Resume Format

Résumés should be easy to read. Readers of English read from left to right, and from top to bottom.  So information layout on a resume should support the way your eye is trained to read. Think of résumé layout in terms of the letters E or F.  Lines of information go across the page, and those lines align with one main left-hand margin down the page.

The letters E and F
There are many resume writing resources available online. has some clean, simple templates from which to choose, and there are resume template choices in Word.  Note, though, that unless you are seeking a job in a creative field, it’s best to keep your resume simple, clean, and clear, so that readers can find the information they need quickly and easily. Below are three very basic, clean, simple formats.

Always remember that you adapt format as well as content to address the variables of your communication situation. Keep the following tips in mind as you decide how to present information on your resume.

For All Resumes


  • Stick with just a few margins throughout the resume.  Too many margins and indentations make your resume hard to read.
  • Use one left-hand margin for headings and main pieces of information.  Use one indented margin for bulleted lists.  Do not use a lot of additional internal margins.
  • If you need to break up a bulleted list and put the two parts side by side under a heading, it’s acceptable to do so, but try to keep this layout to just one category of information.
  • Border margins should be approximately an inch all around, top and bottom and sides – do not skimp on border margins.


  • Break information into small pieces that can be easily read and retained.  Avoid big blocks of type.  Bulleted lists and phrases work better than paragraphs and sentences.
  • Use a standard, easy-to-read type font, such as Arial or Calibri (sans serif) or the traditional Times New Roman, usually 12-point size (no smaller than 10 and no larger than 14; slightly larger for headings is o.k.).  Do not use italics or any unusual font.
  • Use parallel action words.  Parallel means that all of the words within one category have the same grammatical form (e.g., they all end in “-ed” or “-ing”). Action means that the words themselves show direct activity (e.g., “managed” instead of “responsible for managing”).
  • Use clear headings to group your information logically, with standard heading language such as Work Experience or Skills.
  • Do not use colored paper, colored text, or shading, as these features make your resume harder to read.  Stick with black text on a white background (unless you are in a creative field and are expected to deviate from a standard resume presentation). Use lines across the page sparingly, if you choose to use them at all, to separate categories of information, as they may intrude on the cleanliness of the layout.


  • Put your name on the first line of the resume.  Include the rest of your contact information under your name, either all centered on the page or all in a block at the left-hand margin.
  • Do not include a photograph or image of yourself, unless expressly directed to do so.
  • Keep your resume to one page (preferable), or two pages at most, unless you are in a field in that expects a lengthier resume. If you really need to include more information, do it in the form of a separate attachment (e.g., a list of projects, new products developed, publications, etc.).  However, don’t assume that your audience will read the attachment or that it will be distributed to all of those included in hiring decisions.
  • Identify your job title first when providing information about your work experience.  You may want to list your employer’s or company’s name first, yet the focus should be on your function within the company, as that is what your audience will want to know.
  • You  may delete dates of education from your resume, and employers cannot legally request that information. This may be to your advantage if some of your formal education or training is old.  On the other hand, adding dates may give you an advantage if you’ve had recent training. Gauge your situation and audience to decide about including dates.

For Electronic Resumes

If you are told that your resume will be scanned using an applicant tracking system (ATS), then note the following additional format items:

  • Remove all formatting (underlining, bold type, bullets, lines, italics, etc.). To replace bullets, you may use a dash ( – ).
  • Remove all indentations from your resume; all information goes at the left-hand margin.

Texas A&M University has a useful handout on Scannable Resumes.


The following video recaps important information about resume layout as well as content.

Important Note

There’s no one resume type, format, or layout that fits all situations.  You may change type, format, and layout from one job application to another, just as you change content to adapt to each job application.