Study: Does a Resume's Design Really Matter?

Having a resume is almost an essential part of looking for a job in today's world. This is especially true online where many employers expect job applicants to send or upload resumes rather than wasting time filling out a job application.

I used to think that employers didn't care much about the design of a resume, but more so, in what your skills and experience are. I thought they wouldn't care about aesthetics. I assumed that whether your resume is one page or two pages, fancy design or plain text, all that matters is what your resume says about you. However, the design of a resume does say a lot about you to employers, despite what I previously had thought.

But just how important is the actual design of your resume? Well according to one study, it's very important.

Study On Recruiters and Resumes
A 2012 study (Eye Tracking Online Metacognition: Cognitive Complexity and Recruiter Decision Making) conducted by the job search website TheLadders found that recruiters only spend about 6 seconds on average looking at resumes. The study used eye-tracking software to see where their eyes spent the most time on the resume and in what direction the eyes shifted.

They found that the recruiters looked at the applicant's name, current employer, previous employer, and education sections the most.

Many of them didn't bother to look at anything else on the resume unless these particular fields appealed to them.

So it's important that when you're creating a resume, you keep things nice and neat so it's easy for them to find these sections and spend less time on the things they're not looking for. A nice conforming design can easily help with this and make all the difference in the world.

My Own Personal Study
I did my own study to see if resume designs actually matter. I had recently moved to Las Vegas in 2012, one of the cities with the highest unemployment rates in the country at the time. I first started sending out a basic resume that I had made from scratch using Microsoft Word, which wasn't really fancy and somewhat messy.

I divided my employers by using dotted lines and nothing was really well formatted so the paragraphs where I described my skills and experience seemed to look jagged at the ends, as one line ran a little further from the line before it or after in many paragraphs.

I wasn't getting any replies from employers whatsoever. Not one single phone call or invite for an interview and a month had gone by. I was getting really desperate and worried I would never get a job.

Switching it Up
I then decided to try something new and I went online and found a basic resume template. It had all the same fields that I had put on my original resume, except they were formatted in a neater more professional looking way.

I simply downloaded this template as an MS Word document, then filled in the areas on it like you would fill in the empty fields on an application. Within one week of creating this new resume and sending it out, I had my first phone call from an employer.

I then started to receive many phone calls after, at least one or two every week. This may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the economy was horrible in Vegas at the time and that I had not received a single phone call or email the month before this.

So it was clear to me at this point that downloading this template with a different layout then the one I was using made a huge difference.

How Your Resume Should Look (The Recruiter Study Vs. Reality)
Although the study mentioned previously determined that recruiters only spend 6 seconds to look at a person's resume, keep in mind that these are recruiters who are paid to find employees for other companies.

The hiring managers that actually work for those companies will probably look over your resume in a completely different way because they aren't just head hunters like recruiters, they are the people who will actually hire you.

So you probably shouldn't thin your resume out just to match what recruiters are looking for, because those who actually work for the main companies you want to work for may want to see a very detailed resume and know you better before having you come in for an interview.

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