Resume Formatting


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(By – Staff Writer)

Formatting Your Online Resume

If you are preparing a resume these days, you will be formatting it to be posted online. This will be true whether you are posting generically on job boards, or responding online to a specific job posting. Given this it is important to know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in formatting for an online resume.

Most of us have become very familiar with formatting paper resumes. We know what the style should be, what font is acceptable for the most part, the kind of paper to put it on and what the length should be. On the other hand a lot of current New York job seekers might not have any idea how to format a resume for online posting.


The major issue of an online resume is readability. If I as a hiring manager cannot follow the formatting of your resume in such a way as to not find it readable, then you have a problem. The important point of readability is that your resume must look good on a tablet, a phone, a laptop, a desktop or on paper.

What makes a resume readable and good looking regardless of the instrument it is read from? For one thing you want it to be clean – not too crowed and not too much white space and as professional as possible.

The Challenges

There are several major challenges every candidate faces when posting their resumes online and sending them by email or even paper directly to the company.

Applicant Tracking Systems

The biggest and newest of these is the applicant tracking system. These software programs take your resume and search it for keywords that describe what is needed for the job. These programs also take your resume and change it into some basic formats as opposed to the professional look you think you gave it. These systems often leave your resume looking like scrambled eggs and not at all readable if you have not formatted it properly to start with.

Given this you need to format your resume to accommodate these applicant tracking systems. Often when you upload your resume directly to the company, it is going into an applicant tracking system. When software reads your resume before any human being reads it, then you have to write it to satisfy the software.

Formatting for Applicant Tracking Systems

If you write your resume in a word processing program you are going to have to change it for the applicant tracking systems and in order to cut and paste it into an online application from a company. The way to fix this if you start with a word processor is to cut and paste your Word resume into a plain text editor like Notepad or Text Edit.

This will show you how your word processed document is going to translate into the applicant tracking system or an online company application. You will be surprised by what you see. There will be spacing issues and characters that you did not enter. These programs use HTML or ASCII and only recognize these certain characters. It is also important to use character returns to separate sections of information as this will add to the resume’s readability in these formats.

Fonts – Use Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial or another basic font so that you get clean formatting and improved readability. The font size should be 10-12 except for your name which might be a 14. DO NOT CHANGE FONTS THROUGHOUT THE RESUME.

The only exception to this is if you are applying for a specifically design creative job and then you want your resume to show some of that skill while still maintain readability. You can do this with fonts.

Margins and Spacing – it is very important to get your margins and spacing correct. Remember when you use a program like Word this is mostly built in. With the applicant tracking programs it is not. You want enough white space on every page to make it readable and to make it attractive at first glance.

Your margins should be at least 1” all around. Never make the margins less than ½”. You want to avoid crowding the page with text. It is ok to center headings but the majority of text should be left aligned. This will keep your resume laid out well and looking professional as well as readable.


Your contact information is usually left aligned as well and should include an address, email address and mobile phone number. Make sure you include a ‘resume headline’ or a short statement telling the hiring manager what you can do for them. Make sure this section is short. Next you want a branding statement that expresses what differentiates you from other candidates. Make this short, concise and powerful.

Length of Resume

This is a critical factor, especially when dealing with computer generated software programs reading your resume. The more concise the better as long as you still get all the information in that is needed. This will depend upon your work history. There are some guidelines for this but they are only guidelines. Just remember you want readability and professionalism in every format.

  • Entry level experience: One page
  • Five – ten years of experience: Maximum of two pages.
  • Senior or Executive level: As many pages as needed but I recommend never going past three if possible. Two is still best if you can cover all your experience. However do not skimp on your experience in order to get it into two pages.


Once you have your resume in this format you can easily make it into a Word document. You will use the formatted resume more than the word processed one over the long haul so make sure you always have a ‘plain text version’ from a text editor available.

If you do this, you will not have to recreate it every time you want to post it online or respond to a specific online job posting. So save a Word copy and a plain text copy every time you update it.