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There are two schools of thought regarding how much spiffing up your resume needs. One school has a hard line: Decorate your house, not your resume, as decorating gimmicks could diminish your credibility. Another school says appearances count. In a slow economy, you need to use every advantage to make sure your resume gets read. A smart, elegant design can walk the middle aisle between these competing viewpoints, conveying thoughtfulness in style.
Set off your name and contact information in a box at the top of your document. Consider using a different color for the background, but nothing too glaring. The idea is to try to force the reviewer to read and remember your name. If you go with color, use no more than two colors on your resume in addition to the black type of the main text.
Pay attention to your sections and headings. Use boldface or different casing to separate sections of your resume, such as your education, experience, awards and certifications. In addition, within each job listing, use a small, unique and non-distracting bullet point to showcase your special achievements. Open your word processor's symbol gallery and choose a bullet, caret or symbol that's just a little different from the basic square, dot or club. Maintain consistency with the character you choose, and ensure the same amount of space between the characters and words is maintained throughout.
Make your resume easy to read by including a vertical sidebar box that quickly highlights who you are and what you do. Include a brief summary statement and boldfaced keywords. Create a bullet list of your most relevant special skills, training and certifications. Ask someone to read your sidebar. He should be able to learn something concrete about you within 20 seconds.
Balance is crucial when decorating your resume. If you use some kind of accoutrement in the header of your resume, place a similar design in the footer. This requires you be judicious with your space. For example, don't use too small a font and long bullet lists, if you are using these features. Mentally divide your resume into four quadrants and determine whether any space is too crowded with any element. You want balance in terms of text, white space and design features.
Excessive decoration looks amateurish. Don't overdo it with flowers, bright colors, hearts or distracting border designs. Instead, restrict yourself to one or two features and use them strategically, such as in the upper left corner of your resume and the very end of your resume.
Angela Ogunjimi has been a prize-winning writer and editor since 1994. She was a general assignment reporter at two newspapers and a business writer at two magazines. She writes on nutrition, obesity, diabetes and weight control for a project of the National Institutes of Health. Ogunjimi holds a master's degree in sociology from George Washington University and a bachelor's in journalism from New York University.