Who said that looks aren't important? Improve your resume with these tips…

You're preparing for a job hunt! Exciting times lie ahead, but first, you need to dust off your resume, update it with all your latest attainments, and present it appealingly. No doubt you have lots of questions about the content and format, but TopResume is here to steer you through the process. By following our advice, you'll soon have a resume you can be proud of – one that gives you the confidence to hit the job market and succeed.

In this article, we're focusing on the layout of your resume – in particular, the margins you use. We'll guide you through the things to consider, how to change the margin sizes, and, most importantly, the best margin size for your resume. But first things first: why should you even worry about the margins?

Why margin size matters on your resume

Imagine a recruiter, sitting in their office, wading through a tall stack of resumes trying to find the ideal applicant for their vacancy. Recruiters are busy people – in fact, it's been shown that the average time they spend looking at a resume for the first time is 6-7 seconds

That's not a long time to make a great first impression. 

So it's easy to understand why the layout of your resume matters. You need to make it as easy as possible for a recruiter to skim through your document to pick out the pertinent information. That involves considering issues such as headers, font size, and bullet points – but it also means considering the white space around those things.

An easy-to-read resume has plenty of white space around the content. A solid wall of text is hard to skim-read to pick out the pertinent information, and it's not very visually appealing, either. So, as well as thinking about the layout of the text, you also need to think about the space around it. Enter the humble margin. Alongside resume line spacing, margin size is an important consideration when you're deciding on the layout of your most valuable job-search tool.

Top tip: Don't feel that you need to have tiny margins in order to fit your experience and academic qualifications on one page! That resume rule is outdated, and two pages is now the norm.

What margin size should I use on my resume?

Luckily, there's no right or wrong regarding the best margin size, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer. And, because margin sizes on resumes can be flexible, you can easily adjust them to make sure you don't have a few words spilling onto a new page and to make sure your text sits centrally on the page.

But let's narrow it down. You don't want tiny margins so that your text is crammed from one side of the paper to the other in a desperate attempt to fit an excessive amount of content onto one or two pages. Conversely, neither do you want margins so wide that it's clear you haven't given enough thought to the words or don't have the experience to fill the space available.

With that in mind, try to keep the margins between a minimum of 0.5 inches and a maximum of 1 inch. Ideally, opposite margins will mirror each other.

Top tip: Spend a bit of time playing around with different margin sizes to see what works best for your resume.

How do I change the margins on my resume?

If you want to change the default margins to ensure your resume sits perfectly on the page, here's what you need to do:

To change the resume page layout in Microsoft Word:

Navigate to the “Layout” menu and select the “Margins” dropdown. Here, you can choose from a pre-set margin size or create your own “Custom Margins.”

To change the resume page layout in Google Docs:

Click on “File” and then “Page Setup.” You can type your desired margin sizes into the boxes on the right.

Top Tip: We recommend using Microsoft Word or PDF over Google Docs for your resume, as Google Docs isn't yet a common format for resumes and is rarely requested.

What are the best margin sizes for ATS?

You may have heard about applicant tracking systems, or ATS. They're a digital filing system that recruiters use to store and track applications. There are plenty of myths out there about ATS, but don't worry – they really don't care what size margins you use on your resume. 

When you're considering your margin sizes, your only consideration should be for the human reading the document. A great layout makes their life easier – which in turn improves your chances of progressing!

Should I justify the margins on my resume?

Justified margins are ones where the text butts right up to the margin. For example, on this blog, the left-hand margins are justified, and the right-hand ones aren't. The left-hand margin of your resume should always be justified. There are two schools of thought on whether you should justify the right-hand margin:

  • Justified margins look smart and professional, so it's clear you've taken the time and attention to present your resume well

  • Unjustified margins are more inclusive, as people with dyslexia find the text easier to read; they may also be suitable for less traditional roles, as they look more casual

It's up to you to decide how you want to justify your margins on your resume, now that you have this information. An important point to bear in mind, though, is to keep the most important information, such as headers, job titles, and employer names, on the left-hand side. Eye-tracking technology has shown that that's where recruiters' eyes focus when they skim through a resume.

More formatting tips

Who doesn't like a bonus? We've got some extra formatting tips for your resume so that you can be sure that the document you're presenting looks as impressive as it sounds:

  • Choose a standard font, in 10-12 point, with slightly larger headings

  • Don't use a creative template you find on Word or Canva – they're not designed by recruiters or resume writers, so tend not to perform as well

  • Write numbers as digits rather than words, as digits jump off a page when it's skim-read

  • Don't use text boxes, tables, icons, or logos – they aren't always read accurately by an ATS

  • Avoid putting text in headers and footers – the ATS might not see it there

  • Never include a photo – recruiters have biases, and the US has anti-discrimination laws, so they're irrelevant at best

By now, your resume should be looking pretty good!

Little things make a big difference

Margins are just one of the many things you need to think about when you're preparing your resume. They may seem trivial, but they're part of the puzzle that comes together to create a picture of who you are as a professional. Choose the right margin size to present the best resume you can.

Of course, decent margins won't help if the content of your resume doesn't shine. Why not send yours for a free resume review by the experts at TopResume? You'll receive the feedback you need to ensure you put your best foot forward when that dream role pops up.

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