Your Guide to Resume Margins—No, You Shouldn’t Make Them Tiny Just to Cram Everything In
Even if you feel like you have the content of your resume down, you might still have questions about resume formatting—including everything to do with the margins of your document. You might be wondering about the standard size for resume margins. Or maybe you know that you want to get your resume down to one or two pages—or it may be the opposite situation and you want to make it look a little longer and take up more room on the page—and you’re wondering if playing with the margins will help solve your problems.
Here’s everything you need to know about resume margins.
What Size Should Your Resume Margins Be?
A traditional resume should have margins between half an inch and one inch and they should be the same on all four sides, says Muse career coach Kristine Knutter. But where you fall within that range depends on your individual situation. You want to balance how much relevant information you’re getting onto your resume with how readable it is.
Recruiters often spend just seven seconds making an initial judgement on a resume, so the easier you can make yours to read, the better your chances at making it to the next round. White space—the parts of your resume page not covered by text—will help your resume look less cluttered and dense and make it easier to scan quickly. So while you might have the urge to make your margins as tiny as possible to fit as much information in as you can, you don’t want to do that at the expense of readability.
However, you still want to keep your resume down to one or two pages at most and making the margins smaller can sometimes help. “As a rule, you should have a one-page resume if your career has lasted 10 years or less, and you can have a two-page resume if your career has lasted more than 10 years,” Knutter says. Before making the call to spill over onto a second page—no matter how many years of experience you have—ensure that all of the information on your resume is relevant to the job you’re applying for. When it comes to what goes on a resume, “We have to be selective,” says Muse career coach Anne Kelly.
If you only have one or two lines on a second page, you should try to make little adjustments to your formatting and resume content to get your resume down to one page and might consider changing your margins (without making them smaller than half an inch). But if there are more than a few lines on the second page, “Two pages with white space will appeal to your reader more than a cluttered one-page resume,” Kelly says. That said, if you’re on two pages and spilling onto a third, you need to make some cuts.
Another reason to ensure that your resume margins are large enough is printing. “We never know when a submitted resume will be printed,” says Muse career coach Barb Girson, and documents with margins that are too narrow are in danger of having text cut off. If you’re afraid your resume margins might be too small, Girson says, “Play it safe. Print out your [document] to make sure your content is displaying as you see it on the screen.”
What About the Margins on a More Creative Resume?
Generally, you should use a resume with minimal formatting. The vast majority of resumes submitted online will be uploaded to an applicant tracking system (ATS) to help companies organize and track resumes and these ATSs can have trouble “parsing” or reading fancier design elements including columns, images, graphs, and icons.
But in certain very specific circumstances, such as when you’re sure your resume is going directly into human hands rather than being uploaded to an online portal and you’re in a field like design where your creativity could help you land the job, you might consider a more creative resume design. In this case, your margins can be “totally different,” says Muse career coach Susan Mozian, so use whatever margins make sense for your design—as long as nothing would get cut off in printing and your resume doesn’t look too sparse or too cluttered.
If you’re ever in doubt about what kind of resume is appropriate, err toward a traditional resume and demonstrate your creativity with a portfolio.
How Do You Adjust Resume Margins?
Knowing what size resume margins you want or knowing that you want to play around with them doesn’t mean much if you don’t know how to adjust your margins. Here’s how to make the change in some common programs.
If You’re Using Microsoft Word:
- Click “Format” along the top bar of your monitor.
- Select “Document” from the dropdown menu.
- Make sure that the top box labeled “Margins” is highlighted on the window that appears.
- Type in or use the arrows to select what size you’d like for your top, bottom, left, and right margins on your resume.
If You’re Using Google Docs:
- Click “File” at the top of the Google Docs browser window.
- Select “Page setup” from the dropdown menu.
- Type in what size you’d like for the top, bottom, left, and right margins on your resume.
If You’re Using Apple Pages:
- In the top right corner of the program window, select the “Document” button. (The button has a rectangle with horizontal lines across it—like a page with writing on it.)
- Make sure that the top box labeled “Document” is highlighted in the sidebar that appears.
- In the “Document Margins” section, type in or use the arrows to select your desired margin sizes.
What Other Resume Formatting Rules Should You Follow?
Here are a few more formatting tips and rules that, along with your margin size, will help recruiters and hiring managers read your resume—so you can get more responses and land more interviews.
- The majority of your document should be left-aligned. “You can choose some elements to be [center-] or right-aligned for emphasis,” Knutter says—for example, you might center your name and contact info or right-align the dates of your past experiences. But otherwise everything, including your position titles and bullet points, should be left-aligned.
- Stick to ATS-friendly design elements. Instead of fancy design elements, use color, italics, bold, underlining, and bullet points to ensure your resume is easy to scan.
- Choose a standard font and font size. Arial is the most widely recommended font to use on your resume, and other common fonts like Cambria, Georgia, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Times New Roman are also fine (though some recruiters consider Times New Roman outdated). Avoid anything that looks gimmicky, is hard to read, or doesn’t come preset in most word processing programs. As far as size goes, don’t get too wild—10 to 12 is best for the majority of your text and you can go a bit larger for headings.
- Be consistent. Whatever formatting elements you choose, make sure they’re uniform across your resume. So if you use bold to emphasize one job title, don’t switch to italics for the next entry, and make sure that your fonts, font sizes, line spacing, and, of course, resume margins are consistent throughout.