Résumé Formatting

Consistent formatting in résumés means that the information that you present for a particular category is arranged so that the reader can easily find similar information in similar places on the document. Typically, this means maintaining consistent alignment, white space, and font in your formatting, which can be difficult if you are unfamiliar with word processing softwares or you are proceeding with your résumé without attention to document design.

How can I tell if my formatting is inconsistent?

Your formatting on your résumé will likely be inconsistent if you have not thought about the structure of your document. Oftentimes, this issue can result from the fact that you are unfamiliar with résumés as a genre, and therefore have not thought about what kind of information needs to be presented. In fact, if this is your case, it is likely that you have inconsistent formatting and need to revise your résumé organization.

Another pitfall for résumé organization is using the Tab key or, worse, the spacebar, to attempt to separate elements in your document. Designing your résumé in this way is likely to lead to headaches and ultimately, a confusing, ineffective résumé.

How can I format my résumé consistently?

There are two different word processing functions that can assist you in formatting your résumé.

The first is by using the Styles function in Microsoft Word:

Styles function in Microsoft Word

The styles function can help you organize your résumé visually by maintaining a similar style for similar information. For instance, you would select one style that was used for major headings (e.g. Heading 1), and another for subheadings (e.g. Heading 2). Once you get to bulleted lists, like those used for job descriptions, you would use the bullet function to maintain equal indentation.

The second function that can help you format your information consistently is the Tables function. Tables can ensure that your alignment remains consistent and can help you more so than styles in formatting your résumé vertically. It can also be more useful if you have some aesthetic preferences for font and emphasis choices. Be careful, though–you should use no more than three tables per résumé to ensure that your information is clear.

In order to use tables, first select the table size that you need. To build in white space, you might want to add an additional column to the table, as shown in the examples below. Make sure that you put similar information, such as school names or dates, in the same place on the document.

Table function in Microsoft Word
Table function in Microsoft Word