QUESTION: In designing and formatting my resume: Are there rules for margin size, for fonts and font size? Can I use lines, text boxes, and/or columns?
Margins should be equal, .5″-1″ all around. Stick with mainstream fonts (not Times Roman); size depends on font; for example, body text Calibri 11 pt. or Tahoma 9 pt. Graphic lines are encouraged as is a touch of color. Text boxes or columns can interfere with ATS. Quick test: save your resume as “plain text” and then re-open it – what you see is how ATS will most likely interpret your document.
There are formatting rules if you want your resume to be read–and scored well–by online applicant tracking software (ATS) systems. Margins should be no smaller than 1/2 inch, a sans serif font (like Calibri) is modern and easy-to-read, and font size should be no smaller than 10 pt. Text boxes and columns are not recommended for novices; ATS systems are finicky about many design elements.
“For best results, sans-serif fonts such as Calibri in 10.5 to 11, are easiest to read. Use moderate margins and break up your writing with white space to rest the eye. Don’t overdesign! ATS systems don’t “see” graphics and charts. Anything inside a text box disappears. Text in columns may get scrambled. Add a pop of color for interest. Dazzle your reader with content, not window dressing!”
There’s no right way to write a resume but there are best practices. For example, moderate margins so there’s plenty of white space, sans serif font is easier to read on the computer, and font size that is legible like size 11 for Calibri. Underlines, bold, bullets, shadows, and border formatting are no issue with today’s ATS, but text boxes and columns can be an issue so use them sparingly.
A resume should be readable by people of all ages; formatted so it can be skimmed quickly; and contain enough white space for a person to write brief notes. Yes, you can use bold, italics, and underlines. You can even use border lines. Text boxes will be ignored by ATS. Because ATS differ in how they process columns; it’s better to not use them or work with a professional resume-writer.
If you’re going to follow one “rule” it’s this: Keep it simple and easy to read. That means lots of white space, decent size sans serif fonts, and clearly separated sections (e.g. experience, education, tech skills). You can use lines, borders, columns, and color, but avoid putting important information in text boxes or graphics because ATS will not read them..
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