By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

After many years of reviewing resumes, I can easily spot the ones that are in need of a makeover. Sometimes there might be a knee-jerk reaction when drafting a resume to add everything but the kitchen sink in terms of design elements, including bolded, italicized or underlined words, fancy borders, brand icons, columns and more.

The golden rule I tend to share with students? Less is more when creating a resume. Practicing this rule will allow your resume to exude a strong sense of aesthetics, which in turn will hook the employer and entice them to continue reading.

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Greedy Margins: Margins that are less than .8 tend to make a resume look too dense with content. I recommend that you stay between .8 and 1.0-inch margins.

Itty Bitty Font Size: Back away from font sizes 8 or 9. Small fonts make it harder for employers to read your credentials, and may distract them. Rather, try to keep fonts between 10-12 to ensure clarity and ease for the reader.

Triple Threat – Bolding, Underlining, and Italicizing: Choose one of these accents to highlight titles or organizations, but not all three. Using a mixture of all three will compete with the content.

Borders Blasts: Avoid adding extra lines and boxes if you’re going to include a border. Keep in mind that borders tend to mash the text like a portrait in the center of the page. Always consider if a border or box will complement the text or compete with it.

Bullets for Days: Remember to make thoughtful editing choices; you do not need several bulleted accomplishment statements, only a few that you are proud of and that will impress or intrigue an employer. Try not to use other icons as bullets, including an asterisk.

Icons and Images: Consider adding any branding or imagery within a portfolio rather than a resume. You have much more creative license for a portfolio to share imagery and other artifacts.

Dreaded Paragraphs: Remember the under 30-second rule! Readers are spending little time on an initial review, and heavy paragraphs might slow down the process; sticking with a concise yet comprehensive bulleted format looks cleaner and is more digestible.

Typically, readers take an initial glance at resumes for 10-30 seconds. If the aesthetic is a bit of a fashion faux pas then the reader is less likely to review the content. Aesthetic is the first point of contact for the reader. If you want to make a good first impression, you need to be intentional about design editing choices.

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There are many design elements a student can consider when crafting a resume. However, it’s important to choose elements that will best complement and highlight the content. Below is a mini checklist to help you choose the design elements for certain sections of a resume:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.35.57 AM Contact Information

  • Pay attention to font type and size! Consider a larger font that isn’t distracting
  • Classic black is fine, but you might consider an accent color to give some content a lift
  • Use fewer lines for your contact information to create a clean look and to save space

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.35.57 AM Categories

  • Make sure the format is consistent throughout; Each section should be organized, and spacing and alignment should be consistent
  • Remember to avoid being wordy with long category titles; titles should be concrete and clear

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.35.57 AM Experience

  • Remember, density weighs on aesthetics; shoot for 4-5 bullets (more or less) depending on the weight of experience and relevancy
  • Having multiple sentences in a single bulleted statement could look dense. Try to keep most bulleted statements to one line, and avoid paragraphs

My advice to you when sprucing up your resume?

A little perfume goes along way. Resume development is certainly an art, not a science. What might seem pleasing to one reader might be a little different to another. However, when trying to stand out from the crowd, it’s important to keep in mind that less is more. Always ask yourself if your document is easy to read, highlights what should stand out, and is professional looking. Remember, you want to stand out in a good way and ensure that the reader takes a deeper dive to find out how strong you really are as a candidate!


Need help with your resume? The Career Center offers many resources including walk-in resume critiques and online resources. Visit the Career Center website to learn more.