Rethinking Your Resume: Breaking the Formatting Rules

Resume Format RulesYour experiences are one of a kind. Every internship earned, position held and connection made tells a unique story. Yet, by the time this information is organized and filtered into a resume, the finished product can feel sort of lifeless; even the most dynamic lives seem mundane when distilled down into black and white bullet points! Years of trial and error have led to the adoption of numerous, generally accepted resume clichés, taboos and unwritten rules, resulting in a (mostly) standardized resume format.

The applicant pool for a given position can be extremely diverse, so why should their application materials be any different? Before you start designing your resume based on the “unwritten rules” out there, take a minute to rethink what may work best for you:

One Page Wonder

Can you fit your entire life story one 8.5 X 11  sheet of paper? When first starting the job search, forcing everything to fit on one page can be a daunting task. While having a concise resume is helpful, don’t let this generally accepted practice hold you back.

Rather than rushing to remove information to fit into the one-page ideal, start off by generating a giant master list of all of your history; from college courses to on-site skills to day long seminars – nothing is off limits. Then, use this list to create a resume specific to each position you are applying for. Some more technical positions may require you to list more skills and experiences than one page allows; others may require only a brief sampling of your work. Tailor your resume length to the position at hand!

Order Up!

Now that the content is place, the real question is how to order all of it. Should experiences be listed in a chronological format, highlighting consistency in a career? Or should it be grouped in a more functional format, drawing more focus on skills and capabilities before diving into employment history?

The answer is, “yes.”

Based on the position and your background, choose the order that works best for you. As a student just out of school, maybe the initial focus should be on the skills and education you bring to the table; whereas a thirty year veteran in a specialized industry may want to present work history first. Choose what’s most important for the position at hand and make these details shine.

Not So “Black and White”

Like an Instagram filter gone awry, resumes have been universally stripped of all color. As eyes scan over sheets and sheets of black and white bullet points, a level of visual hypnosis sets in. How can you afford to blend in when the field is so competitive?

While it might not be the best idea to print your resume on neon green paper, adding a splash of color to your resume design can be an eye-catching extra touch. A simple, clean way to achieve this variety is to use colored icons to highlight platforms you may be skilled in – Microsoft Office, Twitter, etc.

Your resume should be as personalized and distinct as your career path. Take this opportunity to buck the trends and break the formatting “rules.” If you can think of any other unwritten rules for resumes that you’d like to change, share them below!

37 thoughts on “Rethinking Your Resume: Breaking the Formatting Rules

  1. I always agreed with this method, but was told otherwise from the experts in resume writing. I will revert back to instinct. Thanks for posting.

  2. As one of those veterans with well over 30 years experience, I face that problem of trying to condense everything to just 2 pages. As for 1 page, never happening. Then there’s that thing that pops up more & more often: employers only want to see the last 10 years. For me that often doesn’t fit, since a job 20 years ago is directly relevant. Not so much from the technical standpoint, as the facts related to strategic thinking & planning, team building, process building and management, etc. apply directly to a job I’m currently interested in and applying for.

    • Hi David,
      Thank you for your story! It is certainly true that resume requirements can vary greatly across positions, companies and industries. Networking with fellow professionals in your field is another great way to learn how others are presenting their skills and experience.

  3. Thanks for all of your help. I have taken notes and will make the changes, but will also seek someone to help me. I have tried really hard to condense to one page and this has really opened my eyes. Again, thank you very much.

    • Hey Letitia,
      We’re always glad to help! Every new opportunity has its own set of requirements, so it can be easy to become overwhelmed when trying to decide which items to include.Sometimes, just looking at your resume from a new perspective can make all the difference!

  4. Thanks for the reassurance of THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX; I have always done creative things my way and get negative feedback from those that think that you have to always follow the rules – rules are great but they are strictly set for guidelines – guidelines are to be updated, revised at some point of time. So again thanks for the insight

    • Hi Lisa,
      You’re welcome! Each application and interview is a chance to reexamine your skills and experience from a new perspective. Wishing you the best of luck in your future opportunities!

    • Another Lisa who believes in thinking outside the box. Resumes can be so BORING. Maybe it’s time to let some of those 30 years of creative juices flow!!

  5. You’re awesome for sharing this need to know necessity to standing out from the other thousand applicants in the recruiter’s desk. I’ve learned this trick from a business mentor about two years ago and it’s helped me out shine most applicants in the job search. Sharing this has been something I’ve tried doing but most adults tend to steer away from anything new just as those veterans with more than 10yrs of experience think so. Being the young inexperienced professional, I’ve always climbed the ladder to leadership quite faster than most and that has always seemed to me to have been because of the certain advice and training I got from that mentor. I appreciate you for sharing this with me and I’m going to forward this to some peers of mine as well as those who thought my methods were bizarre and idiotic.

    Good Work, hoping to read more

  6. Hello Mr. Bogue. Thank you for your help and advice. It has been quite helpful. It is extremely hard to keep up with all the does and don’t’s of what employers want to see on a resume today. I have actually had a professional resume writer help create my resume because at first no one was calling and when they did (I did not have enough education) and now that I have the education(degree) and experience ( I am OVERLY qualified) employers seem to feel intimidated by my resume now. So again, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to share your advice. Every little bit helps. Have a blessed day.

    • Hi Colandra,
      Thank you for sharing your story!
      Tapping into your professional network for advice and collaboration on application materials is a fantastic way to rethink your resume. You never know which piece of information will be that first step towards a new opportunity!

  7. Thank you for this! I have started to use a lot of your tips and am starting to see more positive feedback in my job search. Thanks again!

  8. How would construct a resume if you worked in various fields ( healthcare, sales and food service) in the last few years? I want to focus more customer service roll. I only have a couple months left to complete my AAS degree in Business management.

    • Hi Brannon,
      Thank you for sharing this scenario! It’s best to review the requirements and description of the specific opportunity you are applying for, then try to apply the most relevant skills and duties from your previous positions to the application at hand. Your experiences are much more than just a job title! If you’d like some more personalized assistance, please reach out to the Medix office nearest you and connect with one of our talented recruiters:
      http://www.medixteam.com/locations/

  9. I have a 7 year gap in employment due to being disabled. I am vigorously looking for a new opportunity. How do I explain this in my resume’?

    • Hi Steve,
      When presenting a gap in employment time, it can be helpful to include any professional development, such as education, volunteer work, and membership in organizations, that may have taken place during that time. This is a great way to show a continued initiative and commitment to advancing skills to a recruiter or employer.Thank you for sharing your story. If you’d like to discuss this more thoroughly, I strongly recommend contacting one of our skilled recruiters!
      http://www.medixteam.com/locations/

  10. The question of a time gap in resume was not answered as I doubt someone who has taken time off work because of a disability is going to be volunteering or networking. I also have a gap due to illness, and don’t know if asked should i tell the truth?

    • Hi Thomas,
      Thank you for joining the conversation! It is true that everyone’s circumstances are unique; each applicant will have different types of experiences to draw from when speaking with a recruiter or potential employer. The most important thing to remember is to be upfront and honest at all stages of the application process.

  11. Thank you for this information. As I haven’t been getting any responses or replies, perhaps my resume needs so work. Thanks You again.

  12. Thank you very much for your helpful advice on reformatting a resume. Your advice will be very helpful in me creating a more powerful resume that will stand out.

  13. Seems to me the focus is on key words. My experience has been if resume is not in chronological order, it causes potential employer to question what you may be hiding.

    • Thank you for joining the conversation! You’re right; it’s important to be up-front and honest with employers. No matter how you arrange the information, if you approach the application process with honesty and share your true story, employers will have a well-rounded view of you professionally.

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