Are you clueless about what your resume should look like in 2020?
Should you add a headshot or links to your social media profiles?
What about colors? Or callouts and charts about your industry experience?
As you can see, it takes a lot to design an effective resume that stands out in today’s ultracompetitive job market.
So if you’re still writing your chronological resume and cover letter in Microsoft Word like you did a million years ago, you’re not taking advantage of all that a modern resume format has to offer.
But that ends here.
Today’s guide will help you convey your career accomplishments in an eye-catching resume that hiring managers and potential employers won’t be able to ignore.
Before I share my five best tips for the design, layout, and visual content of a functional resume, I want to explain an important point.
Why You Should Care About How Your Executive Resume Looks
Before I get into what your resume should look like in 2020, I want to first address a question I often hear from executives I work with. They usually say, “I have over 30 years of work experience; why does it matter how my resume looks?”
And to some degree, they’re right.
What you include in your resume–from your relevant work experience and education to your expert-level skills and professional qualifications–should matter more than what it looks like. The good news is that those things are important.
However, with up to 250 resumes coming in per job posting, hiring managers often see the same traditional, bullet-list-only chronological resume. This tired format just regurgitates a candidate’s employment history.
Because it’s not visually engaging, hiring managers have a harder time distinguishing one candidate from the next. And that means they could pass by your resume before even reading your sales pitch (i.e., why you’re a great fit).
This is why a creative, eye-catching resume makes all the difference.
With one, you’ll capture the attention of hiring managers and hook them like a fish. It’s much easier to reel them in, so to speak, when your work experience and other qualifying attributes leap off the screen or page.
But, keep in mind, there’s a fine line here. Going overboard with your visuals won’t help you either. So here’s how to strike the right balance:
What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2020 (with Examples)
These five essential elements of every updated, modern resume will help you get noticed and land an interview:
#1. Eye-Catching Top Half That Captures Their Interest
I’ve talked about how the top half of your resume is prime real estate, and that’s still very true.
So I want you to think of this section as an introduction to an exciting book. Within a few seconds, your words should grab readers and compel them to dive deeper into your resume.
Now, that doesn’t mean the rest of your resume doesn’t matter. It’s just that this top half will guide the reader to the rest, which is exactly what an effective resume should do.
Take a look at the top half of these three executive resume samples to see what I mean. I’ll be referring to these throughout this guide:
See how these three examples utilize the top part of their resume layout? They’re visually appealing while also making several striking points in a short time.
That’s how you want your resume to look in 2020–it’s the best way to stand out.
To copy the format of these free resume examples, you’ll need to write succinct callouts of your accomplishments.
#2. Succinct Callouts That Attract Attention Without Overwhelming
The top halves of those resumes work so well thanks to organized callouts.
This tight copy gives hiring managers your best stats, relevant career skills, and industry experience at a glance.
It’s keyword-rich to pass the artificial intelligence test (i.e., resume parsing software) yet contains enough breathing room to not overwhelm human readers. Clear separations between sections give each point its own space without becoming crammed with information.
This format helps readers smoothly jump from one visual point to the next. Again, this is precisely what you want.
This resume example also lists quantifiable achievements (underlined in red in the image below):
Writing specifics about your career (such as 22 years of experience) and what you did for former employers (like managed over $32 million in capital expansions) are must-haves.
Visual elements help these selling points wow.
#3. Visual Elements That Support Your Accomplishments
Adding visual aids like charts, graphs, and logos can help your resume stand out and strengthen your qualifications.
If you’ve worked with well-known companies, have professional certifications, or completed training courses, you should include logos or certification badges on your resume to add a simple yet impactful visual element.
Charts or graphs drive home how much you’ve accomplished in the past. Check out how that same resume example a moment ago exemplifies this:
There’s a basic chart with easy-to-understand values (recent performance growth) any hiring manager will take note of.
Stay away from complex charts and graphs here.
With less than six seconds to scan a resume, a hiring manager or recruiter won’t bother reading the rest if a problematic element stumps them right off the bat. That may be the only part of your resume they read before moving on to the next candidate.
Social proof is another fantastic option here. In this case, you can use quotes from previous employers or clients throughout your career. Their testimonials will show you have the skills necessary to get the job done.
#4. Pops of Color
Besides the format, did you notice anything specific about the design of the example resume templates I shared?
Those resumes all used pops of color.
When strategically placed, different colors can emphasize your best selling points and neatly break up sections. They’ll also help you make a memorable impression and stand out in a sea of black-and-white resumes.
However, going overboard with color, or choosing hard-to-read colors, won’t help your case.
Study the examples below for a few minutes of inspiration.
See how those pops of color don’t distract from the message? They help keep facts organized so hiring managers keep reading.
You don’t need to be a web designer or sport a degree in graphic design to get this part right. Choose one or two colors that reflect aspects of your industry or your personality.
Then it’s time to make sure your words stand up to your resume’s new design.
#5. Tight Copy
Your resume and cover letter should only contain the most relevant details about your career and employment history. And you should write them as briefly as possible.
Piling on irrelevant and useless facts from your work experience muddles your message. That’s why list-style resumes are so boring and ineffective. The gist of who you are as an executive gets lost in all the details.
Writing resumes requires a keen eye for editing. You must cut the bloat and get right to the facts you want to be remembered by.
So when writing your resume, ask yourself: Does this strengthen my case or distract from it?
Each element and sentence you add to your resume should be there solely to help you land an interview. If it doesn’t help your case, ditch it.
Short, impactful sentences also give your copy much-needed breathing room, or space between each section and within them.
If a sentence doesn’t line up well in your creative resume template, for example, trim the excess and get right to the point.
I recommend using a combination of paragraphs and bullet points here to veer away from the old-style resume layout. This breaks up the repetitiveness of only having bulleted lists and boosts visual engagement.
This resume sample I mentioned earlier does this well:
Now that you know more about what your resume should look like in 2020, are you ready to create your unique executive resume?
Find Inspiration from Creative Resume Templates to Craft Your Executive Resume Today
Start the process of writing your resume by peeking at our free resume sample examples. You’ll gain some inspiration and tips, and familiarize yourself with the modern resume format.
Don’t have time to follow these tips and write your resume? Get in touch with one of our professional resume writers today to see how we can ace this task for you.
In the end, creating a visually engaging resume gives you a much better chance of standing out in this ultracompetitive job market. Follow these five tips and you should have no trouble landing your next interview.
Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never break through the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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The resume samples look great but they will be discarded by an applicant tracking system (ATS).