Resume Appearances Matter

Here’s the brutal truth about resumes:

Resume Layout Infographic

As you can see, the system is designed to work against you.


Before you give up hope, let me show you how to write a really effective resume – one that ranks highly in the applicant tracking system and also catches the eye of the recruiter. We’ll then use the information from your resume to write a great cover letter.

The key to getting a phone call from a recruiter is all about how your resume and cover letter appear.

The remainder of this blog post has excellent tips to help you as you write. I also went so far as to create a brief, “how to” guide that will give you insight into how employers view job applicants and the steps you can take to make your resume stand out from the crowd.

If you’d prefer a quick list to help guide you as you write your resume, download the resume writing checklist.

Section Headers

Resume Layout: Centered Section HeadersStudies have indicated that people tend to read web content in F-shaped patterns. I believe the same is true for resumes that are read on a computer screen.

Think about it, when a recruiter or hiring manager first reads your resume, are they going to print it out and read it as they would a newspaper? Most likely, they are going to click on your resume, open it up, and read it on their computer.

The main objective with your resume layout is to draw the reader’s eye inward to ensure that more of your resume is read, not just the top and left edge as is the case when people read in a F-shaped pattern. When you center the section headers, you are asking the reader’s eyes to look inward, toward the center of the resume.

Executive Summary

Resume Layout: Executive Summary

Formerly reserved for an “objective” statement, the executive summary replaces the me-centric approach of the objective statement by using an employer-centric, executive summary.

Your executive summary is your quick elevator pitch and should scream, “If you don’t read anything else, read this!”

With an employer-centric approach, your executive summary informs the employer how your competencies and accomplishments help them solve their problems. Your executive summary should center around the key words and phrases the employer detailed in the job posting while also using data to reinforce your fit for the position.

The executive summary is crucial because it is in the direct line of sight of the reader, even for those who read in an F-shaped pattern.

Job Summary

Resume Layout: Job Summary

One of the more common approaches to resume writing is to list all of the duties an individual has held when working in a particular position. While this is nice for providing an overview of everything you’re capable of doing, it doesn’t instill confidence in the employer – the confidence they need to pick up the phone and call you for an interview.

By including a brief (1-2 sentence) overview of your job duties, you create room to detail your competencies and accomplishments as strong bulleted statements. Strong bullet points instill confidence and provide the data the employer needs to see in order to contact you for an interview.

Bullet Points

Resume Layout: Bullet PointsIf done poorly, your resume shows the employer that you are not a good fit for the role. If done well, your resume bullet points send a clear message to the employer, proving to them that you are competent in the areas they are hiring for.

Remember, people tend to read resumes on computers and in the shape of an F, meaning that you want to position your bullet points in a manner that encourages the reader to read further into your resume. To do this, use the RATS (results, action, task/situation) structure when writing your bullet points.

RATS places the results on the left side of your resume, in the direct line of sight of the reader. When the reader encounters a bullet point that includes data, they are more likely to read further into the resume to better understand the data point that caught their attention.