of resume “dos and don’ts” that take as long to read as writing a cover letter, so that’s why we want to make this easy for you!

Here is The Art of Resume’s Top 5 List of Dos and Don’ts, based on real-life observations:

1. ‘Weed’ rather not know certain personal habits

men laughing a resume cv template - make sure your resume email is professional

We’ve reviewed good resumes that could still end up in the paper shredder just because they failed to notice a small, but revealing, detail. For example, a young Canadian client’s resume cited his email address as, let’s just say, clientname420@domainname.com. An otherwise impressive CV, his personal email could have been a deal-breaker for a potential employer. Although cannabis is legal in Canada and this 420 numeric seems benign, as a pot-smoking reference it could be perceived poorly by any manager hiring for a 9 to 5 (or beyond!) position.

Takeaways:

DO use a professional email address that you check often, and be sure to send your CV from the same address if you are emailing it directly and not through an online portal. Ensure your contact information is up to date and easy to find at the top of your resume. Since many of us don’t want to send a resume from our current employer’s email domain, simply create a free Gmail address used solely for job search purposes. Plus you can avoid the old “wham, bam, thank you Spam” in a crowded inbox!

N.B.: this also means having a professional-sounding outgoing message on your voicemail. That’s right, lose the fake “Hello? (Long pause) Just kidding, you’ve reached my voicemail” routine. That hasn’t been funny since the ‘90s.

DON’T use an email you don’t check often or an address that could be misconstrued as anything but professional. Otherwise, you could see your job prospects blow up in ‘smoke’.

2. Manipulating space & time

Developing your resume and on a computer

No, this isn’t for candidates seeking a career in science fiction. One-pager resumes are increasingly becoming the norm, but what if you have a wealth of work experience? Don’t try using a smaller font or wider margins to squeeze it all into a single modern resume template, use two pages.

Takeaways:

DO use the current resume template conventions to stand out and look up-to-date. The Art of Resume has multi-page templates as well as advice on how to trim or beef up a curriculum vitae.

DON’T try to conform your text to one page if more is needed to convey your relevant experience. Perhaps you didn’t realize that a list of references is now considered dated, so be sure to cut out those unnecessary details to get your resume noticed, in a good way.

3. Get the name right, for Pete’s sake! (Or is that Peete?)

Woman editing resume cv template design on computer

We already acknowledged your common sense, which means if you’re not using The Art of Resume’s eagle editing eyes, you’ve at least performed a spell check on your CV. Unfortunately, these grammar programs aren’t necessarily adept at catching name typos. Put yourself in an HR person’s shoes -- if they have to sift through dozens of resumes, you can be sure one that bears the simple error of a misspelt name will be binned first.

Takeaways:

DO triple-check the correct spelling of the contact person’s name. A quick LinkedIn search should do the trick. This also includes matching appropriate pronouns to the name. When in doubt, leave the pronoun out.

DON’T well, do we really need to ‘spell’ it out for you? Make sure there are no mistakes, especially in the first part of the process-- addressing and impressing the hiring manager.

4. Allow For Constructive Criticism

Allow for constructive criticism on your resume cv - woman editing resume

We can be our own worst critics, which is often why it takes us so long to start the resume writing process. The irony, of course, is that we know ourselves best, so writing about ourselves should be easy, right? Not so much. Firstly, go easy on yourself and be proud you are taking a career step forward. Secondly, once you are pleased with your final draft, ask a professional friend or mentor to review it and provide a constructive critique.

Takeaways:

DO be open-minded to suggestions, and choose who you show wisely. If your mother nitpicks you in everyday life, but her English grammar is on point, then preface your editing request with something like, “I’d love your eyes on this, but could you please strictly keep criticisms to the writing itself?” (Oh and if she’s coming over in person, fold that pile of laundry, just to be sure.)

DON’T be defensive. After all, you selected the person to perform this task for a good reason. Remember they want to help and encourage you, and if you get angry at constructive suggestions, you are only hurting yourself and career chances.

5. Fond of Fonts

Choosing the right font for your resume and cv template - Keyboard close-up

Fonts convey a lot more than we may realize. The design, look and feel of a resume is what catches a reader’s attention before one even delves into the content of your CV and cover letter. Okay, so there are the obvious don’ts -- like, don’t use Comic Sans unless you are applying to be a circus clown (and even then, we suspect their resume game is better than that) but when in doubt, go for simplicity and legibility.

DO use clean, modern, easy to read fonts. The Art of Resume only uses typography that bears these descriptors, with proven resume designs that attract employers.

DON’T choose complicated or conventional (read: overused) fonts. If you’re insisting on Times New Roman for a creative start-up, please reconsider. And if you’re not sure, just ask us!

This might be the end of the blog, but think of this as a conversation starter! We want you to land your dream job by creating a resume that stands out to potential employers. 

Let The Art of Resume create your perfect, professional resume design. Contact us at -- theartofresume@gmail.com

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