Readability is key when you are a hiring manager flicking through countless resumes. Whether the resume is printed on paper or on a screen, the most successful candidates know how to make the most of the space on the page. That is where a two-column resume comes to the fore.
It is widely recognized that large blocks of text are difficult for the brain to process effectively. This is a problem when you need the messages in your career story to land effectively. A resume with long lines of text from left to right may cause most hiring managers to lose concentration swiftly.
The two-column resume is therefore a popular solution. The first page of any resume needs to create the most powerful impression possible. Two columns allow a job seeker to share the resume sections that matter most to them. Their skills can be front and center alongside their summary and recent work experience, for example. One-column resumes can risk leaving vital sections to the end of the document. Hiring managers might not even get there. In this blog we investigate the pros and cons of both options:
- Pros and cons of a two-column resume
- Benefits and disadvantages of a one-column resume
- Two-column resume examples for inspiration
Two-column resume: pros and cons
As the resume style of choice for most job seekers, it is likely that you will gravitate towards the two-column variant. As the hiring manager will likely only have one piece of paper visible on the interview table at one time, make this first page as powerful as possible. Let’s dig into the details of this dynamite variant.
Pros of a two-column resume
Two column resumes are popular for several reasons, but this does not mean that they are right for you. Here are some of the reasons why they might be a fit.
- Groups information. If you have multiple aspects of your application that you wish to highlight to a hiring manager on the front page, you can group them together on one page.
- Readability. When hiring managers are scanning a resume for interesting aspects of an application, two column allows them to process the information for effectively.
- Efficiency. It may be that you do not have enough to say in on certain lines (especially with accomplishment bullet points), so two columns are space efficient.
- Flexibility. It may be that you wish to highlight different information for different roles. Two columns give you the flexibility to mix up the content of that critical first resume page.
- Attractive. Many two-column resumes allow for a block of color to contrast the information. This can look stylish and professional (if it isn’t too colorful).
Cons of a two-column resume
There are a few disadvantages that came to mind. The choice isn’t so clear cut.
- Limited work experience space. There is limited space for work experience on the first page of a two-column resume, so if your last two employers were particularly impressive and you wish to highlight them, you might opt for a one-column variant.
- Formatting issues. Unless you are very careful (and use a pre-formatted template), there is a danger that self-made two column resumes can lose elements of formatting.
- Underused second page. While the column with skills and contact details (etc) might work well on the first page, it could be the case that this column is not so effective on page two.
- ATS issues. This last one deserves serious consideration. There may be certain applicant tracking systems that cannot parse certain types of two-column resumes. All of our templates are guaranteed to pass this test, but that is not guaranteed for others.
One-column resume: advantages and disadvantages
There are fewer advantages of a one-column resume, and the disadvantages mostly the mirror of the pros for the two-column variant. Without repeating what we have shared above, here are some additional thoughts to inform your choice.
One-column resume advantages
- Traditional aesthetics. For certain roles, opting for the more traditional solid block resume may be the best choice. Hiring managers will be most interested in your summary and work experience, so these can be front and center.
- More reliable formatting. If you are submitting the resume document online (to an ATS or via different software) you can guarantee that the formatting will be retained if you opt for the simpler one-column version.
- Telling a complicated story. If you have a particularly complicated job, it may be worth opting for the full-page resume as it will give you more space to explore the intricacies of your achievements. Being too concise may be viewed negatively in this situation.
- Longer reading time. A one-column resume will likely be more dense and harder to read. There is a compulsion to fill the page with text, some of which will not contribute to telling the career story. Hiring managers don’t want prose, they just need hard-hitting facts.
- Wasted space. If you are seeking to keep your resume concise, it may be that you have too much blank space on the right side of the one-column resume. The irregular line lengths may also seem somewhat haphazard to the eye.
- Interview hassle. If the hiring manager is constantly needing to flick between the two pages of a one-column resume to see the skills and education sections, they may be overly distracted from what the candidate is saying. A more powerful first page would help here.
Two-column resume templates
These pre-designed templates have been tested for all major ATS systems and are simple to customize. There is nothing worse than rushing to make an amendment to your resume and forgetting to make a formatting change. Submitting a resume is a serious matter. Take care of the fine details.
Resume.io has a wealth of resume templates to choose from, so here are a few suggestions of our most popular two-column templates.
The Dublin template has a left-hand column with a solid color block. This is a good way of contrasting the two sides of the resume and can lead the eye to critical information. The candidate’s name and details are included in this left column with space for an optional photo that doesn’t take up too much space. Skills are included in the left column. Education is left until the end of the resume after the work experience.
Toronto is an example of a mixed format resume with an initial one-column header with contact details and summary. This may be an effective option as the hiring manager’s eye is immediately drawn to the summary. Employment history then fills the left column, with skills on the right-hand side. This is useful for a candidate that wishes their most recent experience to stand out. Readers tend to scan from left to right. Both the skills and summary sections are in colored boxes, which provides a useful contrast.
Berlin is a clean and professional two-column template that allows maximal information to be shared on the page. There are no superfluous graphics, with thin lines that separate the resume sections. This resume template would be particularly suitable for white-collar professionals who need to share multiple sections on the front page—like a language proficiency—that would typically be relegated to page two.
- Think about what information you need to convey on the front page.
- Avoid large block of text—this can overwhelm a hiring manager.
- Experiment with different templates to see which ones fit your story.
- Don’t go mad with colors and designs. Content comes first.