How well does your résumé score on the readability scale?

How well your résumé performs depends a lot on how easy it is for the human and the computer applicant tracking software system (ATS) to read it.

Whether it’s 6 seconds or 30, we can all agree that no one spends much time reviewing your document.

Since you don’t have a lot of time, you need to do everything you can to make your résumé easy to skim, otherwise it could be headed for the rejection pile.

The readability of your résumé also impacts the kind of ranking you will get from the ATS which scores certain sections of your résumé with how well it matches the job criteria.  If it can’t read some of the information, you will receive a lower score which affects how you rank as a potential match.

While content is arguably the most important part of an effective résumé, if your document has poor readability, whatever you wrote can end up having little to no impact on the human reader or ATS.

After you’ve perfected your content and have proofread it 100 times to ensure it’s error-free, you need to maximize the readability of your document.


13 ways to improve the readability of your résumé


#1   ►   Include ample white space

  • Use a wide enough margin so that when the document is printed off, the reader has room to make notes.
  • Break up large blocks of copy into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
  • To lighten up copy-dense sections, you could create categories that are relevant to your job search. For example: “Administration”, “Customer Service”, “Sales”, etc.
  • Make sure you use enough space between the lines, paragraphs, headings, and any other sections.
  • Whatever spacing you use, keep it consistent.

#2  ►  Use easy to read fonts

  • Use font types that are easy to read whether they are serif or sans serif. Serif fonts have little embellishments or “tails” on the letters.  Sans serif are more clean, modern, and “blocky”.
  • The size will depend on the type of font you use. In most cases, 10 to 11 point is most suitable for the body copy. You would use larger sizes for the headings and your name.
  • Some common fonts to use are: Tahoma, Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Trebuchet, Georgia, and Palatino Linotype, Century Gothic, Garamond, Book Antiqua, and Calibri.
  • Limit the type of font you use to no more than two with one being the main font and the other one being the complementary one you can use elsewhere like the headings or your name.

# 3  ►  Keep font styles and effects to a minimum

  • Keep bolding, italics, underline, Small Caps, and all caps, highlighting, and all other effects to a minimum. Too many design elements can cause the human reader and ATS to reject the document due to decreased readability.
  • You can add styles and effects to things that you want to emphasize (which won’t be everything!) like are your name, employer names, job titles, and headings.

#4  ►   Add understandable résumé headings

  • Include résumé headings that use common terms such as such as Career Summary/Professional Profile, Core Competencies/Skills/Areas of Expertise, Work Experience/Work History, and Education. Don’t get fancy with the heading names because the ATS might not understand it.

#5  ► Use colour sparingly

  • Using too much colour can be hard on the human eye and detract from the content which is the most important thing.
  • Use colour strategically by highlighting something you want to draw attention to.
  • Most of the text should be in black.
  • You can use a different colour in certain areas, like the headings, your name, the first few words of the impact statements, but don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t use more than two colours and even then, that might be too much.

#6  ► Use bullet points

  • Transform long sentences into clear and concise impact statements that use bullet points and start with a strong action verb.
  • The whole point behind the bullet point is BREVITY, so keep them to no more than two lines with one line being the ideal.

#7  ► Cut out the fluff

  • Create bullet points and sentences that use the least amount of words possible.
  • Cut out any fluff and filler words.
  • Avoid using too many adjectives which don’t “prove” anything and could just be empty promises – stick to strong action verbs instead.

#8  ► Left align text

  • Most of us read naturally from left to right therefore it’s easier on the eye to align the body copy to the left.
  • It’s okay to centre headings, but that would be the only thing I would put in the centre.

#9  ► Justification

  • I like the boxy look of justified text but be careful that it doesn’t create too many large spaces in between words. If it does, align it to the left.

#10  ► Align dates

  • Create a right tab and position the dates to the far right so they stand out and don’t get lumped in with the employer name, location, and job title. Dates are important and must be seen.

#11  ► Lead with the outcome

  • An effective bullet point is one that starts the sentence off with a strong action verb and ideally leads with the positive outcome that you achieved such as money saved or revenue generated.

#12  ► Use digits and numerals

  • While you should include metrics wherever possible, it’s best to write them out as numbers so they stand out. Instead of thirty percent, use 30%.  It’s easier to read and also saves on space.

#13  ► Add a skills section

  • A great way to highlight your skills is to create a separate section that contains your core competencies.
  • Avoid full sentences and use 1 to 3 words that can be skimmed quickly by the human eye

There’s more help below…

Create a résumé that converts into interviews

The scary fact is, only about 2% to 3% of résumés actually result in interviews. To boost your chances, you need a résumé that has a higher rate of converting into interviews. Click on the button below and get started on creating a higher-converting résumé.

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Hi! I’m Diana.

I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for!

Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or, are you employed and not actively looking but want to “get ready” in case your situation changes and you need to launch a job search?

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