June 18, 2019 · resume

How to write a great resume: Format

Post series:


For the longest time, I used the "standard tech resume" format. It works well, it's easy for a recruiter to scan, but it's boring! Seriously, after my third or fourth recruiting trip with Microsoft, my eyes would start to glaze over every time I saw this type of resume. It's just not memorable.

Maybe you don't have an eye for design or need to whip up a quick resume. You can start with that standard resume, but still kick it up a notch. Something as simple as making the section headings your favorite color will make your resume stand out!

Take a look at my annotated resume below for a more visual representation of what was covered in the previous post and for a glance into how your resume should be formatted.

The most important thing to note is that your resume should be a maximum of one page. Yes, even if you have 10+ years of experience in the field. Yes, even if you have a Masters or PhD.

As someone who's reviewed hundreds of resumes, please don't make me read through 3 pages of work history, paragraphs of text, or lists of published research. Choose content that will showcase the best part of your knowledge and experience and make me curious to learn more about you. Provide a way for me to dig deeper if I'm interested and have time (for example, a GitHub link to your all your projects or a website link to a list of all your publications). You'll also have plenty of opportunity to talk more in depth about your work during interviews.

For this particular resume, I created it in HTML and CSS using CSS Grid and generated the PDF by doing "Print to PDF" in my browser. It really can be that simple. If you want to base your resume off this, my code (that desperately needs to be cleaned up 🙈) is on GitHub!

If using the standard template linked to in the beginning of this post, here are some suggested modifications:

Notice from a purely visual comparison how much denser and harder to skim this resume is. Keep this in mind when creating your resume - it should be a balance between fitting as much as you can onto one page and crafting something visually easy to process by selecting only the best of the best content.

Of course, you can always create your own template or design using Word (I would still recommend using tables and grids here, as found in the standard template), HTML and CSS, LaTeX, or any number of other resume generator tools.


Finally, I'll throw in a plug for my ✨ free ✨ resume reviews. It's as easy as reaching out to me on Twitter with a link to your resume. I'll review it and give you a similarly annotated version including both things I loved and things that could be improved!