Should You Use a Two-Column Resume? How to Decide (Pros & Cons)

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February 27, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • A two-column resume is the less common way to format a resume. 
  • Using a two-column resume template may be a better option for some than others.  
  • Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help you craft a resume and highlight your achievements.

If you’re on the job search, you know how important your resume is to land an interview. You know to include key information about your employment history and skills. But do you know when to use a two-column resume over a traditional single-column resume?

As the name suggests, two-column resumes are a type of resume design that uses two columns. Oftentimes the two-column format is not applied to the entire design, but used in specific sections, like Skills or Awards, to maximize space when listing several items. This resume layout can be visually appealing, grab attention, and set you apart from other job seekers.

Multi-column resume to land your dream job
Teal's Resume Builder includes dozens of customizable templates

Ultimately, you want to choose the resume format that makes it easiest for hiring managers to read while avoiding any trouble with Application Tracking Systems (ATS). 

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between one-column and two-column resumes, and what to consider when deciding on the ideal resume format for your job search.

Understanding the two-column resume

A two-column resume layout uses two distinct columns to highlight the most important information about your skills, abilities, and employment history. So instead of a one-column resume that presents everything from top to bottom, a two-column layout is split vertically—though rarely symmetrical—and presents information in a two-column format. 

A two-column resume is read from left to right. To emphasize your most important and relevant information, place it in the first place the hiring manager will look: the left column.

Every layout comes with tradeoffs. Here are benefits and drawbacks of using a two-column resume to consider before committing to a format:

Two-Column Resume Pros

  • Easily scannable. The two-column layout makes your resume easy to skim, which can help relevant information stand out to hiring managers. 
  • Saves space. Having two columns may help you consolidate space, making it easier to fit your experience on a single-page resume instead of a two-page resume. 
  • Eye-catching. Some two-column resume templates are more creative with appealing design elements, like icons for bullet points and visual skill meters.

Two-Column Resume Cons

  • Limited white space. If you cram everything into two columns to make it one page, the limited white space will make it crowded and difficult to scan. 
  • May not be ATS-friendly. A two-column resume, and design elements that often accompany this format, often have formatting nuances that make it difficult for an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to parse out information, causing errors or even rejection.
  • Non-traditional. A single-column resume is the standard. Despite its benefits, two-column resumes are non-traditional. While that’s not a bad thing by itself, some hiring managers or recruiters prefer single-column resumes. 

As Director of Talent Mike Peditto clarifies, two-column resumes are tricky to get right:

“Most two-column resumes I see either sacrifice good content in favor of nice formatting, or have squeezed long bullet points into a very narrow section so that they turn into paragraphs rather than an easier-to-read one- or two-line bullet.”

Two-column resume vs. one-column resume

If you’re searching for a new job and updating your resume, you need to decide on the right  column resume format for the job.

Before committing to a format, compare one column against two column resumes. One-column resumes are more common and a good option if you want a basic resume that outlines your professional experience. 

In contrast, two columns can give you more real estate to list your professional accomplishments on your resume. For those in creative industries—design, writing, film, etc.—a two-column resume can be more visually appealing. Plus, it offers more opportunities to shape your resume layout around your personal brand and creative style.

Teal resume examples for 1 and 2 columns
All Teal resume templates are ATS-friendly

Whether you have a limited employment history or a robust and decades-long work history, a single-column resume is ideal for job seekers who want to keep it brief and to the point. A one-column resume can also be more legible, a benefit to any hiring manager. 

A two-column resume is easy to scan and can display more of your experience and professional accomplishments. There are certain instances where a two-column resume format may be preferable:

  • If you have extensive experience or technical skills to highlight
  • If the application requires resumes be one page
  • If you’re in a creative field

If you opt for a two-column resume, just be aware of the shortcomings. Mike Peditto, director of talent at Teal says:

“Two-column resumes often wind up limiting what you actually write about in your experience [section], which is the most important part of the resume.”

For more information on when to use which resume layout, check out our guide on resume formats

How to create a two-column resume

Two-column resumes may not be standard, but they’re not always bad practice. The key is to  format two-column resumes correctly, so an ATS can properly parse and label the right sections when scanning.

Here’s how to make a two-column resume:

1. Choose a two-column resume template

You can research various two-column resume templates and find the one that fits your needs and style in this library of 1,500 resume examples. These samples include resumes for nearly every role, including several two-column examples in the Skills section.

2. Add the basics

Include your full name and contact information—phone number, email address, location, and LinkedIn profile—in the header.

3. Include a professional summary

In a few sentences, highlight your experience and share what you bring to the table. Be clear on what you’re looking for in your next job role. 

4. Fill out the columns

If you’re using a two-column resume template, this should be straightforward. For a more design-savvy layout, you can create your own custom columns by making tables that are the same size and split down the middle. Ensure you're including all the necessary resume sections in your two-column resume:

  1. Work history
  2. Educational achievements
  3. Professional accomplishments
  4. Skills
  5. Resume summary
  6. Target title 
  7. Contact information
  8. Certifications

Pro Tip: You can omit certain roles, skills, achievements, or other elements of a section based on the job description in Teal. Or, you can hide an entire section altogether if you'd prefer.

5. Fix any formatting issues.

Make sure the columns are even (if going for a symmetrical two-column layout) and the font and size are consistent. Consider using headings to break up sections and bullet points. Adjust the margins and line spacing to leave enough white space so it doesn’t read like a wall of text.

Two-column resume templates

If you want to use the two-column resume layout, finding a solid template can be a game-changer. Look for a two-column resume template in a system you can easily use, such as Google Docs or Word. Make sure it’s simple to format and revise and that you feel it reflects who you are as a professional. Try saving it in different forms such as .doc or .pdf to make sure everything converts correctly and looks consistent throughout. 

Teal resume templates for 1 and 2 columns
Teal's resume library includes 1,500+ resume examples

Should you use a two-column resume?

A two-column resume layout can be useful if you have a range of professional experience that needs more space to cover. It can also be an attractive option for entry to mid-level job seekers who want to utilize the space in a different way and creatives who want more flexibility. 

Generally speaking, most of the relevant information in a one-column resume is also in a two-column resume format. The primary differences are you may be able to fit more into two columns but it will read differently.

The page has a vertical split into two columns. While having a two-column resume can be unique and eye-catching, it can also look messy and unprofessional if it’s too crowded or ill formatted.

Whether you choose one or two columns for your resume, make sure there is consistent spacing between the columns, lines and margins. The text should be legible and there should be enough white space for the text to breathe. 

Include keywords in your resume that are based on your experience and the jobs you’re applying to. For more tips on optimizing your resume, check out our resume best practices.

Create the perfect resume format with Teal 

Having to decide between a one-column vs two-column resume can feel like a big decision. Here’s the thing—you can also submit both while you’re on the job hunt and see if one layout gets more callbacks.

Though it’s not as commonly used, a two-column resume can help you stand out from the crowd in certain creative industries and present a lot of key information in a compelling way. Your resume should amplify what you do, so whether you choose a one-column resume or multiple columns, make sure it’s “on brand” for who you are and what you do.

To master the art of the resume, use Teal’s AI-powered Resume Builder which can simplify the not-so-pleasant process of resume formatting, designing, and tailoring for each job description.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a two-column resume be detrimental when applying through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

Yes, a two-column resume can sometimes be problematic for Applicant Tracking Systems, as they may not parse the information correctly. It's essential to ensure that the resume is ATS-friendly by using a simple layout or checking if the ATS can handle more complex designs before submitting a two-column resume.

Is a two-column resume more suitable for certain industries or professions?

A two-column resume may be more suitable for creative industries or professions where visual presentation and design skills are important. It allows for a more engaging layout and can showcase design proficiency, which can be advantageous for jobs in graphic design, marketing, or advertising.

How can I decide if a two-column resume is the right choice for my job application?

To decide if a two-column resume is right for you, consider your industry, the job you're applying for, and the company culture. If the role requires creativity and design skills, a two-column resume might be beneficial. However, for more traditional or conservative fields, stick to a one-column format to ensure clarity and ATS compatibility.

Melanie Lockert

Melanie Lockert is the founder of the blog and author of the book, Dear Debt. Through her blog, she chronicled her journey out of $81,000 in student loan debt. Her work has appeared on Business Insider, VICE, Allure, and more.

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