Many young job applicants are employing two-column resumes these days. They are fresher and more flexible than standard resume templates. But are two-column resumes as effective as one-column resumes? The answer for most job seekers in most industries is probably not, at least not yet.
That is because one-column resumes are easier for most automated and human gatekeepers to read. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some job-seeking situations where a two-column resume is your best option. For example, if you are sending a PDF of your resume directly to a hiring manager through a personal contact for a position in design or tech, a two-column resume will help you stand out and spotlight your cutting-edge qualities.
Whatever column layout you choose, it is important to build your resume using a traditional resume format to organize your work experience and education. If you are unsure of how to proceed, check out this selection of resume formats to find contemporary example of the three most effective, and expected, resume formats: reverse chronological, functional and hybrid. One-column and two-column samples of each type are provided, along with advice on the best resume formats for various industries.
One-column resumes: Pros
- One-column resumes are ATS-friendly.
One-column layouts work best with applicant tracking systems (ATS), most of which scan from right to left across the entire page, which means that when they come to the end of a line of text on one side of the page, they are likely to then scan across any column margin and scan the parallel line across from it. Suddenly, your carefully crafted descriptions of skills and accomplishments make no sense at all.
- One-column formatting is more stable.
One-column resumes can be sent as Word attachments and easily opened by recruiters and hiring managers. Two-column resumes are more likely to be hard to open or have their formatting distorted when opened using a different program, platform, or even a different version of the same platform. A one-column resume is more likely to look exactly the way you designed it to when a hiring manager opens your attachment on their computer. This means that you will have the option of sending your resume as a Word attachment or PDF.
One-column resumes: Cons
- One-column resumes use more space.
A one-column layout tends to use more space to convey the same information as a two-column resume. A modern resume should highlight your most important skills and accomplishments at the top of the resume in a bulleted list. If you are using a one-column resume, you might waste space in this section in particular. A good solution to this problem is to use the entire line for each bulleted skill or accomplishment by providing supporting evidence of how you employed each skill or what metrics were changed by your achievement.
- They take longer to read.
The eye scans faster across the column width in a two-column resume. It is also easier for hiring managers to miss your most important qualifications when they are embedded in the middle of a dense paragraph with wide lines of type. To counter this, make sure you find creative ways of highlighting your most important skills, particularly those that align with key words in the job description, and edit out any extraneous wording.
- They look dated.
One-column resumes are less appealing and less modern-looking than two-column resumes. This means you will need to get creative to highlight elements of your resume in eye-catching ways. The first step is to find a flexible, fresh, one-column format that allows you to employ design flourishes to make your one-column resume look modern and stand apart from the competition.
Two-column resumes: Pros
- They’re sleeker and more attractive.
The two-column format will help your resume stand out. It looks more modern. It also tends to provide more visual balance between skills and accomplishments sections and work chronology. Focusing the eye and the reader’s attention on skills and achievements is likely a better approach for the modern workplace, especially for younger workers.
- They focus on what matters.
With less room to work with, two-column resumes force applicants to be focused and concise, so not only do two-column resumes look better, they often read better too.
- They’re more modern-looking.
In fields that value creativity, design and tech skills, a two-column resume is more likely to make you look like a cutting-edge candidate with the skills and modern mindset employers in these fields are looking for.
Two-column resumes: Cons
- They can be distorted by ATS. Because two-column resumes are not compatible with most ATSs, they can be rejected as unreadable or misread because they become garbled in the scanning process.
- Many hiring managers don’t like them. Most employment gatekeepers spend between 30 seconds and two minutes looking at resumes, according to new research, and that’s typically after applicants have been screened by an ATS or junior staff. Since most of them are more used to scouring one-page resumes for the information they’re seeking, they might not spot important qualifying information about you if you use a two-column resume.