Guidelines for Setting Resume Margins

Young woman with resume
Photo: Sitthiphong / Getty Images

Use standard resume margin guidelines to make sure that your resume is easy to read, properly laid out, and leaves a good impression on the hiring manager.

It might seem like a small thing, but formatting choices like margin size make a big difference in how your resume will be perceived. Leave too much space, and you might look like you’re trying to disguise a lack of experience; leave too little, and prospective employers might struggle to scan the text.

What are standard margin guidelines for resumes? Read on for all the information you’ll need about margins, text alignment, and how to reduce margins if you need extra space.

Standard Resume Margins

Resume margins should be about one inch on all sides. You can reduce the margins if you need extra space, but do not make them smaller than ½-inch. If the margins are too small, your resume will look too busy.

Why would someone be tempted to shrink the margins down smaller than ½-inch on all sides? To fit all their information on one page. Fortunately, most career experts now agree that it’s acceptable to retire the old rule that resumes should be kept to one page. While it’s in your best interests to keep your CV snappy and to the point, if you legitimately need more than one page to show off your accomplishments, go ahead.


Make sure that your resume contains only the information that’s relevant to the job posting and likely to catch the attention of the hiring manager.

Resume Text Alignment

You should also align your text to the left (rather than centering your text); this is how most documents are aligned, so it will make your resume easier to read.

Typically, the left side of the resume contains the most important information, such as your previous employers, job titles, and your achievements and/or responsibilities. Resumes often contain additional information on the right side of the page, such as dates and/or job locations. This creates a visually balanced resume.

Guidelines for Creative Resumes

Think twice before choosing a creative resume such as an infographic CV or video resume. Research has shown that employers prefer standard resumes, even for creative jobs. In one survey, nearly a quarter of hiring managers said they’d reject a resume for having a design that was “too elaborate.”

Here’s why it's best to stick to a traditional resume format:

Creative resumes are hard to pull off. Most people are not skilled graphic/multimedia artists in addition to their other professional skills. It’s harder than you might think, even with the technology available today, to make a creative resume that effectively communicates your message. More often, the bells and whistles merely detract from your qualifications.

Hiring managers are busy. Especially during the screening process, when hiring managers cull resumes that don’t meet basic requirements, they’re likely to spend only a few seconds on each resume before moving on. Make their job too hard, and they’re likely to go to the next candidate’s CV.

There’s also always the chance that some of your aesthetic choices in your creative resume will rub the reviewer the wrong way, for reasons of personal taste. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity, simply because you love the color orange, and the hiring manager prefers a neutral palate.

Applicant tracking systems might reject non-standard documents. Creative resumes have one big disadvantage: they’re hard for robots to read. If you're submitting your application through an online process, you're almost always better off sticking with the traditional resume format and a Word document or PDF.

How To Adjust Page Margin Settings in Microsoft Word

Here's how to adjust the margins in Word:

  • Click on Layout / Margins / Normal (for one-inch margins)
  • There are a variety of other selections, or you can set your own margins by clicking on Layout / Custom Margins

How To Adjust Page Margin Settings in Google Docs

Here's how to adjust the margins in Google Docs:

  • Click on Help.
  • A search box will appear containing the phrase "Search the Menus.” Type “Margins.”
  • Select Page Setup.
  • You can adjust all the margins (left, right, top and bottom) from this window.

More Resume Writing Tips

When you’re writing a resume, remember:

Use standard settings for your resume format whenever possible. That applies to margin sizes, fonts, and other formatting issues. Hiring managers are used to seeing one-inch margins, for example. Stray from the formula, and you run the risk that they’ll notice your formatting choices and not the content of your CV.

Tip: Most word processing programs default to these settings, making them an easy choice.

Remember that robots are even more finicky than human readers. If you apply for a job online, your resume will most likely go through an applicant tracking system. Use non-standard formatting, and it might never make it to human eyes.

Review resume examples before you get started. Resume templates and samples can help you to see formatting choices in action, as well as provide you with some style options you might not have considered otherwise.

Review Resume Examples

Review resume samples for a variety of occupations and download templates you can use to write your own resume.

Key Takeaways

  • Use one-inch margins for your resumes, CVs, cover letters, and other application materials.
  • Choose a standard font and format your resume with readability in mind.
  • Don’t pad your resume or use formatting tricks to make it seem longer or shorter than it is.
  • If you’re applying online, keep in mind that your resume will need to make it through the applicant tracking system before it reaches a human—keep it simple.
Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Challenger, Gray, & Christmas. "Writing the Modern Resume: Dispelling the Myths."

  2. TopResume. "Common Resume Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them."

  3. The Ladders. "Eye-Tracking Study."

Related Articles