I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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After avoiding the 7 deadly sins of résumé design, you may be asking, “If I can’t use crazy colors, clip art, and other types of decoration, how do I make my résumé stand out from the crowd?” Like many things, the answer lies in the details.

Even if you can’t hire a fancy designer and are stuck with Microsoft Word, a few tweaks can turn your blasé résumé into an elegant and functional showpiece.

Update (Oct 25): As promised, here’s a template of the final résumé. Please credit this site, LifeClever, if you post it elsewhere. Thanks!

The typical résumé

Before starting your résumé makeover, first take a look at a typical one:


Like most résumés, it was created in Microsoft Word. It doesn’t look horrible, but it could use improvement. You can improve almost all résumés with four steps:

  1. Pick a better typeface
  2. Remove extra indentations
  3. Make it easy to skim
  4. Apply typographic detailing

1. Pick a better typeface

If you’re using Times New Roman, Word’s default typeface, change it now. Times doesn’t read well on-screen and lacks typographic subtleties such as non-lining numbers. Because it’s available on virtually all computers and designed to be readable on on-screen, try Georgia instead.

At the same point size, Georgia appears larger than Times New Roman, so you’ll want to set the font size a point or two smaller. Just don’t go below 9 points.

To improve readability, also increase the line spacing (also called leading) to at least 120% of the font size.

To do this in Word:

Line Spacing in Microsoft Word

  1. In the menubar, go to Format and select Paragraph.
  2. In the pulldown under Line Spacing, choose Exactly and set the line spacing to 14 points.

Our example résumé currently uses Times New Roman set at a size/line spacing of 11pt/13pt. Let’s change it to Georgia with a size/line spacing of 10pt/14pt.

Here’s the full page:

résumé after setting typeface, size, and leading

If you can’t stand Georgia and aren’t worried about on-screen legibility, feel free to choose another appropriate typeface.

2. Remove extra indentations

Next, reduce the number of indentations. Better yet, take them all out. While useful in outlines, too many indentations in a résumé will cause your eyes to jump all over the page, destroying page harmony. The goal is to have all text align to each other.

After reducing indentations, also hang your bullets.

In Word:

Hanging Bullets in Microsoft Word

  1. Replace any spaces after a bullet with a tab character.
  2. Select the bulleted list.
  3. If you don’t see the horizontal ruler, go to the View menu and select Ruler.
  4. On the ruler, drag the First Line Indent marker to left by 1/8th of an inch.

Here’s a detail showing the résumé before and after removing indentation:

Remove indentations detail

To align all the cities and dates on the right, use tabs.

Remove indentations full

Already, you can see a huge improvement.

Also notice that the top margin is now reduced to 0.5 inches. This helps compensate for the additional line spacing in step 1.

3. Make it easy to skim

To make the résumé skimmable, you have to create a distinct typographic hierarchy. By typographic hierarchy, we mean Ellen Lupton’s definition from Thinking With Type:

A typographic hierarchy expresses an organizational system for content, emphasizing some data and diminishing others. A hierarchy helps readers scan a text, knowing where to enter and exit and how to pick and choose among its offerings.

Our example résumé already uses bolds and italics to highlight important information such as names and job titles. If you aren’t using them, set them now.

The headings for the major sections, however, don’t stick out enough. Even with “Education”, “Legal Experience”, and “Skills and Certifications” underlined and set in bold, they look too close to the job titles.

To make these section headings more distinct, use horizontal rules above and below each section heading.

In Word, select the section heading and go to Format in the menubar. From here, you’ll make changes in Paragraph, Font, and Borders and Shading.


Paragraph adjustment

  1. In the pulldown under Line Spacing, choose Exactly if it’s not already chosen, and set the line spacing to 16pt.
  2. Under Spacing, set the Before field to 6pt and the After field to 8pt.


Font adjustment

  1. Select the Character Spacing tab.
  2. For Position, choose Raised from the pulldown and type “1pt” in the field.

Borders and Shading

Adding borders

  1. Select the Borders tab
  2. Under Setting, select Custom
  3. For Style, select a solid line. For Color, choose black. For Width, choose “3/4”.
  4. In the preview area, click the Top Border icon to the left of preview image.
  5. To add a bottom border, repeat step 3 using grey for Color, and “1/4” for Weight.
  6. In the preview area, click the Bottom Border icon to the left of preview image.

Here’s a detail of the difference:

Horizontal rules detail

And now the full page:

Typographic Hierarchy

To give more emphasis to job descriptions and responsibilities, deemphasize the cities and dates by setting them in grey.

4. Apply typographic detailing

Our résumé makeover is almost done, but it needs some finishing touches:

Use smart quotes

Never ever use inch and foot marks (straight quotes) as quotation marks and apostrophes. They should always be curly. Microsoft Word has automatic curly quotes turned on by default. If not:

  1. In the menubar, go to Tools and choose AutoCorrect.
  2. Click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.
  3. Under Replace as you type, click the checkbox next to “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”.

Space out text set in ALL CAPS

In general, avoid setting type in ALL CAPS. Because the letters start to look the same, it’s harder to read. In small doses, text in ALL CAPS is acceptable if you space out the letters.

The extra spacing between letters help makes each letter more distinct and readable:

Character spacing

In Word:

  1. Select the text set in ALL CAPS.
  2. In the menubar, go to Format and choose Font.
  3. Select the *Character Spacing** tab.
  4. In the Spacing pulldown, choose “Expanded” and type in “2pt” in the field.

Separate durations of time with en dashes

Durations of time such as “9–5”, “Monday–Friday”, and “October 5–December 31” should always be separated by en dashes, not hyphens.

On the Mac, press Option-Dash to create an en dash. On a PC, hold down the Alt key and press 0150.

Adjust spacing in phone numbers

The space after the closing parenthesis in a phone number is often too wide. To reduce this, select the space and change its font size in half. So if the rest of the text is 10pt, change it to 5pt.

The final résumé

After adding the finishing touches, here’s the final résumé:

Final résumé

No rules are set in stone, so feel free to experiment. Just do so judiciously. You can find additional guidance here:

Remember don’t hesitate to post additional résumé tips in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, you should follow me on twitter here.


  • Groovymarlin

    gravatarFeb 2, 2007
    9:29 am

    Thanks for this article. I just used the template you provided to update my own resume, with a few adjustments (like moving the education to the bottom and adding a section for technical skills) that are appropriate to my industry.

    I read the comments with amusement. Dave Perry has obviously moved on from this discussion (he must be busy out there guerilla marketing something to someone) but I did check out his linked websites: horrible. Further he recently is advertising a “resume makeover” that I think is just horrendous. Not surprisingly, it includes random groupings of typefaces, color, and the deadliest of sins, clip art! I had to laugh. I wonder how many naive job seekers have given their money to this blowhard.

    Anyway, love your blog, keep up the good work.

  • Dan

    gravatarFeb 9, 2007
    3:44 am

    I’ve just changed my wife resume based on your advice and looks great! Thanks.

  • Duncan

    gravatarFeb 13, 2007
    6:19 pm

    Excellent post on resume design. Have used the ideas on my resume and hopefully should go towards giving me an internship… thank you.

  • Tracy

    gravatarFeb 20, 2007
    11:24 am

    i’m applying for a part time job cuz i’m still in high school. you gave very good tips, thanks! wish me luck :)

  • John

    gravatarMar 13, 2007
    9:34 pm

    The en dash can also be made by ctrl + the minus key on the number pad. FYI – easier to remember than the 0150

  • Dee

    gravatarMar 15, 2007
    9:34 am

    I was just about to send my resume, but I’ll use the new template first. I think it’s good.

    Hey, Perry, better asking for forgiveness than for permission, ha? ;) I think you DID insult us by thinking we are unable to see how “terrible” this resume is and need your help to open our eyes. That we would just take the template and maybe not even change the name :D

  • duffGeiger

    gravatarMar 19, 2007
    2:48 pm

    I saw this article on Digg when it first came out and decided to use it to update my resume. Since then I’ve shown my new and improved resume to my wife, a couple co-workers, and a former boss. All of them have said that they don’t like the layout. I did get a little too wordy in my descriptions so perhaps that’s what they dislike but has anyone else received feedback from peers?

  • James

    gravatarApr 3, 2007
    8:39 am

    I am just starting another job search so when updating my resume I put it in this format and it worked very well. I changed the header a little just to make it smaller, but that was about it. My girlfriend saw it and thought it was so great she asked if I could help convert her resume. Her resume used to be 10pt font/Arial Narrow/.25″ margins completely filled with text so we were not sure if it would fit. Surprisingly it fits much better and provides much more white space on the page.

    Overall this article is excellent.

    It would be great if there was a cover letter template with the same formatting, but that may be asking for too much.

  • m

    gravatarApr 10, 2007
    7:11 pm

    You suggest Georgia does not print that well. I have access to a huge repository of high-grade fonts and I wonder if someone might be able to recommend a high quality font which is sleek on-screen and printed. Thanks y’all.

    Great stuff here btw, thanks for the help with my job search!

  • who cares

    gravatarApr 23, 2007
    2:11 pm

    sorry but wheels is intellectually challenged. bullets should always be hanging. if you want to do what’s right go and read typography books by ellen lupton, rob carter, jan tschichold, or wolfgang weingart. people are not going to skip over your resume because you did what is typographically correct.

  • Damien Jorgensen

    gravatarMay 14, 2007
    1:14 pm

    Excellent post, I wish the candiates which send me CVs would read this!

  • Art

    gravatarJun 7, 2007
    12:23 pm

    David Perry = Clown trying to pimp his book along with self-invented BS buzzwords.

    Great tips. This is about the visual design and how to make a crappy Word doc look better. I’ve forwarded this to family and friends and they thanked me.

  • Ritesh

    gravatarJun 18, 2007
    11:03 am

    this is incompete…with current market resume should have an OBJECTIVE.SKILLS should be above experience and EDUCATION should go to end

  • Chanpory

    gravatarJun 20, 2007
    11:49 am


    Again, this post is about the design, not the content of the résumé. The idea is that you should adapt the template for your needs.

    The example template is for a law student, in which case education is most important.

    I find the “objective” section a waste of space. No matter how you wordsmith it, isn’t the objective always to simply get a job?

    With over a 100 comments on this post, I think it’s time to close-off comments. I’m not sure much more can be said that hasn’t already been said.

    Thanks everyone!