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Employers judge your resume’s appearance even before they delve into its overall content. Make a strong first impression with a professional-looking resume that invites hiring managers to take you seriously .
The Right Paper
Standard white copy paper is fine, but you will set your resume apart in a stack of resumes by choosing a heavier, higher-quality resume paper. A package of 50 or 100 sheets is available at any store that carries stationery products. Most human resources professionals agree that white or off-white is the best color choice. Ivory, recommended by some professionals, can appear too yellow under certain light. Colored paper is typically considered a no-no, but it may be a good choice if you're applying for a job in a creative field.
Paper is labeled according to its weight per 500 sheets. For example, 20-lb. paper means that 500 sheets of uncut paper of that particular type weighs 20 pounds. Not surprisingly, thicker paper weighs more per package. The standard for business stationery is between 20 to 32 pounds. Advisors at Cornell University's career center recommend 32-lb. paper for its professional look and feel. Card stock weighs anywhere from 50 to 110 pounds per 500 sheets, which means it's not a good choice for your resume.
Paper varies in texture according to its fiber content. Cotton-infused paper, while more expensive than standard copy paper, has a smooth finish and greater durability. Linen-infused paper has a woven texture that some human resources professionals like, but others find it distracting.
When in doubt, stick with white paper in the standard 8-1/2-by-11-inch size. Use the same paper for a cover letter and mail both documents in a matching envelope. If you're handing out resumes at a job fair, use the best-quality paper you can afford. You'll save money on paper for cover letters and envelopes, neither of which are necessary when delivering a resume in person.
Choosing a Font
Today's word processing programs have lots of interesting fonts to choose from, and, in an attempt to make your resume stand out, you may be tempted to use an unusual font. As with resume paper, it's best to use a standard, such as Times New Roman or Arial. Both fonts are easy to read and universally available, which is especially important if you're going to send a resume electronically.
You can put your contact information in a different font at the top of the page if you wish, but there is nothing wrong with using the same font throughout. Limit yourself to two different fonts at most. Avoid underlining, as it can make text hard to read. Use bold and italic text sparingly. Always print with black ink.
Avoid Gimmicks and Errors
Once in a while, you'll read about a job candidate who successfully used a gimmicky resume to get the attention of a potential employer. Human resources professionals, however, overwhelmingly prefer resumes that communicate the candidate's skills and qualifications clearly, honestly and professionally. According to a Harris Poll commissioned by the job website CareerBuilder, hiring managers identified mistakes that led them to dismiss a resume rather than schedule the candidate for an interview. At the top of the list: typographical and grammatical errors.
Before you go to the trouble and expense of printing your resume, ensure that it's free of errors. It's helpful to have your resume proofread by a professional such as your work supervisor, career advisor or teacher. Hold the resume at arm's length to be sure there's a good balance of text and white space. That means your resume will be easier to read because it doesn't crowd the page.
You can print your resume yourself on a quality home printer. If you print at a public place, such as a library or career center, you may have to get permission before loading your own specialty paper. When you're printing a number of resumes at once, such as for distribution at a job fair, it might make sense to have the work done at a professional print and copy center.
Remember that the purpose of a resume is to get you a job interview. An actual job offer is rarely extended on the basis of a resume alone. Increase your chances of getting called for an interview by submitting an error-free resume that highlights what you have to offer a prospective employer.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.