How to build your resume

building-your-resume

When it comes to landing the job of your dreams, there’s nothing more important than your resume.

Your resume is like your employment calling card. It tells potential employers who you are, what you can do, and why they should hire you. And while the content of your resume is (obviously) important, so is the way you present that content, or, in other words, your resume design.

Let’s take a look at how to build your resume, from what content to include, what design elements to consider, and how to design a resume that gets you hired:

Table of contents: How to build your resume

Why are resumes important?

Resume design by 99designs designer Slidewerk

Resume design by 99designs designer Slidewerk

So, first things first. Before we jump into how to build a resume, let’s talk about why having a top-notch resume is important in the first place. Resumes are important for a myriad of reasons, including:

Resumes highlight past experience

One of the biggest factors potential employers will use to determine whether you’re the right hire for the job? Your past experience. And the only way they’re going to get a clear idea of that past experience and how it fits in for the role they’re hiring for? Your resume.

Your resume is like a road map of your career. It shows potential employers where you started, where you ended up, and the important stops you made along the way. A great resume paints a clear picture of not only what experience you’ve had at past jobs, but how each position has built on the one before, in order to make you a more well-rounded and experienced candidate.

Resumes give you an opportunity to present your skills and talents

Your resume offers the chance to highlight your job experience, but there are far more reasons employers should hire you than your past job titles! Resumes also give you the opportunity to showcase any other skills or talents that make you a better team member.

Do you have expert-level knowledge of an industry-specific software? Do you participate in a public speaking group? Are you an active volunteer or mentor in your community? If so, those are all things you can and should include on your resume. Your skills and talents give potential employers a better idea of who you are, not just what job titles you may have held—and the more relevant information they have about who you are and what you can do, the more informed their decision will be on whether they want to bring you on board their team.

Resumes help you break through the clutter and differentiate yourself from other candidates

When an employer posts a new job, chances are, they’re going to get hundreds—maybe even thousands—of resumes in response. It can be completely overwhelming for hiring managers, and inevitably, some candidates get lost in the shuffle.

That’s why having a standout resume is so important. The right resume can help you break through the clutter, grab a hiring manager’s attention, and differentiate yourself from other candidates. It can be exactly what you need to set yourself apart and land the interview—instead of your application getting pushed to the bottom of the pile.

Bottom line: Your resume is one of the most important parts of any job search, and if you want your resume to get you the job of your dreams, it needs to be the kind of resume that grabs people’s attention, sets you apart from other candidates, and convinces potential employers that you are a candidate they can’t afford to miss.

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How to write a resume

99designs Jordan Thompson resume

Resume design by 99designs designer Hadinsuk™

So now that you know why resumes are so important, let’s talk about how to build one from the ground up. Starting with some resume writing tips.

There are some key categories that every resume needs to have in order to be effective. Those must-have categories include:

Contact information

It doesn’t matter how impressive your resume is, if it doesn’t tell potential employers who you are and how they can get in touch with you, it’s not going to yield results. Make sure at the very top of your resume you include your name, your phone number, your address, your specialty, and your email. That way, if a potential employer likes what they see, they know how to contact you and schedule an interview.

(Now, we know this seems obvious, but you’d be shocked how many resumes get sent out without a name or relevant contact details)

Educational history

Employers are going to want to get a sense of your educational background as well. So, if you’ve completed any higher level education, your resume is the place to showcase it.

Anything that goes above and beyond high school or primary school should be included on your resume. That includes junior or community college, university, graduate degrees, coding boot camps, trade schools, certificate programs, and even relevant short courses.

This is also true if what you’ve studied isn’t 100% in line with the kinds of jobs you’re applying for. So, for example, if you’re applying for a marketing manager position but you also have a certificate in graphic design and completed a three-month coding boot camp? It’s worth putting that educational experience on there.

Furthering your education shows that you’re committed to growing as an employee and furthering your skills. It also shows that you have the follow-through to get things done—all of which are extremely attractive qualities to potential employers.

Work history

The meat of any great resume is, of course, your prior work history.

Your resume should outline all of your previous positions, including the company you worked for (and the location), the position or title you held, the dates you were employed, and your core responsibilities and achievements within each role.

This will give potential employers a clear idea of the kinds of projects you’ve worked on in the past, the areas where you excel, and what your next growth opportunity may be—and, most importantly, how all of that information relates to their organization and the role they’re hiring for.

Resume skills section

As mentioned earlier, your resume is also an opportunity to showcase any relevant skills or talents that may help you in the role you’re applying for. But the key word in that sentence? Relevant.

Your resume isn’t the place to highlight your baton twirling, juggling, or unicycle riding skills (unless you’re applying to work in a circus—in which case, knock yourself out. Instead, focus on skills and talents that make you better at your job, or align you with the company you are applying for.

In addition to all the must-have information listed above, there are a few other things that—depending on your job title, your industry, and the kinds of companies you want to work for—you might want to consider including on your resume, including:

  • A photo. Adding a photo to your resume is a quick and easy way to help it stand out from the majority of resumes, which are text-based. However, this practice is typically frowned upon in more traditional, corporate environments. So it may be wise to only add a photo if you’re applying for more creative positions or at more laid-back companies.
  • A link to your portfolio. If you’re a creative and the job you’re applying for is heavily reliant on your past work, you’ll definitely want to include a link to your portfolio. This way, a hiring manager can get a sense of your past work and whether your style fits with what they’re looking for—which is key in determining whether they want to bring you in for an interview.
  • Recommendations from former employers, colleagues, or clients. If you have glowing recommendations from past employers, colleagues, or clients, your resume can be a great place to showcase them. Make sure to keep them short and to the point (and don’t include so many recommendations that it overshadows the other, more important parts of your resume, like job history).
  • References. All employers are going to ask for references, and while it’s appropriate to send them separately if you have room, you can also include them on your resume.

Are you fresh out of school building your resume for the first time? Learn more about how to build your first resume from scratch (and get hired as a result!) here: Six tips for creating a college resume.

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Resume layouts

Back in the day, there wasn’t a ton of variation in resume design; you typed out your contact details, education history, job experience, and relevant skills in a word processing document (or, even more old-school, on a typewriter!), printed it out, and then you were done.

But today, there are literally hundreds of different resume layouts and styles you can choose from. The key to success? Choosing the layout or style that’s the right fit for you, your background, and your industry.

For example, if you’re applying for a financial analyst position, you’re going to want to use a more traditional resume layout. But if you’re applying for an art director position, that same traditional layout is going to feel lackluster and corporate.

Let’s take a look at some of the different resume layout and style options (and which are the best fit for your industry):

Traditional resume layouts and templates

Traditional resume layouts are exactly what they sound like: Traditional. This resume layout focuses on simple text laid out in a way that’s easy for hiring managers to skim read and process (typically using a single column or two columns side-by-side). Traditional resumes typically incorporate a traditional font (think Times New Roman or Arial), a neutral color palette, and few (if any) graphic details.

If you’re applying with very traditional, corporate companies or for roles that require a certain level of seriousness (think law firms or banks), you’re definitely going to want to stick to a traditional resume layout. Getting too creative with your resume design can make recruiters question your understanding of their industry—and could potentially cost you the interview.

Traditional resumes that take a more minimalist approach to design read as highly professional—and are great for getting in the door at more corporate organizations. Capture the traditional look with Canva’s professional resume templates like the Gray Simple Minimalist Resume, the Blue Simple Professional Resume, or the Dark Blue Simple Line Scholarship Resume.

 

Photo resume templates

If you’re applying for a more creative position or applying for a role within a creative company, a photo resume can be a great way to stand out and grab a recruiter’s attention.

A photo resume layout includes—you guessed it—a place to include your professional photo. Typically, the photo would go in the header or in the sidebar, right above your contact information.

Photo resumes are great for grabbing hiring manager’s attention. Put your photo front and center with Canva’s photo resume templates like the Peach Photo Header Scholarship Resume, the Black and White Photo Theatre Resume, or the Grey Minimal Photo Acting Resume.

 

Graphic resume templates

If you don’t feel comfortable including your photo on your resume (or you don’t think it would fly at the companies you’re applying to), a graphic resume can have the same attention-grabbing appeal—minus the large image.

Graphic resumes rely on details like color, design, and interesting layouts to help them stand out. If you want to show potential employers that you’re creative and fun, graphic resumes are a great way to communicate that message alongside other important hiring details (like your job history and education).

Resumes that feature bold colors and graphic details are a surefire way to get noticed. Embrace this bold look with Canva’s creative resume templates like the Pattern Creative Resume, the Pink Pattern Creative Resume, or the Colorful Abstract Theatre Resume.

Want to know more about the different resume layouts that can help you land your dream job? Learn more here about the templates that will get you hired here: 10 Resume Templates To Help You Get Your Next Job.

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Choosing the right font for your resume

What you write in your resume is (obviously) important, but so is the font you choose to write it in, and the various font sizes you choose.

When it comes to resumes, not all fonts are created equal. The font you choose for your resume will send a very specific message to your future employer, so you need to choose wisely. For example, the perfect font for a creative director resume might not necessarily be the best font choice for an accountant or an IT manager.

When it comes to font choices for your resume, there are two major categories you’re going to want to consider: Serif and sans serif.

Serif fonts for your resume

Serif fonts have a decorative line, taper, or accent on the end of their letters, which is called a serif (hence the name). Some of the more popular serif fonts include Times New Roman, Baskerville, Courier New, Georgia, and Garabond.

Serif fonts typically are viewed as more traditional and classic, so if you’re applying to a more corporate role or company, serif fonts are a safe choice.

Using a serif font in your resume is a great option if you want to convey a message of professionalism and poise. Capture the look with one of Canva’s corporate resume templates, like the Two Tone Blue and White Corporate Resume.

Sans serif fonts for your resume

Sans serif fonts, on the other hand, don’t have a serif at the end of their letters (which is why they’re called “sans” serif). Instead, sans serif fonts are made of simple, clean lines that can lend a more modern, sophisticated, and edgy look—perfect for more creative position or organization.

Some of the more well-known sans serif fonts include Arial, Proxima Nova, Futura, Calibri, and Helvetica.

Using a sans serif font in your resume still comes across as professional—but has a more laid-back, creative feel. Capture the look with Canva’s creative resume templates, like the Blue Marketing Corporate Resume.

Other font categories

Now, serif and sans serif are the major font categories you’ll want to consider when choosing a font for your resume, but they’re not the only font categories. Other categories (like script fonts, handwriting fonts, typewriter fonts, or graphic fonts) can, in certain situations, work well on resumes, but you need to proceed with caution.

These other font categories are decidedly less professional than serif or sans serif fonts—so, if you’re going to use them, they really need to make sense for the job or organization you’re applying for.

For example, if you’re applying for a role at an animation production company, a graphic font with a cartoon-like feel might be appropriate to use for accent text on your resume. Or, if you’re applying for a role at an organization that uses a specific script font in their branding, it could make sense to incorporate that font in your resume.

The point is, there may be occasions where using a less-professional font makes sense, but those occasions are typically few and far in between. When in doubt, stick to the classics.

Tips for choosing the right font

Now that you know the font categories to consider—and what kind of message each sends to a potential employer—let’s go over some quick tips for narrowing down the perfect font for your resume.

  • Think outside of the box. Now, there’s nothing wrong, per se, with using Times New Roman or Arial on your resume design. It just doesn’t exactly scream “original”—and, if a hiring manager notices you’ve gone with a tried-and-true font, it might read as lazy. If you want your resume to feel original and unique, think outside of the box and experiment with different, lesser-known fonts. Using a font for your resume that hasn’t already been used 10,000 times is a surefire way to grab someone’s attention and help your resume stand out.
  • Experiment with a few different fonts before making a decision. Once you’ve narrowed down your font choices and have a few you think would be a good fit, create a resume using a few different options. Then, send it to a few design-savvy friends, family members, or colleagues to get their insights on which font looks the best and sends the right message.
  • Incorporate more than one font into your resume design for added visual interest. Using a variety of fonts (like one font for your headers and one font for your body text) is a great way to add visual interest to your resume. Just make sure you choose fonts that complement each other and keep the total number of fonts on the resume to three or less (any more and your resume will be more visually overwhelming than visually interesting).

Incorporating more than one font into your resume design is a great way to break up text, create a sense of hierarchy, and add visual interest. Get started with one of Canva’s resume templates like the Pastel Yellow and Green Interior Designer Modern Resume or the Red Circle Creative Resume.

Want to dig deeper into choosing the perfect font for your resume? Learn more about the best (and worst) resume font choices here: 20 best and worst fonts to use on your resume.

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Choosing the perfect resume color palette

Like fonts, the color palette you choose will also send a clear message to future employers—and you want to make sure the colors you incorporate into your resume design are sending the right message.

People have extremely strong associations with and emotional reactions to color (there’s even a name for it: Color psychology). And if you understand how to use color strategically, you can play off those associations and emotional reactions to get your desired result, which in this case is landing an interview with your dream company.

So, what are some of the common associations people have with color?

Logo color associations chart

Logo color associations

Let’s say you’re applying for a position at a financial services firm. You want to come across as trustworthy, reliable, and intelligent. According to color psychology, blue is a great color choice for your resume. Or maybe you’re applying for a marketing management company at an outdoor sports company. Color psychology tells us that green (which people tend to associate with nature and the outdoors) would be an obvious go-to.

The point is, you want to build your color palette based on the colors that make the most sense for the position and organization you’re applying for (so if you’re applying for a management position at a bank, neon pink and orange probably aren’t going to be your best bet).

In addition to choosing the right colors for your resume color palette, you should also think about how you’re going to use those colors, and in particular, how you can use color to bring attention to key elements of your resume design. For example, you can build a neutral color palette and then use a bold accent color to build hierarchy and bring attention to key details (like former job titles or employers). Or, you can use a dark background and white text to make your experience pop (and to help your resume stand out in a pile of neutral resumes).

Want to learn more about how to use color strategically in resume design? Then check out this article: Emphasize career highlights on your resume by using color strategically.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a color palette; the best colors for your resume are going to depend on who you are, what you do, and what job and company you’re applying for. Luckily, Canva has resume templates that cover the full range of the color spectrum, from bright and colorful (like the Blue Brush Strokes Minimalist Designer Creative Resume or the Colorful Abstract Creative Resume) to muted and neutral (like the Large Blue Heading Designer Creative Resume or the Pastel Yellow Interior Designer Modern Resume).

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Designing a resume that gets noticed

As we mentioned earlier, when you apply for a job, chances are you’re going to be going against hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other applicants. So if you want to snag the interview, you need your resume to stand out.

What are some ways to help your resume break through the clutter, grab the hiring manager’s attention, and land you an interview? Read on for more tips below.

Go bold with your design

Going bold with your resume design—whether that’s using a bold color palette, a daring font combination, or unexpected graphic details—is a surefire way to get you noticed. Just make sure that if you go bold, you do it well. It doesn’t matter what you incorporate (like loud colors or bold fonts) into your resume, if it’s poorly designed, you’re going to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Want to learn more about how to go bold with your resume design, and how to do it well? Then check out this article: Make a first impression on hirers with a bold and original resume.

A bold resume is impossible to miss, which can make it more likely get noticed. Capture the bold look with a resume template from Canva, like the Colorful Abstract Creative Resume or the Modern Floral Feminine Creative Resume.

 

Showcase your work

Depending on what kind of role you’re applying for, your resume isn’t just an opportunity to tell potential employers what you can do, it’s an opportunity to show them.

Are you applying for a position as an illustrator? Draw a few custom illustrations to include in the border of your resume design. Trying to get your foot in the door as a graphic designer with a large branding agency? When listing past clients, make sure to include your logo designs so the hiring manager can get a sneak peek of your work. Are you trying to break into the copywriting world? Then look at your resume as a sales ad, and the product you’re selling is you.

The point is, a resume can be more than just a summary of your education, skills, and experience—it can be an opportunity to actually show off that education, skills, and experience to potential employers.

Create an interactive resume experience

This tip won’t work for every type of resume, but if you want to go above and beyond—and pretty much guarantee you’ll make an impression—you could design an interactive resume experience.

Think of the digital or paper resume you send to a potential employer as the first step in a larger experience. Maybe you include a link or a QR code that leads to a video introduction of yourself, your work, and why you should be hired for the job.

Maybe your resume instructs the hiring manager to download an app that you designed from scratch that showcases your coding skills. Maybe your resume has a unique portfolio link that takes hiring managers to a curated portfolio of samples of your past work with details on how each sample is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Now, this obviously takes a lot more work than a standard resume, but if you’re applying to an innovative, forward-thinking company (for example, a hot startup in the tech sector), the creative format and extra effort can really help set you apart from other candidates.

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Resume design inspiration

All right, so we’ve covered pretty much everything there is to know about building resumes—from what to include on your resume to how to choose colors to how to design a resume that breaks through the clutter and lands you an interview. So now, all that’s left? Looking at some examples of killer resumes that tick all the design boxes—and that you can use for inspiration as you move through the resume building process:

Resume design by The Dreamer Designs

Infographic resume design

Resume design by 99designs designer The Dreamer Designs

Why it works: This resume uses an infographic style to tell the candidate’s employment history. The title’s clever play on words (“Wearer of Many Hats”) combined with a hat graphic for each milestone of the candidate’s career makes for an unforgettable resume that’s not only well designed but is sure to grab any hiring manager’s attention.

This resume tells a story and yours can too. Tell your unique story to potential employers with Canva’s infographic resume templates, like the Pink Violet Boxes Infographic Resume.

Resume design by Saptarshi Nath

Behance Black and White Resume

Resume design by designer Saptarshi Nath on Behance

Why it works: When it comes to resume design, sometimes simple is best. This resume sticks to a black and white color palette, neat columns, and traditional font choices make for a professional, clean resume that’s universally appealing across industries. The photo in the upper left corner of the header adds enough visual interest to keep the rest of the design from feeling too simple.

Want to capture the simple, clean look of this resume design? Recreate the simple feel of this resume with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the Blue Simple Academic Resume.

Resume design by Anton Yermolov

Behance Illustrated Resume

Resume design by designer Anton Yermolov on Behance

Why it works: This graphic design resume is a perfect showcase of the designer’s skills. From the clean layout, the custom illustration, the pops of color, and the use of text hierarchy, this resume says “when it comes to design, I know what I’m doing”—which is exactly what every designer’s resume needs to say if they want to land an interview.

A well-designed resume will get you in the door—but you don’t have to be a designer to get one. Use one of Canva’s templates, like the Colorful Vector Graphic Designer Infographic Resume, to get the look of a designer resume—no design know-how necessary.

Resume design by Machruzah

99designs Orange Resume

Resume design by 99designs designer Machruzah

Why it works: This resume design is exceedingly simple—except for the bold pops of orange. These pops of color jazz up the otherwise simple design, call attention to key elements of the resume (like titles and job history) and ensure that this design won’t get lost in a pile of neutral resumes.

Sometimes, a pop of color is all you need to elevate a simple resume design to something special. Get the look with Canva’s colorful resume templates, like the Yellow Orange Chevron Colorful Resume.

Resume design by Chris Rowe

Resume design by designer Chris Rowe on Behance

Resume design by designer Chris Rowe on Behance

Why it works: There’s a lot going on in this resume design (colors and graphics and text hierarchy, oh my!). But because the designer made sure to create a sense of balance between all the different elements, no one feels overpowering—so the end result is a resume that’s visually interesting, not visually overwhelming.

If you’re going to incorporate multiple elements into your resume design, you need to make sure no element overpowers the other and that the design doesn’t feel crowded. Keep things balanced and uncluttered with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the Black and Pastel Modern Creative Resume.

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Design your resume and snag your dream job

A well-designed, impactful resume will help you get your foot in the door, score an interview, and (hopefully!) land your dream job. And now that you know exactly how to build your resume, all that’s left to do is get out there, get designing, and start lining up those interviews!

Your secret weapon for stunning design