Resumes: The Yin and Yang, Part 2

A week and some change ago I wrote an article about resume-writing and why most people suck at it. You can find the original article here.

I promised to talk about resume formatting in a subsequent article, and haven't done so because I was itching to write about a few other things. Alas, now we're going to discuss formatting, and why you shouldn't fail at it.

Why is formatting important? For a lot of reasons. First and foremost, I would argue that formatting is the most important part of the resume. If you're extremely verbose and write way too much, someone might give you the benefit of the doubt after reading through what you have to say. On the other hand, if you have an ugly vertical line going through the left-side of your resume because you think it's cool to put your positions on the left side and what you did on the right side, people will NOT read your resume. If it's poorly-formatted, flashy, confusing, or subjectively odd-looking, you are going straight to the recycling bin.

Although I am only 2 weeks deep into my SA stint, I'm at a boutique, so we receive a lot of resumes via cold e-mails...and I've been given license to look through some of them.

Wow.

First of all, if you are reading this now and haven't read my original post about resumes, do so now (you can find the link above if you missed it). Every single resume I've looked at so far (~a dozen) has had a "Mission Statement", "Objective", "Statement of Purpose", etc. I can now confirm that no one likes reading these, that they are cumbersome, take up FAR too much space, and should always be left off in favor of things that are more pertinent or sell your case more saliently. And these resumes are coming from people who go to good schools - top public universities and second-tier private schools.

Secondly, I've always been told to not assume that everyone else is "doing it right" -- with respect to resumes, this is absolutely true. As I stated previously, even people with fantastic interview skills and credentials suffer when it comes to writing resumes, and if you can make yours suck less, you're well on your way to being a stronger applicant than anyone else.

Now on to formatting...

Someone brought up a really good point in my last article with respect to margins. Margins are deceptively important, and when you're running out of room, the first thing you cut is the margins to allow a little bit more content. This, as a rule of thumb, is generally acceptable, until you reach roughly 0.7 on all sides, at which point you should stop shrinking those suckers. Why is this important? Reading lines that run from one end of the page to the other end with limited margins is difficult, and people who don't have a lot of time to dedicate to recruitment generally don't want to bother. More importantly, keeping your resume compact not only makes it look muuuuuch prettier, but it also allows the reader to scan the resume vertically. "Okay, s/he has done X, Y, and Z, has these activities, this leadership experience, and these skills; looks good". This is what's running through the reader's mind, and catering to the reader by making your resume's main point easy to access is where you want to be.

Secondly, avoid flashy bullet points, weird font, and anything that isn't strictly conservative. I have received so many resumes from people who use bizarre font that it's staggering, and truth be told, as soon as I see that you aren't in Times New Roman, I want to stop reading. This doesn't imply that I actually do stop, but wanting to stop is already bad for you. Same with weird bullet points. Micro$oft has to release a new copy of Word every 2-3 years, and it ain't getting much better than it already is, so instead they add a bunch of ugly bullet points and other artsy things to the suite and slap Microsoft Office 20XX on it with a nice price tag. Simple bullet points that do not distract the reader are key.

Thirdly, bold and italicize things that matter (not things that you think matter), and leave everything else normal. Things that matter are: Firm/school and position(s) held. I bold the firm name and italicize the position, but there isn't a hard and fast rule to this. Don't bold stuff like dates...I see this often and it always makes me wonder.

Finally, a general rule of thumb when it comes to formatting: if you feel that you're doing something questionable, don't do it. Play it safe, don't get creative. Resumes are effective when they're simple, and trying to make it look pretty will generally illicit the opposite response. I've gotten many "wow, this is so pretty" responses when showing my resume to people, and there's nothing "pretty" about it: it's short, sweet, and to the point, but when it comes to resumes, that's where beauty resides.

Comments (29)

May 2, 2012

So.... what about a "Profile" at the top? Not a sentence, but 3 bullet points that state how awesome I am and, in my opinion, guide the reader as to what to look at (undergrads don't always have the most experience).

Mine has that, and has gotten quite a bit of positive feedback for it as well.

May 2, 2012
bonks:

So.... what about a "Profile" at the top? Not a sentence, but 3 bullet points that state how awesome I am and, in my opinion, guide the reader as to what to look at (undergrads don't always have the most experience).

Mine has that, and has gotten quite a bit of positive feedback for it as well.

That's another version of the typical "Intro", which is useless.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

May 2, 2012

Just to be sure here...A college student who is an SA and doesn't have a full time job is preaching about how amazing his resume is?

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that your resume is good, and that you know what you're talking about, but don't you think its a little ridiculous to preach the way you are when you haven't made it yet?

May 2, 2012
RedSox212:

Just to be sure here...A college student who is an SA and doesn't have a full time job is preaching about how amazing his resume is?

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that your resume is good, and that you know what you're talking about, but don't you think its a little ridiculous to preach the way you are when you haven't made it yet?

Not really. I'm an SA because I'm switching careers, not because I'm a college student. In my other article I discuss how I read resumes for software develops and engineers (having worked in tech for a while), and the fact that many of these tips apply to those fields as well. I was also involved in the hiring process for many roles at "prestigious" software firms...so actually, you're just wrong.

May 2, 2012

OP do you mind posting your resume so I can see what a "pretty resume" looks like.

May 2, 2012

The thing with the statement or objective (I hate seeing those things) is that people that critique resumes for a living on different sites career sites and at schools actually encourage kids to write them. I had a free critique late last year and that is the first thing the lady pointed out: "You're missing out on your objective, which is a key point on your resume!" I don't understand it.

May 2, 2012
Vontropnats:

Every single resume I've looked at so far (~a dozen) has had a "Mission Statement", "Objective", "Statement of Purpose", etc. I can now confirm that no one likes reading these, that they are cumbersome, take up FAR too much space, and should always be left off in favor of things that are more pertinent or sell your case more saliently. And these resumes are coming from people who go to good schools - top public universities and second-tier private schools.

I just talked to two recruiters from JP Morgan who gave us a resume and application workshop as part of an insight program. They spent 15 minutes talking about how important the mission statement is on top of your resume. Just to make sure, I asked them explicitly: "Do you want us to put a mission statement on top of our resume?". The answer was: "Yes, of course we do."

I guess it comes down to whoever reads your resume.

May 2, 2012
erklam:
Vontropnats:

Every single resume I've looked at so far (~a dozen) has had a "Mission Statement", "Objective", "Statement of Purpose", etc. I can now confirm that no one likes reading these, that they are cumbersome, take up FAR too much space, and should always be left off in favor of things that are more pertinent or sell your case more saliently. And these resumes are coming from people who go to good schools - top public universities and second-tier private schools.

I just talked to two recruiters from JP Morgan who gave us a resume and application workshop as part of an insight program. They spent 15 minutes talking about how important the mission statement is on top of your resume. Just to make sure, I asked them explicitly: "Do you want us to put a mission statement on top of our resume?". The answer was: "Yes, of course we do."

I guess it comes down to whoever reads your resume.

Did you go to the JP Morgan Launching Leaders Experience? If so, do you mind writing a bit about the experience?

May 2, 2012
erklam:
Vontropnats:

Every single resume I've looked at so far (~a dozen) has had a "Mission Statement", "Objective", "Statement of Purpose", etc. I can now confirm that no one likes reading these, that they are cumbersome, take up FAR too much space, and should always be left off in favor of things that are more pertinent or sell your case more saliently. And these resumes are coming from people who go to good schools - top public universities and second-tier private schools.

I just talked to two recruiters from JP Morgan who gave us a resume and application workshop as part of an insight program. They spent 15 minutes talking about how important the mission statement is on top of your resume. Just to make sure, I asked them explicitly: "Do you want us to put a mission statement on top of our resume?". The answer was: "Yes, of course we do."

I guess it comes down to whoever reads your resume.

Lol.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

May 2, 2012
erklam:
Vontropnats:

Every single resume I've looked at so far (~a dozen) has had a "Mission Statement", "Objective", "Statement of Purpose", etc. I can now confirm that no one likes reading these, that they are cumbersome, take up FAR too much space, and should always be left off in favor of things that are more pertinent or sell your case more saliently. And these resumes are coming from people who go to good schools - top public universities and second-tier private schools.

I just talked to two recruiters from JP Morgan who gave us a resume and application workshop as part of an insight program. They spent 15 minutes talking about how important the mission statement is on top of your resume. Just to make sure, I asked them explicitly: "Do you want us to put a mission statement on top of our resume?". The answer was: "Yes, of course we do."

I guess it comes down to whoever reads your resume.

You don't really need a mission statement/objective etc.
If I were you, I'd rather fill my resume up with EC and work experiences.

May 2, 2012
erklam:
Vontropnats:

Every single resume I've looked at so far (~a dozen) has had a "Mission Statement", "Objective", "Statement of Purpose", etc. I can now confirm that no one likes reading these, that they are cumbersome, take up FAR too much space, and should always be left off in favor of things that are more pertinent or sell your case more saliently. And these resumes are coming from people who go to good schools - top public universities and second-tier private schools.

I just talked to two recruiters from JP Morgan who gave us a resume and application workshop as part of an insight program. They spent 15 minutes talking about how important the mission statement is on top of your resume. Just to make sure, I asked them explicitly: "Do you want us to put a mission statement on top of our resume?". The answer was: "Yes, of course we do."

I guess it comes down to whoever reads your resume.

Did you skip the part (before or after their answer) when the recruiters laughed their asses off?

    • 1
May 2, 2012
erklam:

[
I just talked to two recruiters from JP Morgan who gave us a resume and application workshop as part of an insight program. They spent 15 minutes talking about how important the mission statement is on top of your resume. Just to make sure, I asked them explicitly: "Do you want us to put a mission statement on top of our resume?". The answer was: "Yes, of course we do."

I guess it comes down to whoever reads your resume.

4 options:
a) You're trolling
b) You just made that up to back up the fact that you have one of those.
c) They were making fun of you.
d) The recruiters were from HR and 1 week into the job. And even then it would really surprise me. But no one with actual hiring power will hire you with a mission statement.

To the OP, I think 0.7 is quite a big margin. I use 0.5 and it looks (and works) just fine. To me margins bigger than 0.7 make it look way too empty.

May 2, 2012

Yeah I don't think that there is any set guidelines for resumes (besides obvious ones). It really comes down to the reader and type of firm/position you're applying for.

OP, wasn't trying to flame you. Just making sure you weren't the blind leading the blind.

May 2, 2012

What about putting WSO name on resume? I've gotten mixed results with mine

I eat success for breakfast...with skim milk

May 2, 2012
ToiletPaper:

What about putting WSO name on resume? I've gotten mixed results with mine

Could you elaborate a little? I've had WSO on my resume for quite a while and never gotten a bad result. "Mixed" doesn't imply "bad", but wondering what else you might have to say about this.

May 2, 2012
Vontropnats:
ToiletPaper:

What about putting WSO name on resume? I've gotten mixed results with mine

Could you elaborate a little? I've had WSO on my resume for quite a while and never gotten a bad result. "Mixed" doesn't imply "bad", but wondering what else you might have to say about this.

Not the website, i'm saying my UserName

I eat success for breakfast...with skim milk

May 2, 2012

Resume Objective: To get F%#!ing HIRED! What dopes!

Eventus stultorum magister.

May 2, 2012

You should pick something conservative but if you go to a school that has some pride, picking your official school font might impress people as times new roman is overdone.

The official yale fonts are extremely sexy

May 2, 2012

Also, I reccomend the book typography for lawyers. It goes over the proper use of bold, dashes etc. It discusses everything you need to know to make professional documents that look good and make people want to read them

May 2, 2012

Why is a SA giving recommendations on resumes? It doesn't matter if you looked at "software" resumes before that has little to do with finance and the skill sets are usually pretty different. Your points are for the most part valid, I just don't understand why you're all-of-a-sudden the authority on resumes cause you've "been given license to look through some of them".

May 2, 2012
BeastMode:

Why is a SA giving recommendations on resumes? It doesn't matter if you looked at "software" resumes before that has little to do with finance and the skill sets are usually pretty different. Your points are for the most part valid, I just don't understand why you're all-of-a-sudden the authority on resumes cause you've "been given license to look through some of them".

So even though my points are valid, I shouldn't disseminate them because I'm such a lowly rank? Sounds like a good way to accomplish something in life.

May 2, 2012
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May 2, 2012

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