5 Things to Avoid When Designing Your Resume

Posted by Rob Riggins

Your resume is going to be scanned at some point in your job search so plan accordingly when designing it.

This holds true even when you provide someone with a hard-copy of your resume. Gone are the days of sharing paper. If a recruiter gives your resume to a hiring manager, the resume is scanned and emailed to the hiring manager. Likewise, if you provide your resume to a friend and ask the friend to refer you, it’s most likely going to be scanned.

At a Cleared Job Fair we ask any job seekers who have not pre-registered for a copy of their resume. That allows us to scan the resume and provide it to all the cleared facilities employers who are in attendance.

We always receive a number of resumes that present scanning challenges.

So even though you think making your resume unique and more noticeable through the use of colors or heavy paper is beneficial, you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot! The issues we regularly see that you should avoid:

1. Black, yellow or other colored paper.  Stick with white paper so the text is easily readable after scanning.

2. Thick paper similar to card stock. This often jams a scanner feeder. If I’m a recruiter with a stack of resumes, don’t make me hand-feed your resume…it’s not going to make you stand out in a good way.

3. Highlighting text in pink, light blue or other colors. Some colors do not scan well so the safe choice is black.

4. Shading sections of text. Shading can be difficult for a scanner to read properly and makes the text more difficult to read.

5. Tiny type. Sure a recruiter can zoom in to read your small typestyle, but the goal is to make their job easier, not more difficult!

A recent study claims that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume, so simple truly is best. A quality twenty pound white laser paper using only black ink and no shading is all you need.

Dedicated to Wendy Budd, our Registration Manager who spends countless hours scanning resumes.


This entry was posted on Monday, June 04, 2012 7:00 am

11 thoughts on “5 Things to Avoid When Designing Your Resume”

  1. Two other thing to remember that were told to me by a ClearedJobs.Net rep at a Virginia job fair:

    Remove ALL bolding from my resume because it often scanned in as a solid black box or other illegible characters. Keep everything in a regular font.

    It was also recommended to not mix font types (Arial, Helvitica, Times New Roman, etc.). It’s very distracting to a reviewer and can make you stand out again “for the wrong reasons”.

  2. Thanks for the comments Ken. Limited bolding is OK if the type size is large enough and in a very legible, clean typestyle such as Arial. Bolding can help to make things like job titles stand out from the surrounding text, but you certainly do need to be careful when using it.

  3. Ken, I want to start off by saying I appreciate your comment, but if any modern resume (card stock aside) can’t be properly read and OCR’d by a recruiter than the company needs to upgrade their scanners and software because that’s simply unsat.

    Now that aside, I’ll try to remember to validate my resume next time I’m looking, to prevent the bold from becoming an issue. Maybe I’ll peruse eBay for an 80’s era scanner… 🙂

  4. Amy, the author, stated not to use non-scanable formats, and mentioned .pdf. I avoid using Word as an uploaded format due to the squiggly lines appearing under sections indicating bad grammar or syntax errors, but these appear when not using “I” all the time. That’s why I went to .pdf in the first place. So is it OK to upload resumes using .pdf, or is Word the must-use format?

  5. I wish the article gave suggestions of text layout of the resume content. I’ve had resumes where a software-tool is scraping the fields into structure, such as identifying each job position and college degree, but I have to clean-up the places where it thought a new paragraph was a new position, or the title was the company name, etc.

    1. Kit unfortunately there is no right answer to your question because different applicant tracking systems will treat your resume a bit differently. Your best bet is for a clean and uncluttered format using simple typestyles.

  6. Rob, If the company website or ad REQUESTS the resume in a pdf format, then by all means, use pdf….but otherwise, stick to word or text.

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