August 05, 2005

The 3 P's of a Resume: Page Setup, Paper, and Printing

Page Setup and Formatting

When formatting your resume you must keep in mind three things: Professional Appearance, Readability, and Scanability. A resume that looks messy and unprofessional will be rejected out of hand. One that takes effort to read on the part of the recruiter must have some pretty valuable content to overcome that barrier. And many many companies still scan every resume then perform Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on it before entering it into a searchable computer database with other resumes. Of the three Scanability has changed the most how a resume must look today.

You are now constrained in your margins. Any text closer than 0.75 inches to the edge of a page risks being lost in scanning. Any text aligned vertically on the page will not be scanned accurately. The use of graphic elements such as lines or icons will not translate at all in scanning. Vertical text and graphic elements are the two biggest foes to a pain free scan for the recruiter.

Your actual margins on the page should be fairly standard. The left margin should be wider than the right and between 1.0" to 1.25". The Top and Bottom margins can be adjusted so as to fit your content onto one page or move more to page two, as needed. Just keep text no more than 1.0" from the top to start.

Paper Choice

Paper choice for your resume is more important than ever. Is the paper clean, smudge free, and bright? Printing on Yellow, Pink, or Tan paper doesn't make you more qualified for the position and can negatively affect the readability and scanability of your resume. Instead, chose your paper based on its weight (24lb minimum / 30lb maximum (so as not to jam the scanner)) and brightness (bright white: 90 minimum). If those numbers don't make sense to you, ask the helpful folks at OfficeMax or OfficeDepot and they'll help you out.


Is laserprinting your resume, which usually means a trip to Kinko's, required? Not anymore. These days there are high DPI (600DPI and up) inkjet printers, you probably have one at home or at the library, that will do the job just fine. Just take precautions against smearing by letting the pages dry for a few minutes in the printer tray before picking them up.

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