You would think a person that has four dogs – three of whom seem to think they are lap dogs – would not have space issues; but you would think wrong. I’m funny about my space; the thing is I like my own space.
When my son moved out I ripped up the carpeting myself and repainted the entire room a bright, bright, spring green with white and purple accents. Does this tell you anything? I’ve always identified with the KT Oslin song “Live Close By, Visit Often”. I like my space.
But space is also important within your space. Having a decluttered environment helps calm your mind and allows you to appreciate the items you have selected to remain within your space. In decorating having appropriate space actually accentuates the pieces you want to show off.
In networking personal space is sometimes neglected and can stop a connection before it even gets the opportunity to begin. I have come to accept that circumstances do not always allow for the appropriate allotment of personal space. However, it can be a tricky thing entering into someone’s personal space – it can come across as rude or intrusive; it can be uncomfortable for the other party or worse your intentions could be misread. Respecting personal space is important.
Space is a good thing.
Too often I see a total disregard for space on resumes. It seems to go in extremes – either there is no white space or there is too much. The question then becomes what is the right amount of white space in a resume.
Let’s start with margins. The general rule is acceptable margin settings are between .5 inch and 1 inch equally around the page – it gives balance. Sometimes you can fudge a little and have .5 inch top and bottom and .75 on the sides. Just make sure there is a nice balance.
Within the resume is where it can get complicated. First – the font should normally be 11 or 12 point font – which is easiest for the reader. Using a 10 point font makes the words too small and the reader might have to strain to read what you have presented. Any larger and it will look like you are trying to take up space with a larger font because you do not have any valuable content to fill the page.
Letterhead and headings should utilize a larger font – this can normally be 13 or 15 font; something that will make it stand out a bit more. Of course using bold, borders, italics etc will also help set these items apart. They should be set apart which means there should be at least a blank line before and after a heading.
I normally do not recommend a space in between bullet points because it spaces it out a bit too much; remember your bullet points should not take three lines to begin with so the additional space is unnecessary.
There should be space between each position to create a visual break for the reader. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in “it has to be one page” that they cram everything on one page. This actually does more harm than good. The type is too small, the margins are too wide and there is not enough white space for the eyes to relax and take a break while reading.
By the way – one page or two seems to be a big debate. When I ask hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals about their preference the overwhelming response is basically they don’t care – as long as the information they are looking for is there, easy to find and read. People do have personal preferences but I can guarantee you that even if they prefer a one page resume if your squeeze a two page resume down to one page they are not going to be very pleased to read it.
One way to see if you do not have enough white space is when looking at your resume on your computer minimize the size of the document to about 45% so you can see the entire document at one time. Do not try to read what you wrote just get a feel for the visual. Listen to your gut and it will let you know if more space is needed.
If you have the problem of too much space then perhaps it is a content issue. Go back to each position and start listing out every single thing that you did for that position; this will help the ideas start to flow. Once you have done this then you can go back and begin to identify skills that you utilized when performing your duties.
For example if you utilized problem-solving, conflict resolution, analytical, communication, organization or any other number of skills this is the time to write those down along with the duty.
Then you can go back and add to your descriptions including not only the duty, but the skills used and the value that was added by you performing the task.
When writing your resume respect yourself enough to give appropriate attention to the important items by surrounding them with white space which will naturally bring the readers attention to those items. Also, respect the reader in utilizing enough white space in order that it becomes a document they want to read rather than must read.
We are all naturally drawn to things that attract us. When I was a kid my mom used to take us to the library every week. I remember opening books and flipping through and deciding if I was going to take it home or not based solely on the “feel”. If the pages were edge to edge words packed in then that one got returned to the shelf. If the words were not as cramped, there was breaks or pictures or anything more visually attractive then that was the book I chose.
We really have not changed in our first instincts as to what we want to read. If I am given a resume that has very little white space I unconsciously have a negative reaction – it looks like a pain to read so therefore I am already starting off without reading one word with a negative attitude.
When in doubt, print off your resume and ask a friend to look at it – do not give it to them to read, just hold it and ask them how it looks. Then watch their reactions – don’t just listen to them say, “Fine”. You can gauge the appropriateness of your white space based on their initial reaction.
The content is the most important element of your resume – it should be your main focus. The look and feel can be modified after you have created a solid sales statement for yourself. Once you have done that then the fun begins – play a little with fonts, margins, headings – after all this is your personal sales statement so you should like the way it looks!
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.