One of the more common tactical mistakes I see on resumes is over-bolding – using too much bold.
Over-bolding creates many problems for your reader and even more problems for a candidate trying to get their point across to their 4 audiences (http://recareered.com
Last week, this was a topic with one of my clients. His resume had a serious case of over-bolding. Every 3rd or 4th line used bold font. Some entire lines were bolded. An entire paragraph was in bold. If the candidate knew how to make flashing fonts in multicolored lights, that candidate would have gladly used it … all over their resume.
This is a drastic and extreme example of over-bolding. Many resumes that aren’t as gratuitous with the bold are still way over-bold.
Before we get started – I use bold for section titles on this site. Blog platforms allow readers fewer formatting options than MS Word allows for resumes. Bold is a good way to keep readers on track in the outline writing format I use. I’m discussing the use of bold in resumes, a document written for a specific purpose, and read in a specific way.
Problems With Over Bolding
Bolding is useful to draw the reader’s eye to items that the candidate wants to highlight. What happens when too much is bolded?
- Everything looks the same: When so much is in bold, it all looks the same. The whole intent of bolding is to make an item appear different, to gain the reader’s attention.
- It’s tiring to the reader: Imagine Gilbert Gottfried reading a resume to you. Over-bolding is like reading an email in all caps – it feels like the writer is shouting at you. Keep in mind that your reader is reading dozens, or perhaps hundreds of resumes at the same time. All that shouting gets tiring.
- Reader focus: When everything is bold, the reader’s eye isn’t drawn to the bold – because it’s all bold. The human eye is less able to focus when a document is over-loaded with bold.
- Shows a lack of ability to prioritize: Bold is supposed to show priority items. When many items are in bold, the writer is trying to show that everything is a priority. Is that how you’ll prioritize in a work situation?
- Difficult to skim: Not only is an over-bolded resume difficult to skim, it’s difficult to pick up any details. Remember that the average reader spends 15 seconds per resume (http://www.recareered.com/blog/2008/04/24/interview-in-a-snap/). Do you really think that over-bolding will make your reader stay longer?
How To Use Bolding More Effectively
The rule of effective resume bolding is to use it sparingly and use bold fonts only when you want to pull the readers eye to a specific detail. Here are some specific suggestions I typically give:
- The less bold, the greater the impact: In an extreme example, if you just bolded a single word in your resume, what are the chances that your reader eye will be drawn there? Pretty high, especially if that bolded word is in your most valuable resume real estate – the top half of your first page (http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/02/16/10-ways-to-manage-your-resume-real-estate/).
- Bold words or very short phrases: Bolding complete sentences is far less effective in drawing the readers’ eye to exactly what you want them to see. If you bold, make it brief.
- Where bold has the most impact: The top half of your first page (http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/02/16/10-ways-to-manage-your-resume-real-estate/).
- Do you really need to bold your name? Or put it in 24 font? Does bolding your name help your reader … or your own ego? Why not make your name blink on and off?
- Do you really need to bold the name of your employer? Or your title? Do you think your reader is more interested in where you worked, or what you accomplished? If you are looking at bold as a limited and valuable resource, you’ll want to use bold where it has it’s maximum effect. In most cases, aren’t your accomplishments and the value you provided to your past employers more important than where you last worked?
- Keywords: Once you learn which keywords the employer is likely searching for, specific to that employer and that opportunity, why not bold only those keywords? In that way, you make it easy for the HR screener who scans resumes manually looking for keyword matches to see that you’re a match. With potentially thousands of competitors, there are likely many qualified candidates who don’t get selected for interview. Bolding to help the manual reviewer can make the difference between an interview … and the resume pile. This tactic can work well if you’ve done enough research first to understand what really matters to the employers and customize a response resume to meet that individual employers needs (http://www.recareered.com/blog/2009/09/30/differentiate-your-resume-with-a-winning-strategy-fishing-and-response-resumes/).
Using selective bolding to subliminally guide the reader’s eye to specific points on your resume gives you a greater chance to influence the reader to notice what you want them to notice.
But if you are like many candidates, over-bolding simply creates a mess, tires the reader, and gives them no idea what the really important points of your resume are.
Which would you prefer? Having your most important points noticed? Or having them glossed over?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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