Functionality. Most people think this is the golden rule of resumes. But guess what, ladies and gentlemen? This may or may not come as a shock—judging by the current state of our government, waka waka—but we don’t actually live in a world where functionality is king.
No, we live in a world of skinny mocha lattes. And plastic surgery. And spray tanning. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I watched Jersey Shore, right along with five million other Americans.) The mere existence of these things suggests that most people today do, in fact, judge a book by its cover. And by extension, that means most potential employers will see your resume’s appearance as a reflection of your overall attractiveness. As a job candidate, that is.
Here are a few examples of resumes which, while functional, may underwhelm at arm’s length.
#1 – This resume is textually un-attractive:
#2 – This resume is CLEARLY balding:
#3 – This resume is top-heavy, and (dare I say it?) a little bit “chunky”:
So. Now that I’ve rather snidely mocked a bunch of peoples’ perfectly functional resumes, I’m going to teach you a very SIMPLE method that has the power to take your resume from ho-hum to ka-pow!
I call this The Yard Test:
Step 1: Print out the current version of your resume. (Don’t have a resume? SHAME ON YOU. Go now and read the entire archives of this site. Then write a resume. Then print it. Then come back here. I’ll wait.)
Step 2: Take your resume and hold it out at arm’s length. (For most people, this will put the resume about a yard away from the face. I imagine that this is the approximate distance between a prospective employer’s eyeballs and the surface of their desk, upon which your resume will soon be resting.)
Step 3: Assess and critique your resume as objectively as you can, PURELY on the grounds of visual attractiveness.
- TEXT/FONT: Does your choice of text strike a professional, yet elegant chord? (If yes, good job!) Are you mostly using a universally accepted font, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, or Calibri? (Okay, nice. Nice.) Are you using MORE THAN TWO fonts? (If so, give yourself a light slap on the wrist, and go back and pick two complimentary fonts. Two is the MAXIMUM number of fonts you should use on a resume, and the number of your fonts shall be less than two. Sorry, little Monty Python reference there. Couldn’t be helped.)
- WHITE SPACE: If you’re unfamiliar with this term, GET familiar. White space is one of the most important factors in graphic design, visual merchandizing, publishing, really… any medium where text has to engage a human being and make them want to do something. (In this case: hire YOU.) Too much white space, and your resume will look sparse and puny, like Example #2. Too little white space, or white space that’s all crammed into one area (like Example #3) and your resume will look chunky, unwieldy and unreadable. And let’s be honest, the people who read these things read a LOT of them. So, let’s not give them any more reasons to want to skim through and ignore the details. Right?
- HEADER: This might seem silly, but when it comes to a resume your header is WHO YOU ARE. Your name is who you are. Your career persona (a one-sentence logline of what you can offer, which I will discuss in a later post) is who you are. Your address, phone number and e-mail, while important, are NOT who you are. That’s why your name needs to stand out and CLAIM this resume as unique. As YOURS. Example #3 totally misses the mark on this score. Example #2, on the other hand, goes a little bit overboard. Example #1 is close, but I’d like to see the name centered, and delivered in a more exciting font. I’d also like to see a title phrase in there, something along the lines of “Medical Scientist with Extensive Background in Laboratory Studies.” Something that pops out, toward the top, telling the potential employer everything he/she needs to know in a single line.
Step 4: Ask 2-3 of your friends to perform The Yard Test on your resume. For the sake of objectivity.
Step 5: Did your resume pass The Yard Test? If not, GO TO THE WEB. Google “resume samples” or “resume examples” and scroll through as many thumbnail-sized images of resumes as you can. Be as shallow and critical as possible. Rate them on a scale of 1-10 based on sheer attractiveness. LEARN from this. Copy what you like. Get rid of what you don’t like. There’s no such thing as plagiarism when it comes to formatting a resume. (Just make sure you don’t plagiarize another person’s skills or experience. Or their name. Especially their name. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s super illegal.)
(Note: for added fun, you can even print a bunch of these out, dress up like Tyra Banks and stand in front of your friends and family like “There are thousands of resume examples on the internet. But I only have five resumes in my hands.” And Dear God, you’re now asking yourself. Can Veronica make any more gratuitous pop-culture references in a single post? Yes, probably. Don’t tempt me.)
Photo Credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net
Note from V: This article was originally written by Veronica Park and published on CornOnTheJob.com,
a website dedicated to helping job seekers seek more effectively and land interviews more frequently.