Managing Your Résumé's "Visual Rhetoric": Small Improvements That Can Have a Big Impact
Every jobseeker knows that a high-quality résumé is one of the most important components of a successful search for employment. Thousands of books and articles have already written describing the basic types, styles, and formats of résumés.
In fact, if you've recently launched a job search or you're planning to kick one off in the near future, chances are good that you've already spent hours tweaking and honing your own résumé to perfection. You've probably got all of the major ingredients and elements in place. But now that that's out of the way, it may be time to put some thought into the little things that can make or break a résumé.
Although HR staff and hiring managers are trained to be objective, ultimately, they're human, too. Just like the rest of us, they can be attracted to or turned off by seemingly insignificant things. For this reason, maximizing the aesthetic appeal of your résumé is very important. Even if you have lots of relevant experience or education you have, your résumé may still be destined for the trash if it's unattractive and unprofessional-looking. Here are some tips to help you boost your résumé's visual appeal.
Try to Look at Your Résumé With the Critical Eyes of a Stranger.
After spending so much time perfecting the wording and layout, it can be hard to judge the look of your résumé accurately. Try to view it as if you were seeing it for the first time. Is it attractive? Does anything stick out? Does it look professional? If you're still unsure, ask a few friends to take a look and give you their feedback.
Invest in Top-Quality Stationery.
If you are going to be mailing any hard-copy résumés, high-quality paper that will convey a strong message of professionalism is a must. Steer clear of busy prints or distracting background patterns. A classic, elegant white or ivory in a 16 to 48 lb. weight is a timeless choice that will get your résumé noticed in all the right ways.
Select a Standard Font.
Lettering that is too decorative will stand out as unprofessional. Instead, opt for a classic selection that scales well with the amount of text on the page. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to stick with Times New Roman, but opt for another streamlined, straightforward font -- and keep it consistent throughout the entire document.
Strike the Right Balance Between White Space and Text.
No matter which type of résumé format you've selected, make sure the text is distributed fairly evenly over the entire page. If there's too much text, readers may be put off and confused. If there's too much empty space on the page, it may appear that you're a bit lacking in the experience department.
Try to Keep it To One Page -- But Don't Fret if You Can't.
In terms of visual impact, it doesn't get much better than a single-page résumé that has been optimized for visual appeal. If at all possible, limit your résumé to the front and back of one sheet of paper. However, if you have a great deal of relevant experience that needs to be detailed, don't worry about the one-page rule. Still, a lean, streamlined résumé with as little excess "fat" as possible should always be your goal.
When it comes to résumés, looks do matter. Although the hiring decision will likely hinge on many different variables, having an attractive, visually appealing résumé can go a long way towards helping you get your foot in the door. It's well worth the investment of the few hours it will take to polish and refine your résumé's appearance before you kick off your job search.
Used prudently, email can be a great tool for job seekers. Just remember that each email you send is likely to be scrutinized as rigorously as your résumé, so take pains to keep your correspondence as professional as possible.