Resume Formatting

Page Length

We suggest a single page résumé if you are a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree without significant work experience. We suggest that students maintain a multi-page “master resume”: with all their experience and skills and generate a single page document tailored to a particular job/industry. A two-page resume is appropriate in some fields (non-profit, education) and if you have significant work experience. Be sure that the second page is entirely filled.


You should set your margins no wider than 1 inch and no smaller than half an inch. Margin settings can be found under your Layout tab of Word.

Bullets & Tabs (Indent)

You can use bullets and tabs to easily separate lots information. Note: Do not use the space bar to indent as it will not convert well into a PDF. Tabs align all text uniformly. Find bullets, indentations and text alignment on the Home tab of Word.


The look of your resume is as important as the content of your document. It should look professional, clean, and well-organized. Here are some rules to follow:

  • Avoid Templates: Templates are very common and your resume should look unique! Also, templates are usually very inflexible and it’s difficult to adjust fonts, spacing, headers and so on.
  • Consistency: Carefully review your document to make sure your formatting (spacing, use of italics and bold, bullet points, font style, etc.) are consistent throughout the page.
  • No Pictures: In a digital age it seems odd not to include a headshot, but federal labor law prohibits discrimination because of sex, age, race, color, nationality, disability and other protected classes. By sharing your photo you are disclosing that information and most recruiters will discard your resume.
  • Colors: Carefully choose color, avoiding bright or pastel colors, making sure it will print well in grayscale.
  • Page balance: Make sure there is a not too much ink (which makes a resume hard to read)  or too much white space on the page (which appears like you lack skills and experience).

Scannable Resumes and Applicant Tracking Systems

The vast majority of companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to manage high volumes of job applications. ATS will electronically scan your resume, score your qualifications based on the description for that position, and rank your application. We recommend that students have an “ATS-friendly” resume that follow these guidelines:

  • Use simple formatting.
  • Avoid templates, headers, footers, tables, columns, boxes, borders, lines, symbols (bullet points are fine), shading, fancy fonts and font colors other than black.
  • Write out months and years so it’s readable by ATS systems.
  • Submit a Microsoft Word document (not PDF) since all ATS systems can scan/read them.
  • Don’t add hidden words or white text to “trick” the system.
  • Functional resumes without dates might not score as well with newer ATS systems.