Standard Formatting Guidelines for Resume Margins

Young woman with resume
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Little things make a big difference when you’re putting together a resume. Choices about formatting affect the overall impression your application makes on the hiring manager. Font choice and size, spacing issues, even settings for margins can all change the way your resume is perceived.

It's important to use standard resume margin guidelines when formatting your resume. This way your resume will look professional and will be properly laid out on the page.

What are standard margin guidelines? Read on for all the information you’ll need about margins, text alignment, and how to reduce margins if you need extra space.

Standard Resume Margins

Resume margins should be about one-inch on all sides. You can reduce the margins if you need extra space, but do not make them smaller than ½-inch. If the margins are too small, your resume will look too busy.

Why would someone be tempted to shrink the margins down smaller than ½-inch on all sides? To fit all their information on one page. Fortunately, most career experts now agree that it’s OK to retire the old rule that resumes should be kept to one page only. While it’s in your best interests to keep your CV snappy and to the point, if you legitimately need more than one page to show off your accomplishments, go ahead.

The most important thing is that your resume contains only the information that’s relevant to the job posting and likely to catch the attention of the hiring manager. Tinkering with margins to fit more info in a smaller space won’t accomplish those goals.

Resume Text Alignment

You should also align your text to the left (rather than centering your text); this is how most documents are aligned, so it will make your resume easier to read.

Typically, the left side of the resume contains the most important information, such as your previous employers, job titles, and your achievements and/or responsibilities. Resumes often contain additional information on the right side of the page, such as dates and/or job locations. This creates a visually balanced resume.

Rules for Creative Resumes

Thinking about mixing it up for your next resume draft? Think twice. Research has shown that 70% of employers prefer standard resumes, even for creative jobs. So while infographic CVs or video resumes might get a lot of attention from the media, they might not get you the interview you seek.

Why is that? Well, in part it’s because most people are not skilled graphic/multimedia artists in addition to their many other professional skills. It’s harder than you might think, even with the technology available today, to make a creative resume that effectively communicates your message. More often, the bells and whistles merely detract from your qualifications.

Beyond that, hiring managers are busy. Especially during the screening process, when hiring managers cull resumes that don’t meet basic requirements, they’re likely to spend only a few seconds on each resume before moving on. Make their job too hard, and they’re likely to go to the next candidate’s CV. (There’s also always the chance that some of your aesthetic choices in your creative resume will rub the reviewer the wrong way, for reasons of personal taste. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity, simply because you love the color orange, and the hiring manager is more of a neutral palate person.)

Finally, creative resumes have one big disadvantage: they’re hard for robots to read. If you’re submitting your application through an online process, you’re almost always better off to stick with the traditional resume format and a Word document or PDF.

How to Adjust Page Margin Settings in Microsoft Word

Here's how to adjust the margins in Word:

  • Click on Layout / Margins / Normal (for one-inch margins)
  • There are a variety of other selections or you can set your own margins by clicking on: Layout / Custom Margins

How to Adjust Page Margin Settings in Google Docs

Here's how to adjust the margins in Google Docs:

  • Click on “Help"  "Search the Menus” and type “Margins.” Select “Page Setup.” ;
  • You can adjust all the margins (left, right, top and bottom) from this window.

More Resume Tips

  • When you have a choice, use standard settings for your resume format. That applies to margin sizes, fonts, and other formatting issues. Hiring managers are used to seeing one-inch margins, for example. Stray from the formula, and you run the risk that they’ll notice your formatting choices and not the content of your CV – not your goal. The good news is that these choices are usually easiest to make: word processing software tends to come with these settings built-in.
  • Remember that robots are even more finicky than human readers. If you apply for a job online, your resume will most likely go through an applicant tracking system. Use non-standard formatting, and it might never make it to human eyes.
  • Review resume examples and templates before you get started. This will help you to see formatting choices in action, as well as providing you with some style options you might not have considered otherwise.