Resume Aesthetics

The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto principle, which states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In certain fields, its easy to see how this plays out. In a sales organization, 20% of your team will account for 80% of your sales. In a class science project, 20% of your team will do 80% of the work. You can easily list many examples within your day to day that fit this principle. Similarly, though not quite as applicable, is the relationship between content and aesthetics contained in a resume.

80% of your resume should be content, while the other 20% should be aesthetics. While there is no consensus on the correct format or aesthetic, I want to share some tried and true methods that can help avoid potential pitfalls.

Structured format, clean layout, tight spacing, no fancy design

This resume is the format I use professionally. I have formatted and submitted 100’s of resumes to clients using this format and it has not done me wrong. The spacing is set to Single and the Before and After are also at 0. This helps save space as an added bonus to the tight formatting. The header replaces the typical objective statement and instead summarizes your job roles and skillset without needing a whole paragraph. This method is much appreciated by the hiring manager and the ATS. Font is size 12 with Bookman Old Style looking classically noble.

Multi-colored, confused format, non-linear

This resume looks creative–that can’t be denied. The issue is its distracting and overly intricate. The color scheme is pleasing, but the format is non-linear which should be the top goal of a resume. Readability and flow should always be top of mind when formatting your resume.

It’s clear what the goal of the profile picture is trying to do (convey motherly wholesomeness), but its violating a huge no-no in resume writing which is putting a picture on your resume. There are managers who will simply throw resumes away or delete from their email if they see one with a picture. Lawsuits and claims of discrimination result from considering candidates with pictures are a main driver for this. Don’t do it. Furthermore, the picture isn’t you, so there is no added value to the content.

The header with the arching background graphic is more style without substance. The only time this is going to be to your advantage is when you are applying to a graphic design type role where resume creativity is a deciding factor. Other than that, it comes across as attempting to distract from the content. What is notable is that this resume does have great content in the job duties, so that already speaks for itself without the fancy design.

I guess that is the essential crux of all resume writing– content is king and should be 80% of your resume. The spacing, readability, and concise-ness should be the other 20%.

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The Concept of the Resume

A resume is designed to capture the attention of 2 different people; the Skimmer and the Scrutinizer. The perfect resume will cater to both their review styles and satisfy their internal check-boxes.

The Skimmer is somebody who is looking for keywords to judge whether or not you deserve an interview. This type is the person you want if you are a word salad writer and want to pass this filter. Specifically when a role has a must-have qualification, this is the resume reviewer that you want. The Skimmer’s downside can be quite embarrassing to you as the candidate. Say you get to the interview based on having the right keywords jammed in your resume. You are asked during the interview to explain your experience with, let’s say, Adobe Illustrator. Yes, you’ve used it, but it was one time, and it was really just Adobe Photoshop, but really it was MS Paint. And now you are backtracking and looking like a clown. This is an instant fail; much like driving on the sidewalk during your Driving Exam.

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The Scrutinizer is the guy who nitpicks your resume line-by-line just looking for a reason to reject you. The benefit of this type is that if you do manager to pass their filter, you are likely already a top candidate for the position. The downside is that this type will often reject those who are very qualified, but missed 1 or 2 crucial bullet points that would have sealed the deal.

You can make a resume that satisfies both types without exaggerating, stretching, or adding fancy graphics. Here is what is needed:

  • Include the specifics of the tool, project, application, or the final result ($$$ saved, quota achieved etc) to each bullet point. Don’t say something like, “Administered database to ensure data continuity.” Tell us it was SQL or Mongo or whatever, but make it clear what the tool was. Too many candidates get rejected by The Scrutinizer when they leave these small details out.
  • Make it obvious that your job title is in line with the standard duties of that role. If you are a Project Manager, you need direct reports, budgets specifics, and clients if applicable. The most common mistake I see is people label themselves a manager without actually having direct reports. This is where you can pass the filter of the Skimmer, and lose bigly in the interview.
  • Keep in mind that words mean things. But some words don’t have value because they are too vague or, even worse, misrepresent you. Instead of words that can be left up to interpretation like, “helped, assisted, and managed”, words like “architected, designed, and implemented” are more concrete.

At the heart of the resume is the 3 C’s: Clear, Concise, and Cnot Lying. If you stick to these, you will get more interviews and offers than you know what to do with.

To message me directly, find me on LinkedIn at

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