How To: Design a Resume in Microsoft Word (And Other Design Tips)

One of the worst parts of job searching is revising and redesigning your resume. If you don't know what you're doing, it can be overwhelming to try and summarize all your skills and experiences on one sheet of paper. As a designer, one of the requests I get most often is for resume design. I love layout and design and I love building resumes for other people, but I honestly don't think you need to hire a designer to do it. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to show you how I would design a basic resume using Microsoft Word using the steps listed below, and then I'm going to outline a couple resources that will take your resume from zero to hero. Shoutout to Cob for letting me use his resume as an example!

  EASY resume design tips for non graphic designers! //rebeccapetersonstudio.com//

EASY resume design tips for non graphic designers! //rebeccapetersonstudio.com//

This is how the resume looks without any formatting. Sadly, it's better than some other resumes I've seen, but I bet we can make it GREAT.

STEP 1: Length
Resumes should only be one page. This is probably common sense, but I've seen lots of people send in resumes for jobs with a two (or more) page document. Unless you're submitting a CV as qualification for a Ph.D., there's really no need for a long resume. I'm sorry if you're a mega genius with infinite experience, you're going to have to cut something out and keep it to one page.

I made the entire text one point size smaller (12-11) to fit it on one page. Easy!

STEP 2: Hierarchy
The most important thing on your resume is your name. You don't want an employer to fall in love with you and then forget who you are. Make your name 150% bigger than the rest of the text on your resume and you should be fine. You need to decide what's the next most important thing, I would say that's experience and education.

 To add some clear hierarchy, I made Jacob's name much bigger and bolded the title of each category. It would probably help if I arranged the dates differently, since those aren't important. I'll get to that in a minute.

To add some clear hierarchy, I made Jacob's name much bigger and bolded the title of each category. It would probably help if I arranged the dates differently, since those aren't important. I'll get to that in a minute.

STEP 3: Spacing
This is a general rule of graphic design. Things are easier to read when they're arranged in groups. We want employers to be able to skip from section to section easily. This is done by separating the different categories.

STEP 4: Alignment.
This is probably a more general design tip, but it's better not to have something aligned at the center.

//BONUS: The easiest way to align things in Microsoft Word is to put them in tables. That way you don't have to mess with the margins or rulers. I put all my information in a table and turn the borders white when I'm all done!//

 You could arrange this table several different ways. I like more white space so I put the category titles to the right of the description. See what works best for your resume.

You could arrange this table several different ways. I like more white space so I put the category titles to the right of the description. See what works best for your resume.

STEP 5: Type.
Again, I'm sure this is common sense, but try not to use some wild and crazy typeface. Serif or san serif is fine, but don't combine them unless you really know what you're doing. These are some of my favorite "traditional font families": Goudy, Didot, Garamond, Calibri, Futura, Gill Sans,  and Segoe UI Light. (When in doubt, use a font that's already on your computer. Those are made by experienced type designers and they're guaranteed to be easier to read.

 I didn't want to make this resume too complicated, so I kept everything in the same font family. I used Calibri Bold 13pt for the titles, Calibri Italic 11pt for the subtitles and Calibri light 11pt for the body text. Jacob's name is 18pt, but I might make it even bigger.

I didn't want to make this resume too complicated, so I kept everything in the same font family. I used Calibri Bold 13pt for the titles, Calibri Italic 11pt for the subtitles and Calibri light 11pt for the body text. Jacob's name is 18pt, but I might make it even bigger.

STEP 6: Bullet points.
Employers are spending less than one minute looking at your resume, so if you split information into bullets, they'll be able get through it faster. However, if you put everything in bullets, it gives you lots of weird white space. Just use your judgment and you'll be fine.

 It's amazing how much better it looks with just a few bullets!

It's amazing how much better it looks with just a few bullets!

STEP 7: Color
I would only use color if you're applying for a creative job. Most established corporations see color as immature and unprofessional. If you do use color, use something soft like blue or green and avoid neons. Remember to avoid doing something full-bleed unless you want to pay twice as much every time you print your resume.

STEP 8: Style
Once your resume is organized the way you like it, you have to use your own style to give it some flavor. This might be scary, but I promise it's not hard. Just google search "resume design" and copy a few things you like.

 This is what the resume looks like without borders. Pretty nice, huh? 

This is what the resume looks like without borders. Pretty nice, huh? 

 I merged the two cells of the "personal" category since there was no date and I added a bottom line beneath his name. It looks good, but there's still one more thing I want to try.

I merged the two cells of the "personal" category since there was no date and I added a bottom line beneath his name. It looks good, but there's still one more thing I want to try.

 Here I just changed the formatting of Jacob's contact information and added another line at the bottom! Voila! A well-designed resume in 60 minutes.

Here I just changed the formatting of Jacob's contact information and added another line at the bottom! Voila! A well-designed resume in 60 minutes.

//BONUS STEPS:
1. File type.
Everyone's computer is different. You never know if someone has the same version of Microsoft Word or if the font you downloaded will work on their computer. Sometimes even google docs get screwy when they're shared. Save yourself some trouble by saving your resume as a PDF.  If you're really anxious, email your resume to a friend and see if the formatting stays the same. (P.S. If you don't have the software to turn a .JPG or  .DOC into a PDF, check out this online converter: www.freepdfconvert.com

2. Printing.
A nice resume includes nice physical presentation. Take the time  at a copy shop to print your resume correctly. Find a nice paper and make several copies of your resume. I always like to print my resume on slightly thicker paper because I want it to feel PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT when it's in my employer's hands. See what works for you!//

Last thing:  TAILOR THE DESIGN OF YOUR RESUME FOR THE JOB YOU'RE APPLYING FOR.
If you're applying for a job as a video game designer, you should absolutely include drawings of little Mario characters jumping around on your resume. If not, FORGET ABOUT IT. I can't tell you how many resumes I see on Pinterest that are completely over-designed. Most  employers aren't using your resume to judge your design skills (even if you're a designer, your PORTFOLIO should show-off your design, not your resume) so don't go crazy with colors and fonts. Here's some examples of some resumes that I think are way too overdesigned:
 

I hope this helps! Just a couple more things before I finish:

  • You can download the Word document I used to make Cob's resume if you're just too overwhelmed to make your own. (BELOW)
  • If you have a LinkedIn account, they have a free resume builder that has some great customizable designs.
  • I liked this BuzzFeed article about resume design. Use one of these ideas as inspiration for your own resume!

Did anyone make it to the end? Haha thanks for reading! I'll be adding more resume resources to this list as I find them. Good luck!