Redesigning a resume

Hello all. I’m currently redesigning my resume.
Can anyone could recommend any resources to be able to fit a lot of content into a one page PDF resume.

I’m wondering what type treatments could possibly help or where I can see type treatments that condense a lot of characters of type while still being legible and looking right. Should I look into information design books? I’ve seen a lot of work that has crunched down a lot of information and made fit to a 8.5x11 page. I want to be able to design a resume that is clear, legible and non cluttered.

Can anyone help out with this?

It’s a pretty wide open question that the answer to is basically “good graphic design”. Set up a grid, good use of type and typeface selection for readability, create hierarchies to separate content with different type treatments, weights, rules, etc. Make good use of leading and tracking adjustments…

Any good book on type or graphics should help.

I use these often - (there’s more in the series too)


I’ve been setting mine up in word and using myriad pro, whatever font you use make sure it has the full character set and bold, where the regular version is pretty compact and legible in 10pt, then print it to pdf printer. I’ve read don’t go beneath 10pt. Don’t discount the use of white space to make the document easy to read, I keep a .88" margin all around, except bottom, I go to .44", 1" is better but here’s where you can squeeze more in. I played tricks with the justification on some parts to justify it to the left and right to maximize the page width, vs. just justifying to the left. I also played tricks with the white space between some of the sections, like everything is 10pt. but white space lines are 4pt instead to “buy” an extra line here and there. just make a repeatable pattern to it. Don’t put references available upon request nor hobbies unless directly related to the job, this will save more space. I got a lot of my advice from careerbuilder and monster, and other sources on the web. Books I liked, “The Perfect Resume” and “Resumes that Knock’em Dead”.
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Also, don’t go crazy with colors, picture, exotic fonts, etc. Stick to one font. Remember it has to be compatible with automated readers and get by more conservative HR / business people who are used to looking at basic looking documents anyway. Also you may want to coordinate the design with your portfolio sample sheets so they have the same header.

Check out this link. There are a few nice examples to draw from.

I’d recommend whatever you do, don’t use Word. It’s not a real design tool, and the results will show it.


While I don’t suggest using Word as your primary design tool I definitely recommend creating a Word and Plain Text version of your resume (minimal formatting, standard fonts). As was mentioned by ID Guy - a lot of companies use big corporate HR systems which don’t accept PDF files and will require you to submit a Word doc or even just copy and paste text into a web form, at which point your design is out the window.

Since a lot of those systems use keyword searches to filter out candidates (are HR people REALLY that busy?) you want to make sure your stuff gets through the corporate gears.

One other big advantage to using word (it is a pain in the neck I know) is that you show your “business chops”.

What I mean by this is that it shows to business types that you are proficient in the tools that non-design business professionals use. A lot of employers want designers to be proficient in ms word and ms office, I see this in a lot of ads, just do a search on all the ads on core with the word “word” and you’ll see a bunch. It’s definitely a valued business-type skill for designers because it is a business-wide standard program.

Another advantage to using word is that it opens faster than say illustrator or indesign, which take longer to open. It also creates tiny files. This is important when you are making many different customized versions of your resume and cover letters for applications and are opening and closing them to cut and paste parts and pieces to create new versions. If your version of word does not export pdf, get a cheap $10 pdf printer program and print to pdf.

tip: I use my email program or MS notepad to paste my text version into to do the final tweaking of it to get rid of extra spaces, etc. to ensure it is clean text version and line spacing is consistent, and their are no extra spaces, etc.

I take a really different approach than idguy88. His is more formulaic and seems to serve him well. I design through inspiration and iteration. I find a general look and feel that I like from good graphic designers’ portfolios (that also links with the aesthetics of my portfolio/brand), and sketch it out small using lines as placeholders for text. I write the content first, then I bring it into InDesign where I spend hours searching for the right fonts. I then print out a ton of copies with slight variations in type, graphic elements, composition, hierarchy and test them with myself and people around me. This gives me a good feel of what’s too small/doesn’t feel right, in addition to some proofreading.

I have a graphic design background which probably helps, but good tips are: white space, white space, white space, concise content (what you write is just as important… you don’t have to put every single thing you did), and clear type. Nothing fancy. Use legible fonts, not something that “shows your personality” (if you really want to, it only belongs in your name/logo/header). For small fonts, use serifs. If you’re using all caps for section headers, make sure you kern them out (spacing between letters). Don’t full-justify, and refrain from orphans (one word by itself on a line).

I don’t even have Word on my computer, and just because I don’t use it for my resume, it doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to use it. I can show my “business chops” other ways, without the cost of a potentially crappy resume. I also can’t believe you are using loading time for a program as justification not to use it… PDFs are lightweight, have selectable type, and look nice. Yes, keep a plain text version for when you have to submit to HR smart or whatever, but that can come later.

Don’t copy. Someone will find out. I recently found someone who 100% ripped my resume, and it didn’t go down to well.

Well put. 100% my sentiments. You are being hired as a designer, not an accountant or secretary. Your CV should show your design chops. Besides, who doesn’t know how to Word for the basic things most people need it for in an office?

I actually constantly surprised at the divide between graphic and ID skills. I don’t know how many portfolios I’ve seen that have decent content, but graphically look terrible. Even more so for something as basic as a CV that you would think is hard to go that wrong. I guess like anything else, the more simple it is, the harder is to get right…


That’s another discussion entirely that I’d love to have, but I feel the same… most ID guys just don’t have graphic design chops. For people who love Apple and Dieter Rams, we seem to use a lot of ghastly super fancy fonts, and don’t seem to know about white space. Every time I start my portfolio redesign/rebrand, I always start with the resume, since it’s really hard to get right. Then I can waterfall those aesthetics into my portfolio. Whatever works in an 8.5"x11" will work in a web browser, but not vice versa.

Sorry it seems formulaic, just responding to the original poster’s questions. Look at what he is asking to try to do. It seems formulaic because I got very specific. It is merely one method to do it and one tool to do it with. The “formula” I presented will buy precious extra lines without looking too dense.

Agree, word is not the tool of choice for every designer, but its use makes sense in a lot of ways. Whatever tool works for you as long as the end-results are successful.

A properly designed PDF file shouldn’t take any longer to open than a Word doc. Also, the big issue is if you use anything other than a standard font from Word 2003, you run into the potential issue of your Word file not reading correctly because it’ll automatically swap the font and change the formatting.