Your Resume Format Matters… and Doesn’t

As a writer, I get a lot of questions about resume format. The advent of so many awesome career-related portfolio sites and easy-to-use graphic design tools has sparked an explosion of digitally interesting resumes and digital portfolios.


Personally, I find these fascinating, simply because as humans, we are visual creatures and anything that is attention-getting helps candidates stand out from the crowd. And that is one of the main purposes of having a resume – to market oneself.

Unconventional designs, info graphics  charts, and illustrations are all great. Heck, there was even one person who put their resume on a candy bar recently, which attracted a lot of viral attention online. Another guy created an online career portfolio website that looked like an page which got a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” from appreciative audiences.

While all these flashy and trendy tactics definitely serve a purpose (in what is otherwise a boring document that is likely to make any human resource person’s eyes roll up into the top of their head), the format also doesn’t matter.

What really grabs ‘em where it matters is the content, not the pictures.

Given a choice, human resource managers, hiring heads, recruiters, and headhunters would opt, hands down, to pick a resume that actually has meaningful, meaty content versus pretty pictures.

While the format can be the attention-getting ploy, your resume ultimately needs to boil down to substance.

The last thing you want to do is become link bait: Attract the fish with enticing bait, and once they bite, they realize that what was being offered was a deception of what they ended up biting down upon.

No one likes surprises. Especially when they are disappointing ones where what they thought they were getting was something totally different than what was advertised.

In some ways, the more cynical side of the human resource equation might have a different take altogether: What are you hiding? Why all the fireworks – is it sort of like the “Wizard of Oz” where the audience entering the presence of the Great and Powerful Oz are warned to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?

The last thing you want to come across as being is all smoke and mirrors.

So while having an amazing, attention-getting format to a resume can help get you in front of people, what makes you get offered an interview is how you deliver on results. What things have you achieved with present and previous employers that are meaningful and relevant towards the position for which you are applying?

Smart career managers know that being a “flash in the pan” with an interesting-looking resume can snag some interviews, but they also know that ultimately, their career success depends on how they communicate what they can deliver.


(image credit: By bpsusf ( [CC-BY-2.0 ( or CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)