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Expert Resume Formatting Tips: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Professional Resume

As competition for jobs increases, it’s becoming increasingly important to make sure your resume stands out from the rest. A well-crafted resume can be the difference between getting an interview or being overlooked. That's why it's essential to understand how to design and organize your resume to maximize its impact. In this blog post, we'll provide you with tips and tricks on how to create an effective layout, highlight key skills and experience, select the right file format when submitting online, and show some examples of well-crafted resumes you can use for inspiration. Read on to learn more about how you can make your resume stand out!

The importance of creating a well-formatted resume

Making a good initial impression is essential when landing that dream job - and one of the best ways to do so is with an eye-catching, well-formatted resume. Your resume will be among the first items seen by those in charge of hiring; displaying yours in its most effective form can help you stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of scoring an interview.

Your properly formatted resume is also essential to help recruiters and hiring managers quickly comprehend your background, successes, and qualifications. For example, if your resume doesn't highlight your fitness for the job during the first quick scan of your resume, which is usually only about 7 seconds, chances are you will not advance to a more detailed review and, therefore, will not get an interview.

Finally, crafting a well-structured and visually attractive resume demonstrates your keen attention to detail. Plus, it allows you to display rather than merely listing qualities like 'attention to detail' on paper - giving employers insight into the quality of work you strive for. A strong presentation will make a positive impression on potential employers and help set you apart from other applicants.

Tips for designing impactful layouts

  • Keep your font size between 10-12 points. Using a font size that is too large or too small can make it difficult for recruiters to read your resume, so stick to a standard 10-12 point font size.

  • Choose an easy-to-read font and format. Avoid using ornate or script fonts, which may be hard to read, and instead opt for a classic, professional typeface. Additionally, use bold and italicized text sparingly to highlight important points, as too much emphasis can be distracting.

  • Use headers and subheadings to break up information into distinct sections, making it easier for recruiters to scan your resume and find relevant information quickly. Use subheadings within each section for further organization; for example, under the Experience section, you could create separate subsections for positions held at each organization you’ve worked for.

  • Include white space between sections. Leaving some white space between sections of your resume will make it look more organized and easier on the eyes when being scanned by recruiters and hiring managers.

  • Don't cram everything onto one page. It's best practice to keep your resume concise but thorough - avoid overcrowding it by expanding it to two or three pages max. The first half of the first page should include the most important and impactful information for the application. However, the rest of your resume should have supporting information to reinforce your aptitude for the position and what you will bring to the organization.

Techniques for ordering and organizing each section of your resume

Name, Contact Info, Headline

Make sure that your name is the most prominent part of the header. Your name should be the largest and boldest text in the header so it's easy to spot.

Include a thoughtful headline crafted to give recruiters an immediate understanding of why you are a great fit for this particular job. Using a headline rather than an objective statement will make them more likely to read further into your resume, but only if you have tailored your headline for each application.

Add all relevant contact information in the header, such as your phone number and a professional email address. This will make it easier for recruiters to contact you if they're interested in learning more about you or setting up an interview. Don't include a full address, but do include your city and state or region (San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Boston).


A Highlights section directly under your resume header will help recruiters and hiring managers understand your key skills and strengths. This section should be tailored to include only things that directly relate to the position you are applying to.

Do not use jargon in this section (or anywhere in your resume!). Instead, list accomplishments, successes, projects you've completed, and goals you’ve achieved that will demonstrate you’re a fit for the job at hand. Where possible, use metrics that illustrate the impact you’ve had, and quantify your accomplishments using numbers (e.g., "Decreased disposables costs by 20% during my tenure as lab manager").

List any relevant certifications or awards, but leave off any irrelevant or generic certificates and awards. For example, a science innovation award would be relevant for a scientific job application. However, a certificate in MS Office, while technically relevant, is rather generic and should be listed elsewhere in your resume.

If you possess any unique qualifications, such as fluency in programming languages or experience working with a relevant type of technology or instrument, be sure to include them in the Highlights section as well.


The Experience section of your resume should include a comprehensive listing of all past positions held with the most recent job first. For each position, include the company name, location (city and state or region), followed by the job title and dates you worked there.

Within each job and position section, include a short description of your experience in that role, but as in the Highlights section above, be sure to make your experience pop using metrics-driven and/or quantifiable impacts. Don't list the job duties; instead, take time to craft each bullet to include the impact, a soft skill, and, when possible, the broader contribution of a team.


  • Published three first-author papers over four years and contributed biochemistry expertise to an additional seven publications in our lab group.

  • Identified a cost-saving opportunity that reduced our reagent spending by 25% annually, resulting in overall savings across our department of $100,000.00 over four years.

  • Applied knowledge of Python to create a program that saved our lab over 500 hours of data processing time annually.

If you've done freelance work or had numerous roles in one organization, it's best to list each role independently, showing proof of advancement and impact during your tenure. For every position, identify 2-3 significant accomplishments that illustrate growth and a positive effect on the company.

Professional Organizations

List only the relevant and most recent organizations you are a part of. Limit yourself to listing no more than two or three organizations on your resume.

For each organization, be sure to specify your role and participation within the group - such as volunteering, participating in events or meetings, or sitting on a committee. Showcase any awards or leadership roles you've gotten by being part of this organization. Additionally, emphasize what new skills and knowledge you’ve acquired while active in the association and how they relate directly to your desired job/industry.


Start with the highest level of education you have achieved, then list the others in descending order. For each degree, include the basic information such as the full name of the degree, name of the institution, location, and dates attended.

Mention your major, minor(s), and any related coursework relevant to the position. Try to keep your Education section brief and to the point. Only provide the information directly relevant to the position or industry you are applying for. Including your Grade Point Average (GPA) is not advisable but can be included if it is above 3.5 or if you have just graduated without work experience that you can showcase.

Certifications and Honors

If you possess any qualifying certifications or accolades that have not already been mentioned elsewhere on your resume, this is an ideal place to include them. However, do not repeat credentials that were previously noted in other sections of your resume. This entire section is optional and should only be included if it adds new information to your resume.

Skills (optional)

Although this opinion may be controversial, if you've crafted your resume in a compelling manner thus far, you have already included pertinent skills through impact statements, so this section might not even be necessary. Yet, should you wish to expand upon the capabilities that weren't originally integrated into your resume-you can do so here, but avoid keyword stuffing or listing abilities without being able to substantiate mastery of them.

Which file formats are ideal when submitting your resume online

You should submit your resume as a PDF or Word document (.doc or .docx). Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) that parse resumes into searchable and indexable electronic databases are usually best at ingesting these formats, as opposed to formats from pages, .rtf, or any of the picture formats like .png or .jpg.

PDFs are the ideal choice for resumes due to their ability to retain formatting, making them appear consistent on any device. This is especially beneficial in this day and age where people increasingly use tablets and smartphones for reviewing applications - page shrinking can wreak havoc with your resume's structure if it isn't presented as an unaltered PDF.

Crafting a standout resume is an art that requires careful consideration. The design, layout, and organization of your resume play a key role in making sure it stands out from the competition - so take time to get these elements just right! Use these tips to best present each section of your resume. In addition, make sure you use the optimal file format when submitting an online application. With attention to detail and some creativity, you can create an impressive professional resume that will grab and hold attention.

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