How to Format Your Resume (with Examples)!

Resume formatting is important. But when recruiters are spending less than 6 seconds to scan your resume, formatting is REALLY important. There’s a reason that top US business schools are so strict on how their students format their resumes, and Angela Guido is here to let you know how to format your resume so you don’t get rejected immediately.

We’re also letting you peak behind the scenes at the resume template we use with clients!

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Welcome back to MBA Monday/Make Mondays Better. Today's video is for everybody! I'm talking about resume formatting. It's such a big question with such a simple answer. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, an MBA and Career Coach for the past several years, and in the past, evaluator of MBA resumes of students applying to work at the Boston Consulting Group. So I know a thing or two about awesome resumes, and I also know a thing or two about how to screw yourself in getting serious attention as a professional for legitimate, prestigious jobs by going overboard on formatting your resume too creatively or in too fancy a manner.

1. Keep It Simple

  • Plain ol’ black and white
  • Top down

The number one rule of resume formatting is, in the words of the great Michael Scott as he often said to Dwight Schrute, keep it simple, stupid. Which, of course, always hurts Dwight's feelings, and I get it, but that advice goes for you and your resume too. Now, look, if you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer, or a fashion designer, or a DJ, or a music artist, or a set designer — if you're applying for a creative job where your ability to channel visual elegance and creativity is part of what's being evaluated, then by all means, go out to Canva and download some of their fancy resume templates that have all different colors and icons and images and other accouterments. But if you're applying for a regular old business job at one of the thousands, if not millions of reputable organizations, both for and nonprofit across the world, you don't want the formatting of your resume to distract from the brilliance of your life and achievements. So, the best resume formatting is black and white, linear, simple, not a lot of extra stuff on it. That's the first rule of resume formatting. Let the content shine, not the font.

2. It Needs To Scan

  • It’ll initially be skimmed in about 6 seconds

Second rule is to format it for maximum ease of scanning. Most recruiting managers will spend at most six seconds with your resume the first time they screen it. When I was screening resumes for BCG, I sometimes would take less than two seconds per resume to quickly scan and determine if this person was presenting all the information I needed to see to put them in the “Yes, we definitely need to interview this person” pile, or the “No, we definitely ain't going to interview this person” pile. In less than two seconds, a skilled resume reader can figure that out if you have formatted your resume correctly. And believe me, that's what you want to do. So, take a look at this sample resume, which is the one that we use with all of our clients. It's based on the Booth MBA program official student resume book template. We've updated it with better fonts and more beautiful tabbing, but this is sort of the gold standard for resumes that really allow your professional achievements to shine. Notice how there are discrete sections. The font boldness and capitalization clearly differentiate position from company, from the bullets themselves. Notice how very clearly down the right margin, you can immediately scan and see all of the time periods of this person's career, as well as all of the locations they have worked at. You can see where they moved up within an organization and got promoted. You can see the brand names of the companies they work for and the schools they attended all in one immediate, quick glance because it's formatted for ease of scanning, ease of consumption of information, and that's what you want! You want your reader to take a look and get everything they need at a glance. That is what will make them dig deeper and read into the content of your bullets, which is where you're really going to make hay in any recruiting process that you're a part of. But they won't get to that point if they're frustrated in deciphering where on the page the important information they need to get at is. This is a little-known fact, when you get to business school, whatever business school you're attending, you will have to create your MBA resume within about 6 to 8 weeks of arriving on campus. The school will mandate that you follow their resume book format. For Booth, it looks like the one I just showed you. At Harvard, it's very different. There's a lot more white space, the bullets take up less space on the page. I'm not a big fan of Harvard's resume because I think it's too constraining. It doesn't give you quite enough space to showcase all of your amazing transferable skills, which if you're an MBA graduate, you're almost certainly making a career pivot and therefore making a big transition. So, the move you're making, the more content you're probably going to need to showcase so that the company you're recruiting for can understand that you have all the right achievements that create the transferable skills that they want to see. But they do this at MBA programs because they want recruiters to not stumble on the formatting. They want all 900 Harvard resumes to look the same on the surface so that the recruiters can really quickly dig into the substance of each person's individual experience where appropriate. That's exactly what you want everyone who looks at your resume to do, and you do that by keeping it simple, stupid, and by formatting it elegantly to be scanned and understood.

That's really it. There are really just two things that you need to do to make sure that your resume is formatted for maximum comprehension on the part of any reader that may pick it up. If you want even more insight into how to make your resume awesome, sign up for our free resume masterclass by clicking this link, And join me for a brief masterclass that goes much deeper into the significantly more important aspects of your resume beyond formatting, and that is the substance of your bullet points so that you can convey that you are not just your run of the mill applicant for this job or MBA program, you are a unique, extraordinary individual who has an impact. I'll see you over there and I'll see you right here next week. Good luck formatting that resume!

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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