Best Practices for Creating a Professional Resume in Microsoft Word

By LiveCareer

 

Knowing what to write on a resume is challenging enough. It's easy to forget that once you've nailed down that expertly worded work history, you still need to ensure your document's design is equally top-notch. Even if you're unsure where to begin, you're likely more familiar with resume-making tools than you realize. Microsoft Word, perhaps the most well-known word processing software, is commonly used to make resumes.

Though the program itself offers ready-made templates, you might need to tweak its limited set of styles (if not create your own from scratch). Below you'll find a breakdown of everything you need to know about creating a resume in Microsoft Word.

Alignment

The most important step in creating a visually pleasing page is making sure each piece of text is exactly where it should be. Don't let runaway words keep a hiring manager from reading over every qualification.

First, make sure your text is correctly aligned. Under the Home tab, at the lower center of the page's top, you'll find four parallel buttons that let you justify your words, or align your text against the left, center or right side of the document. Alternatively, you can manipulate their placement by clicking Format on your computer's navigation bar, selecting Paragraph, then choosing an option from the Alignment drop-down menu.

Knowing how to move text around your resume in this way is invaluable when important items like name and contact information need to be placed exactly right.

Bullet Points

When writing resumes, job seekers should use bulleted lists to lay out which responsibilities came with certain job titles. Under a cashier position, you might use bullets to list responsibilities like "Rang up customers and calculated change," or "Took orders and relayed them to kitchen."

To create bulleted lists, find the Bullets button above the aforementioned alignment options. To change the look of the bullets, click the arrow on the button's edge. You might also navigate back to Format, then Bullets and Numbering to select which type of bullets to use.

Margins

The standard margin size of Word documents and resumes in general is one inch, but you may need to tweak that slightly to make a resume more readable. Under the Layout tab, find the left-most Margins button. This will present you with five styles, along with a sixth button for Custom Options. Selecting this will let you manually enter margin sizes.

Fonts, Fonts, Fonts

There are no definitive rules regarding which styles must be used on resumes, but traditional wisdom encourages job-seekers to stay away from flashy fonts. You don't want the look of your resume's text to distract from its content. Any typeface that doesn't fit the tone of a resume's visual design (which, in turn, should fit the job posting's tone), or that makes your resume more difficult to read, should be avoided. In Word specifically, inoffensive favorites like Calibri and Cambria are safe bets. To avoid distraction, make sure you stick to using the same font throughout your resume.

In terms of size, keep most text small yet legible. Aside from titles and headers, the safe zone for resume font size is usually between 10 and 12-point type. Use your discretion for the size of section titles, but beware making them distractingly large. Normally, the only resume text that should go beyond this range is your name in the header.

As a substitute for too-large fonts, try making subheads and titles <strong>bold</strong> to help them stand out. You can find the button for this (and other text modifiers) beneath the font selections on the Home tab. You might also perform a quick Google search for your computer's specific keyboard shortcuts for this and other text-altering actions.

Page Number and Length

Most job-seekers should avoid letting their resume spill onto a second page. Unless a job posting asks for such a significant amount of experience, it's best to limit yourself to one page.

However, if you're a special case in need of ignoring this guideline, it's easy to label extra pages when making a resume in Microsoft Word. To manually add page numbers, select the Insert tab. Click the center-right "Page Number" icon, then the next Page Number option to select the exact position of said numbers. Selecting the Format option will present more choices for customizing where and how they'll appear on your resume.

LiveCareer Templates

If Word's selection of resume templates is too limited, fear not, as LiveCareer's dozens of resume templates can be downloaded as Word document files. You can easily continue tweaking your resume in Microsoft Word after crafting it in LiveCareer's convenient resume builder.

Since 2005, LiveCareer has helped more than 100,000 job seekers discover their career paths.

In addition to tools that help build resumes, they also offer cover letter templates and a cover letter builder, should you need assistance with creating that other crucial job application document.