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It is crucial for a candidate to have an ATS-optimized resume that is well-formatted and high on quality content. Poor formatting has been found to be one of the main reasons why a resume is not shortlisted for the next round in the hiring process. To make it easy for you, we will cover some common formatting mistakes that one should avoid in their resumes.
1. Inappropriate fonts
Some ATS are programmed to understand only a few fonts. This means if you use a font that is unusual for the software, it may impact your performance in the pre-screening. Hence, it is imperative to use legible fonts that are easy for recruiters to read and understand. Incomprehensible fonts will hamper your chances of moving to the next stages. Some of the most popular fonts that you can choose are:
Tip- If you want to highlight some parts in your resume, we would advise using the Bold, Italics, and Underline options instead of using different font sizes, styles or colors. This will help improve the impact and overall presentation of your resume.
2. Adding columns and tables
From an ATS perspective, excluding tables and columns from your document is a good practice as some ATS cannot read these. For example, if you add two words on both sides of a column, it will merge the two sides of the table and parse the words incorrectly. Furthermore, these increase the chances of distorting the formatting of your resume.
3. Irregular date formats
The most popular date format to add to your resume is Mon Year- Mon Year i.e., first three letters of the month followed by the year. This can be written as Feb 2018 – Mar 2020. This is not only ATS-friendly but also easy to read. Avoid using confusing and non-uniform formats such as 2018 Feb 15 – 2020 March.
4. Using long sentences in paragraphs
As a candidate, your goal should be to create a resume that is understandable and readable. Long sentences in paragraphs lower the readability score of your content. Thus, it is recommended to use bullets in your professional experience section. Resume bullets use STAR format and divide sentences into segments, separating them with semi-colons. This makes your content efficient and decipherable.
5. Too long or too short
The ideal length of your resume is based on your target location and experience. If the length of your resume does not align with the best practices, it might lower your chances of succeeding. For example, if you submit a lengthy resume to a US employer, where the common length is 1-2 pages, it may be harder for recruiters to read which may impact the hiring decision. Thus, make sure to abide by the general guidelines and add only relevant experience.
6. Incorrect section titles
ATS are programmed to read specific information and words only. Section titles form a part of this information. If the professional experience section in your resume goes by other names such as ‘internships’ or ‘part-time jobs’, it may confuse the ATS and impact your candidacy. For this reason, we strongly recommend using the standard section titles.
7. Irregular spacing
Irregular spacing in a resume impacts the overall presentation. Non-uniform spacing in between paragraphs gives the perception that the candidate hasn’t put in enough effort in the process. This may create a poor first impression, impacting your candidacy. Thus, ensuring uniform and relevant resume spacing is essential. Your document should neither look too cramped nor too dispersed.
8. Fancy borders and margins
Some candidates add fancy borders and margins to make their resumes look attractive. However, uneven use of borders and margins impacts the overall impression of your resume. We highly advise keeping margins of 1 inch on all sides and choosing simple borders, if at all you need to add them. Maintain uniform borders and margins across the document.
9. No page numbers
It is common to have 2-3 page long resumes in some countries like New Zealand and Australia. Imagine, you decide to make an application in one of these countries, send your application, and clear the pre-screening stage. The recruiter decides to take a printout of your resume to hand it over to the hiring manager. But due to an error, the printout is only 2 pages whereas your original document is 3 pages.
A missing page from your resume may cause chaos when you sit for your interview with the hiring manager who does not have all pages. A sensible step to take before submitting a lengthy resume would be to add page numbers on the bottom. This will ensure that the recruiter is mindful of the pages, saving everyone some time and energy.
10. Unsuitable file type
Another important thing to remember is to send your resume in a format that can easily be read by ATS. The most preferred format is a Word file. While PDFs are quite popular too, we do not recommend using PDFs unless it is specifically requested by your target employer. This is because not all ATS can parse a PDF file.
Most of these resume mistakes are easy to correct, making a huge impact on your overall job search journey. Inconsistencies not only jeopardize the quality of your documents but also reflect inefficiencies that could potentially impair your personal brand. Hence, ensuring consistent formatting throughout your resume is important.