Use our 2, 5, and 30-minute resume writing tips to quickly improve your resume. Actionable examples included. Read more!
What should a good resume look like?
Long story short: like a professional, formal document.
But what does that even mean? And does it really matter that much?
Oh yes it does.
Let’s face it: we all judge by appearances. And recruiters and hiring managers are no different.
Submitting a good-looking resume is just as important as dressing sharp for a job interview.
It doesn’t matter how skilled and experienced you are. If your resume looks unpolished, you can kiss that gig goodbye.
This guide will show you:
- What a resume should look like according to modern hiring standards.
- Actionable tips and tricks you can use to have the best-looking resume in the pile.
- Bonus resume design resources to make your resume stand out like Cindy Crawford in a Dunkin’ Donuts.
For starters, check out these two very differently-looking resumes.
The contents are the same. But the one on the left has a 2000s touch to it. And, to make things worse, some rookie layout mistakes.
The one on the right? That’s what a great resume should look like.
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Sample resume made with our builder—See more templates and create your resume here.
Let’s break down the most important components of what a perfect resume looks like.
Proper Resume Formatting and Design
To let you fully understand just how critical the looks of your resume are, let’s see what America’s leading association of professional resume writers has to say on the subject:
Here are the crucial design rules all the best-looking resumes need to follow.
1. Good resume font
- Use an easy-to-read typeface. One that’s elegant and formal on the one hand (so no Comic Cans) and modern and stylish on the other (so no Times New Roman).
- Keep your font size between 10 and 12 pt.
- There are many good picks. Some fonts you can consider include: Cambria, Calibri, Helvetica, Bookman Old Style.
- Both serif and sans-serif fonts can look good on a resume so feel free to experiment in this area.
- Once you choose a font, stick to it on the whole document. Ideally, use the same font when writing a cover letter for a resume.
To explore your options and get some expert insights, see this cool guide: Best Fonts for Resumes and Cover Letters
2. Evenly-set margins
Resume margins on all four sides should be 1-inch.
If you want to fit more into a single-page resume, you can take some margin space out, but at least half an inch has to stay.
3. Consistent line spacing
Go for single or 1.15 line spacing for all resume sections. Use a double space before and after each heading, and in between entries in your work experience and education sections.
4. Clear section headings
Make your section headings slightly bigger than the rest of the text. You can also make them visually stand out by typing in ALL CAPS.
5. Enough white space
Recruiters need some breathing room when reviewing resumes. Jam-packing the contents won’t make a resume look good.
How to check if there’s enough white space on a resume?
Print it out and look at it from a bit of distance. Does it feel crammed? If so, it most likely is.
6. No graphics, no photos
Fancy graphics can cause your resume to fail the ATS scan.
Photos? You’re looking for a job, not a date. Unless specifically asked for in the job ad (it might be the case for certain positions), leave pictures off your resume.
7. Ideal resume length
Make every word earn its place on your resume. But—
If you feel you’ll omit crucial details by trying to make a single-page resume, don’t force it.
Two-page resumes are OK for experienced candidates.
Want to see great resumes? Check out our collection of Best Resume Examples & Samples
Including the Most Important Sections
So you know the basics of what a professional resume should look like, design-wise.
Now it’s time to take care of the contents. The first thing you have to do is include all the proper sections in the correct order.
While the items order on your resume might vary depending on your career situations, for more than 9 out of 10 candidates, it’s best to follow the rules of a standard reverse-chronological resume format.
Here’s what sections to include on a good-looking resume.
(If you want to learn more about how to write each section, just click on one of the links below, to see a dedicated guide with examples.)
What Does a Resume Look Like? Standard Template
- Resume heading with your contact information (remember to include your LinkedIn profile)
- Resume profile: a professional summary of qualifications or a career objective for a resume.
- Work experience
- Extra Sections (awards, certifications, volunteering experience, or hobbies and interests).
See what a good resume looks like in practice on our handy infographic.
What Should My Resume Look Like? Like This:
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your resume here.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
Bonus Materials and Resume Ideas for a Good-Looking Resume
You’ve learned the basics of how a resume should look to attract the best job offers.
The thing is, sometimes the basics won’t do. Your resume can (and should!) have a personal twist. It should read and look 100% you.
The best-looking resume for you, is one that’s specifically designed for your industry, career history and future goals. One size does not fit all. Neither does a single resume format or design.
Here’s some extra reading that will help you create a standout resume with a design that reflects your individuality.
For starters, learn more about each of the 3 resume formats:
Or, see this handy overview of the three above with extra tips on how to pick the perfect one for you: Resume Format: Pick an Ideal One for Your Application
Get inspired by our collection of the best resume design ideas: How to Design a Professional Resume (Examples)
I’d love you to give our resume builder a spin, but if you really want to stick to an MS Word resume, at least pick a beautiful template: Resume Templates for MS Word
Want to explore more options? See one of our galleries and find a resume that looks the way you want it to:
- One-Page Resume Templates
- Two-Column Resume Templates
- Student Resume Templates
- Creative Resume Templates
- Simple Resume Templates
Feel like it’s a lot to process? Still not quite convinced why the looks of your resume are so important?
Let’s confront this issue with the science of first appearances.
This study at UCLA showed that, when it comes to real-life, face-to-face encounters, only 7% of the message we convey is through words.
The remaining 93% boils down to the non-verbal.
Apply this knowledge in your job search:
Sure, your wording matters, but non-verbal signs are still crucial.
Remember: it’s about what you say and how you present it.
Keep that motto in mind and you’re sure to land any job you set your sights on.
Here’s what a resume should look like:
- Professional font, such as Cambria, Calibri, Georgia, or Verdana. 11pt to 12pt size.
- Single line spacing.
- 1-inch margins on all four sides.
- Lots of white space to give readers some breathing room.
- Big section headings.
- No gimmicky graphics.
- No photographs.
- Includes a professional summary, work experience, education, skills, and extra sections.
- Follows a standard format: reverse-chronological, functional, or combination.
Got more questions? Need further help? Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get back to you in no time!