Your resume is your first contact with an employer, and it instantly makes an impression of you as a job candidate.
Considering that recruiters and hiring managers spend only 6 to 7 seconds deciding whether or not your resume is worth a closer look, you only have one short chance to make that impression a great one.
Since the visual aspect of a resume is the first thing that gets noticed, the layout of your resume can either help or hinder your job application.
There are many opinions on the best way to present your information, but they all boil down to two main options to choose from: a one-column or two-column resume format.
Which layout should you go with? This decision can be confusing and difficult to make, especially if you're not sure which format will work best for your needs.
There are significant differences between these two layouts and many pros and cons to both types of resumes, so let's explore which one might be better suited for your situation!
In the next 10 minutes, you'll learn about:
things to consider before choosing the best resume layout for your needs
Without further ado, let's get into it!
One-Column Resume Design
One-column design is the standard resume layout.
This resume layout lists all information in a page-wide column from left to right.
Since there is plenty of space for content, this resume layout emphasizes and provides space for a summary statement at the top of your resume or additional information below the work experience, such as relevant coursework, skills and certifications.
This layout can also make it easier for employers to see what jobs you've held in chronological order.
It's very straightforward and simple, making it easy to read through all of your information quickly.
What are the advantages of a one-column resume design?
There are plenty of advantages of going with a one-column resume layout, including:
It's the standard and preferred resume format.
Single-column resumes have been and still are the hiring standard.
That means that hiring managers, recruiters and other HR professionals are used to receiving and reading this resume format.
While some HR professionals may have subjective preferences regarding the resume format, it's the preferred choice by most recruiters and hiring managers because it allows them to quickly scan your work experience for relevant information, which makes this resume layout a better option than multi-column formats.
It emphasizes the content rather than formatting.
The one-column resumes are less design-heavy. As such, they put emphasis on the content of a resume without many distracting elements.
The one-column layout also gives you more resume real estate to list your previous work experience, which is usually the main focus of a resume.
Considering this, the one-column resume layout is suitable for people whose aim is to impress employers with their expertise, i.e. job seekers with extensive work history or more experience in the relevant industry.
It's compatible with most ATS.
Most companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) that receives, scans and processes job applications. Since ATS are a relatively new technology, they still have their glitches, and they have historically been bad at reading advanced resume formats, such as two-column resumes.
One-column resumes are ATS-friendly and are more compatible with most HR systems, so they are a safer option for job seekers trying to get past the first screening filter and appeal to employers who have this HR software in place.
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What are the disadvantages of a one-column resume design?
However, there are certain disadvantages of the one-column resume layout to be aware of:
It's a less flexible resume layout.
Single-column resumes follow a standard, typically reverse-chronological resume format.
Due to their traditional resume formatting and predetermined structure, they may lack much-needed flexibility.
If you want to use advanced formatting techniques or need more space and flexibility for any additional information, the one-column format may not be the best choice.
It may be less attractive than a two-column resume.
One-column resumes follow a traditional structure that may not be as visually attractive, eye-catching or modern as two-column resume designs.
The one-column format offers less space for visual layout, so the overall appearance of your document is more plain and simple than multi-column resumes.
This is the main reason why professionals from creative industries, such as marketing, design or photography, often opt for a two-column resume.
It doesn't provide enough space for additional information.
While one-column resumes may give you more expanse to list previous work experience and allow you to highlight your most relevant skills, it can also leave little room for other important details such as professional achievements, affiliations, memberships or interests that you want employers to know about -- but don't necessarily have a place on your work history.
The one-column resume format limits your ability to include more detailed and extensive information in other sections of the document, which is why it's not a good choice if you want to highlight specific skills or achievements that don’t fit into the work experience section.
Two-column resume design
A two-column resume format is another option for presenting information about yourself to employers, and it's gaining in popularity because of its flexibility.
A two-column resume design separates your information into smaller columns, making it easier to fit all the elements of your job application on one page.
This layout lists professional experience in one column separating it from resume sections listed in other columns, including: contact information, skills, professional affiliations, memberships, extracurricular activities and any other information regarding your professional background.
Considering the flexibility in its structure and formatting, this resume layout is modern and visually attractive.
What are the advantages of a two-column resume design?
There are many advantages of a two-column resume design, such as:
It looks modern.
Considering the flexibility in structuring a two-column resume layout and its emphasis on design, a two-column resume is the best format to consider if you want your application materials to stand out from other applicants at first glance.
With much of today's hiring conducted online and over email, a candidate whose application stands out visually will have a better chance at gaining attention than one that doesn't make a strong visual impact.
It creates space for more information within one page.
A two-column format allows more space for adding additional information, such as professional affiliations and memberships.
It offers enough room to add key skills and achievements that don't fit into the work experience section of your resume.
With smart formatting and a few design tricks, a two-column resume can fit all the information you want to add to a one-page document.
A two-column resume is also easier to read and navigate than other types of resumes, which makes it more effective at conveying important details about yourself.
In a nutshell, if you have more information to include and don't want it all lumped in one section of your resume, the two-column format might be best for you because it gives you more flexibility to organize your information.
It's flexible enough for each applicant by allowing them to customize certain sections and showcase their personal and professional information in an effective design.
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What are the disadvantages of a two-column resume design?
Two-column resumes also have certain disadvantages:
It can look cluttered if not designed well.
While the two-column resumes can fit a wealth of information to one page, on the flip side, they can look cluttered if not designed properly.
It is easy to end up with too many columns or a poorly aligned grid, which would make your document more difficult to read and reduce its effectiveness at conveying information about you as an applicant.
It may be challenging to design it.
Designing an easy-on-the-eye two-column resume requires a lot of effort and advanced design skills.
It may be challenging to find the right balance in how much space your columns take up when using this format. Also, it's important to ensure that the information doesn't get crowded together, which can easily happen if it's not designed with care.
Also, designing a two-column resume may be time-consuming if you have a lot of information and need to decide which sections go where.
It's harder to read and navigate through.
Since two-column resumes don't have a standardized structure, they may be harder to navigate through from the reader's perspective.
Also, this layout doesn't follow natural eye movement, so it can be challenging for employers to follow the information.
If the reader has to move their eyes back and forth between columns, it may make them more likely to miss something important on your resume.
It's not compatible with all ATS.
Since many applicant tracking systems require a standard layout, it may be harder to use the two-column resume format if you're applying for jobs online.
Historically, ATS were configured to read the text from left to right, which meant that they could not process information from the two-column resumes. Even though their performance has improved, some ATS may still parse text in columns and jumble the information together in an illogical way -- or, even worse, completely miss some information.
So, there is a high chance that a two-column resume will not be ATS-friendly.
What to take into consideration when choosing the resume layout?
Since both resume layouts have their pros and cons, when deciding whether to use a one- or two-column resume layout, it's important to consider your current industry, work background and what you want to achieve with your resume.
When to use a one-column resume?
Consider using a single-column resume layout in the following scenarios.
Conservative industries: As one column-resumes are the industry standard and considered more traditional, they work best for job seekers looking for jobs in conservative industries such as finance, banking, law or governmental jobs.
Experienced professionals: They are also a better option for experienced professionals, especially those with over ten years of experience in the relevant field, who want to let their experience speak for itself.
Aiming to improve compatibility with ATS: Single-column resumes are also a safer option for anyone who wants to ensure that their resume gets past the screening software (ATS). So, if you're applying for jobs online, one-column resumes are the best choice.
When to use a two-column resume?
Use a two-column resume in the following situations:
Modern industries: Two-column resumes are better for job seekers in creative and tech industries that require more focus on design or visual elements, such as graphic designers, product managers or software developers.
Diverse work background: Two columns also work well for those with extensive experience across multiple areas of expertise. They allow you to show off relevant skills and areas of expertise in a flexible and visually appealing way.
Aiming to enhance design: If you want a layout that makes an impact and looks professional while still providing room for all the information on your resume, opt for a two-column resume. Such a resume can spark attention when you need to hand it out, e.g. in a job fair, industry conference or an interview.
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The resume layout plays a vital role in your job application. There are two main layouts to choose from - one- or two-column resume.
Both layouts have pros and cons regarding their visual appeal, flexibility, and compatibility with ATS systems.
Whether you choose a one-column or two-column resume layout, it's important to consider the industry where you're applying for jobs, the work experience you have, and what kind of impact you want to make with your resume to make sure you have selected the layout that works in your favor.
Remember -- you only get one shot at impressing recruiters or hiring managers with your resume! If you want to speed up the resume writing process and land your dream job fast, we're here to help! Use our resume cheat sheet, explore resume examples or jumpstart your job search with a professionally designed resume template and impress employers right from the start.