Designing One Epic Resume: What You Need to Know


First impressions last forever in every facet of life, especially in those situations that can make or break a successful career. Therefore it is essential to revise, revise, revise that resume! As resumes trickle in, hiring staff sifts through and eliminates candidates based on the design and professionalism of each resume. Whether you are a fast food line server or a rocket scientist, typos and unfortunate design choices can push you to the back of the list, or even off of it completely.

In the “olden days,” when computers were new and exciting, Microsoft Word provided job seekers a shortcut by offering resume design templates. These templates tend to be extraordinarily generic and simple to fill in. While these MAY HAVE been acceptable back in the day, we can’t stress enough the importance of a well designed, original resume. Why?

If you are a technical professional in the field of IT, there is an expectation (or there should be) that you are exceedingly capable of using a computer beyond that of someone learning Microsoft Word for the first time. Designers face much steeper design expectations. Imagine a Graphic Designer applying for their dream job with dreams of designing corporate documents at an executive level. Now imagine the reaction if they apply with a resume obviously designed from a template. Would you trust this designer with the face of your company?

However, there are two sides to every coin. So let’s play devil’s advocate here. As discussed, generic resumes stick out like a sore thumb. But, so does a resume that was haphazardly put together using dynamic print design software and sporting disproportional margins and a layout that appears to have been left to a kindergartner’s devices. That’s why we want to offer you some tips and tricks to keep in mind when creating your resume.

  1. Yes. We realize we may have put a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to resume templates in Word. But, don’t be discouraged. If you don’t have the access or ability to use software such as InDesign to truly design your resume, that’s okay. Go ahead and use a template, but remember to personalize it. Move elements around and accentuate what is most likely to get you noticed.

  1. Edit. Revise. Have someone else edit. Revise again. We know it sounds exhausting but typos and grammatical errors symbolize a lack of attention to detail and may make your resume look much less admirable.

  2. Various file types. Nothing is more frustrating than designing a winning resume then getting to the online application portion where they ask you to insert your resume through cut and paste. The moment you paste your resume into that box, you see all of your efforts parsed and distributed into an incomprehensible format. If you are lucky, you can search a bit further and find an upload option where you can upload your resume in one piece. But what if there is not upload option? Have a very minimal text document in your arsenal in these instances. While the copy and paste will break a well designed resume, a simple text document with lists should display the same way in that pesky little text box.

  1. Action. Action. Action. Use action verbs to describe what you accomplished. Using terms like “responsible for maintaining all processes” leaves a far different impression than saying that you “maintained all processes”. it shows that you accomplished the task and are not merely listing what was expected of you.

  2. C.R.A.P. In Robin Williams’ book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Williams offers four fundamental design principles for those new to the world of document design. It is worth noting that Williams also offers information on web design. For our purposes here, I bring you the endearing acronym used by Williams to simplify design: CRAP.

Contrast. Contrast refers to the use of color scheme, shape, and size of font to differentiate between headers and lists, etc.
Repetition. While repetition of text can become a definite resume no-no, using repetition of lines and shapes to emphasize cohesion is a must.
Alignment. Just get rid of that centering option. Centering in document design is poor form. Instead, use a baseline grid to align all elements of your resume and double check that margins are correctly set. That “A” also refers to the use of lists and the importance of making sure that all elements are visually connected to avoid the viewer from having to figure out what belongs where.
Proximity. In designing your resume, ensure that your design tells a story by placing each element in close proximity to complementary information. For example, if your name and address are at the top of the document, placing your email address at the bottom makes no logical design sense. Avoid making your interviewer search for information.


  1. Keywords. Using keywords interspersed throughout your resume can help you avoid snags with those recruiters and employers who run resumes through an application tracker. Remember to review every job description and match your resume to the description. This is also why it is vital to avoid a “one size fits all” resume and, instead, hone each resume submitted to the job title for which you apply.

  1. Accentuate ROI. It’s all about value. ROI stands for Return on Investment and reflects how much revenue you, as an employee, brought to the bottom line. While it may be difficult to record exactly how much revenue your work contributed to previous projects, it should be less difficult to illustrate just how you brought value to those projects. Focus on your accomplishments and accomplishments made in collaboration with others. Hitting deadlines early or increasing traffic to your website through enhancements can be measure and will get you noticed.

Designing resumes correctly is essential to job-seeking. For more information and tips on resume building, visit


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