Having a well-presented resume is critical to securing your perfect job. It’s not enough to have great content; your resume layout needs to be easy-to-read, professional and appealing.

Imagine that you are a hiring manager. You’re looking through dozens – or even hundreds – of resumes. You’re also looking for any excuse to disregard a resume so that you can quickly create a shortlist of the cream of the crop. If you come across a resume format that looks unprofessional and isn’t easy to follow, you’ll send it straight to the trash.

Here’s our checklist for nailing the resume format:

  • Keep it short. A resume should be 2-4 pages maximum. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have; you need to be able to communicate it in 2-4 pages. In fact, the more experience you have, the better you should be at articulating very succinctly why you are the best person for the job.
  • Cover the basics. Ensure your document includes your name, up-to-date contact details, summary, qualifications and work history.
  • Order counts. List everything in chronological order, starting with your most recent role. Employers are usually most interested in your most recent work experience; however, they will scan the rest of your resume for other relevant experience. Their expectation will be that you will follow a reverse chronological order in your resume layout, and you must meet that expectation.
  • Keep it simple. Your resume format should be easy to read. This isn’t a time to experiment with unusual fonts or complex and colourful layouts. A clean, white background is best and use a well-used font like Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Use bullet points. Bullet points are essential to helping your employer navigate through the document. List your day-to-day responsibilities as a series of bullet points, with an achievement against each bullet point. If your bullet point runs over more than two or three lines, it’s a good indication that you might be waffling and need to articulate your experience more succinctly. 
  • Tell (and sell) your story. Your resume should tell the story of your career. Your summary should carefully articulate your experience and skills, and should be tailored to the role that you are applying for. Think of it like the blurb on the back of a book, where you are convincing the reader why they should invest more time in reading it. Then, when listing your work history, start in reverse chronological order, listing your work experience and achievements as relevant to the role. They should ladder up to the summary to persuade the hiring manager why you are the best person for the job. 
  • Weight appropriately. Allocate more space to your most recent, and most relevant roles. Don’t delete any roles that aren’t relevant, but allocate less space so that your employer can spend more time on the roles that will make a difference to his or her impression of you.
  • Be an objective editor. Read your resume with fresh eyes, and remove any information that isn’t relevant to the role you are applying for. Having less, but more relevant information is likely to make a greater professional impact than having several pages of generic text.
  • Have your CV proofread. If you can, ask a trusted friend to proofread your resume. If your resume has any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, it can be a nail in your recruitment coffin, no matter how perfect your resume layout may be.

Your CV is your best representation of your professional abilities, skills, work history and experience. If the resume layout is right, it can help convince your potential employer of your suitability for the job. If the resume format is wrong, you will most likely not even land an interview.

Take a look at our resume guide page for more advice on how to write a resume.