Education Career Services

October 16, 2009

White Space is Over Rated!

October 16 2009Cull through your resume books and articles; find any that say “white space is important!” and throw them out.

The claim is that white space makes things more readable.  By creating “islands” of text people’s eyes are directed there and they have room to read.  There’s truth to that.  For technical writers and layout designers of magazines/brochures…a lot of truth.

For resumes though?  No.  Not anymore.  Back in the old days when hiring managers had copious time to read the half-dozen resumes that crossed their desks, white space was handy.  In today’s world, where hiring managers have hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes to review with an Egg McMuffin in one hand and phone in the other, the game has changed.

First impressions are vastly important.  A lot of white space suggests a light career and lack of experience.  Several pages with tons of white space inconveniences the reader… because they aren’t readers anymore, they’re skimmers (and their hands are full!).  Ten to twelve seconds of eyes roaming the page looking for “eye glue” is all you have to grab attention.

What is eye glue?  First, a hiring manager has an employment problem needing to be solved so they skim the resume for what they need: relevant key words and key accomplishments.  A sales manager moving expensive technology wants to see large sales figures, complex consultative sales experience, and the word “technology,” among others.  When they find such a word, they’ll “read around” it to get the context and start roving again.

Our eyes look for “mental real estate”—highly recognizable things or words.  Industry key words are an example, high-profile clients or products, alma maters… whether they’re related to what they’re looking for or not, a skimmer will “read around” them for context and “chain” to another key word, eventually covering much of your resume (i.e.: “hmmm, Lucasfilm, what’s that about?” reads and finds the relevant key word archival, and chains around that).

As a design technique, concise bullets, bold text, italic text, centering, and small caps are far better than white space.  Attractively laid out, a “packed” resume allows chaining much better than isolating text in white space.

Of course, if you don’t have the accomplishments to fill a full page without padding, either look for more accomplishments (you have them), or space things out doing your best not to isolate text (thereby preventing chaining).  Students are NOT at a disadvantage here because school projects and VOLUNTEER efforts work very well on a resume.  Don’t wait until senior year to consider your resume; start capturing resume “bytes” immediately!

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

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