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Media & Design Center - Labs, Software & Equipment: Resume Building in InDesign


A given job opening will receive many applicants, all of whom will send their resume as part of their application. This means a recruiter will have many resumes to filter through to find the people who they want to interview. So it is important that yours be well-formatted and error-free. A clean resume that's well-organized will showcase your qualifications and give off a good first impression to the recruiter.

In short, a good resume will help you stand out.

Text editors like Microsoft Word are good for typing out the actual text of your resume, but they can be difficult to customize. InDesign, on the other hand, allows you to place text and images without throwing off the rest of your document. We show you here how to edit a resume from a template and from scratch.

This guide is only meant for how to use InDesign to create a resume layout. For the actual content of a resume, UNC Career Services offers tips and examples for students, as well as the opportunity to schedule an appointment for a resume/CV review with a career coach.

Accessibility in InDesign

It is becoming increasingly important that documents be accessible so that our documents are properly understood. There are several resources online about accessible techniques to use when creating a design page like a resume. It will be beneficial for you to do research on topics such as what fonts are most readable and what kinds of colors are easier to look at. Adobe offers tools to help make your PDFs more accessible here

Using a Template

Open the template you want to use for your resume. From the InDesign startup page, click on ‘Open’, go to ‘File -> Open’, or press Ctrl/Cmd + O. This will bring up the file explorer window. Locate your template file and double click on it to open the template in InDesign.

This tutorial uses Adobe’s Basic Resume template, available for download here.

To save your resume, go to ‘File -> Save’ or press Ctrl/Cmd + S. If you wish to save your document but keep an unaltered version of the template, go to 'File -> Save As’ or press Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + S. Choose a place to save the InDesign file and give it a name. Note that this is not saving a PDF but an InDesign project with the file extension .indd. We will cover how to export a PDF at the end.  

This file has multiple pages: two copies of a cover letter template and two of a resume. The first cover letter and resume template pair are in a US Letter format, while the second pair is in A4. This tutorial alters the second page of the document, which is the US Letter resume template. 

To reach the second page of the document, scroll down until it appears on your screen, or click to the Pages tab in the panel at the right side of the screen. At the top are the list of Parent pages in the document (which will be explained shortly). Below that are the pages in the actual document. Double click the second page to bring it up on screen. 

InDesign documents often use line guides and margins to help position text and images on the page. In the template illustrated in the screenshot above, the magenta box marks the margins of the page, and the blue lines are line guides created from the rulers on the edges of the page (the top and left). You can create a new line guide by clicking on the ruler and dragging your cursor towards the page. Clicking from the ruler on the left will create a vertical line guide; clicking on the ruler at the top creates a horizontal one. 

The red box in the screenshot indicates the bleed area. This is the area outside the edges of your actual document that is trimmed off after being printed. Backgrounds and images are extended to this area to prevent gaps between them and the edges of the page. Depending on your resume template and how you want your resume to look, this may or may not be relevant to you. 

To view your document without the margins, bleed area, and line guides, press W or go to ‘View -> Screen Mode -> Preview.’ 

InDesign by default shows you the entire page. This is good to get a sense of the overall layout of your document, but not good for reading text or for moving objects precisely. You can zoom in on the page by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + =, and zoom out again with Ctrl/Cmd + -. 

You can also zoom in/out by going to View -> Zoom In/Out.’ To see the whole page in your window again, click to ‘View -> Fit Page in Window’ or press Ctrl/Cmd + 0. Note that the 'Match Pasteboard to Theme Color' will be enabled by default, and refers to the area outside of your document that will not be seen when the document is printed or exported.

The resume template we show here uses Parent pages. These are backgrounds that may be applied to several different pages at once, rather than being manually added to each new page. In this template, the name and job title/position were made in the Parent page. If your template did not do this, skip this step. 

To type in a specific name and job, in the panel on the right, go to the Pages tab and double click on the corresponding Parent page at the top, labeled in this example as “A-US Letter Master.” This will bring up the Parent page, and from there you may edit it as a regular InDesign document. Double click on the textboxes and type in your name and current job title. 

If you wish to change the color of the background block, simply select the block by clicking it. You will know it has been selected when boxes appear around the edges of the object. 

Then double click on the Fill box  at the bottom of the toolbar to bring up the Color Picker. 

 Alternatively, you can click the box next to ‘Fill’ in the Appearances section in the Properties tab. 

This will bring up a panel with different options for choosing a color. By default, it opens to the swatches tab, where you can create and name colors in a way similar to text and paragraph styles. InDesign lists default colors here; this template is already set with certain colors and uses the 'Dark' color by default to have the black box and border in the template design be black.

Double clicking the box in the upper left corner of the Fill panel brings up the Color Picker. 

Choose a color you like and is appropriate for a resume. 

Once you have finished adding your name and are satisfied with the color of your resume, double click on the second page in the Pages tab to return to the resume template. 

To edit the resume, double click on any of the text. This will allow you to change what’s written in the textbox.  

You may also select text, lines, images, etc. using the Selection tool  at the top of the tool bar. To select multiple objects, like two textboxes, click and drag over the items or press Ctrl/Cmd and click on each item. Doing this will allow you to alter the resume layout to something different or allow you to delete items and move others around the page.

For example, the default template gives 4 places for experiences. Suppose you have only had 3 jobs so far. You may delete an experience listing, and then move the last two down to make the experience section have equal spacing. 

This template has skill bars. Click on one of them to select it. Click and drag the rightmost box to adjust the length of the skill bar. 

Make sure to save your document regularly as you work on your resume (go to 'File -> Save' or press Ctrl/Cmd + S). When you are finished editing the template, go to ‘File -> Export’ or press Ctrl/Cmd + E to begin exporting your document. 

InDesign will first open up the file explorer window ask you to name the exported file, to choose what format to export the document to (the default is a PDF), and to choose a place to save it through the file explorer window.

After you have decided, press Save. InDesign will then bring up the export options window. 

If your document has only one page, then that page will be exported. However, this template has multiple pages, and likely you do not want all 4. To choose to export only the page we have been editing throughout this tutorial, click on the Range option in the Pages section. In the dropdown menu, double click on the US Letter option, then add a colon and the number 2. Then click export. 

Your PDF will be in the designated location.

Creating a Resume from Scratch

Open a new document in InDesign. From the Home page in InDesign, click on ‘New file.’ Alternatively, you can press Ctrl/Cmd + N or go to ‘File -> New -> Document.’ InDesign will open a window and ask you to choose the document setup options, such as the layout orientation, the page dimensions, margins, etc.

Since most resumes in the US go by US Letter dimensions, click to the Print tab and choose the Letter option. 

Though not strictly necessary, change the Units to Inches (this will change the units of the ruler guides on the sides of your InDesign document), and uncheck the ‘Facing Pages’ box (this will cause document pages to be viewed as spreads, so every pair of pages after the first are laid out like an open magazine. Since a resume is typically only one page, this is generally not an issue, but is still good practice to uncheck). 

Click ‘Create’ when ready. This brings up a blank page. 

The magenta box in the above screenshot indicates the margins of your document, which are by default 1 inch. You can change this when setting in the options when creating your new document. 

At this point, it is good practice to save the document file (and continuously as you work on your resume). Note that this will not save as a PDF; saving this document will save an InDesign project file (a .indd file). We will cover how to export a PDF at the end. Press Ctrl/Cmd + S to save your document or go to ‘File -> Save.’ When saving for the first time, InDesign will ask you to choose a location to save your project as well as to give it a name. 

You can zoom in/out of your document by clicking ‘View -> Zoom In/Out’ or by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + =/-. You can also show the whole page in your window by going to ‘View -> Fit Page in Window’ or by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + 0. 

Much like a PowerPoint, InDesign lets you create textboxes and insert images into a page and move them around. InDesign also lets you create placeholder frames, which you can later place images in, add text to, or change the color of. 

To create a placeholder frame, select the Rectangle Frame Tool  in the toolbar. Then click and drag on the page to create the frame. You can adjust the size once the box has been made. 

For the purposes of this tutorial, we are going to make a simple resume layout with one block of color on the left side, using the Rectangle Frame Tool to create a box that spans the entire length of the page and is a little over 2 inches wide. We can measure the length and width of frames we create by using the rulers on the top and left side of the document. Note that the units these rulers use are the units we chose when we created our document.

You may change its color by clicking on the Fill box  in the toolbar or the ’Fill’ box in the Appearances section in the Properties tab on the right. 

To type in the information needed in a resume, create textboxes around the page using the Type Tool  in the toolbar. Click and drag to create a frame of the size you prefer, then type in your desired content, such as your name, contact details, experience, etc.

You can adjust the text using the settings in the Properties panel on the right side of your screen.

You may already have the main part of your resume typed out as a plain text document. InDesign allows users to place images and text onto a page directly. Click on ‘File -> Place’ or press Ctrl/Cmd + D and choose the file with your desired text in the file explorer.

The cursor will have a short preview attached to it to indicate you have something to place onto the page. 

Click an existing box to add the text or click and drag to create a new textbox. 

You may edit the text as normal. If you wish to adjust the textbox size, you may select the textbox and click and drag one of the smaller boxes on the frame edges. The text will also adjust to the new textbox size.

If you want to see how your resume will look when printed or as a PDF, without the margins or frame outlines, press W go to ‘View -> Screen Mode -> Preview.’ This will change the display of your document to a preview of its saved/printed version, without any margin boxes or frame edges.

When you are satisfied with how your resume looks, you may export it by clicking ‘File -> Export’ or by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + E. 

InDesign will first bring up a dialog box for you to choose where to save the exported file and what name to give it. 

Then it will ask you to choose the export settings. Choose the ones that you want, and then click ‘Export.’ Your file will be in the specified location. 



Customize Styles

It is common for resumes to separate sections for education and experience, and for the headers to be a different size/font from the body text. You may want job titles to be bolded, and company names italicized, but the summary of the job to be in regular text. If you have several different jobs, it can be cumbersome to change each of these details individually. InDesign lets you create custom paragraph styles to automatically change text to a specific format. 

Select a textbox. In the properties panel, under the Text Style section, there is a dropdown menu where you can change the text to a certain style. InDesign documents start with a single default, Basic Paragraph. 

To create a new style, click the button in the bottom right corner that looks like a box with a plus sign inside. 

This will create a new option in the dropdown menu. By default, the name will be Paragraph Style 1 if this is the first custom style being made. Type in the name you want for the style (a descriptive name will be better to help remember what options you put). 

To change the settings, click the dropdown menu, and then click the pencil icon next to the name of the style you wish to change. 

This will bring up an options window with tabs on the left for the different options available to you for a new paragraph style, such as font choice, font size, indent and spacing, etc. 

The preview button in the lower left corner will let you see the changes in any text that is in the textbox you have selected. 

When you have finished creating your style, click OK. Now you can highlight any text and automatically change it to this style at any time. 

Note: a custom style is only saved in the document it was made in. If you create a new document, any custom styles you previously made will not appear. 


Stylize with Lines

You can use lines to separate your sections or to add a bit of flair to your resume. To create a line, select the Line Tool  in the toolbar. Then click and drag anywhere to create a line. 

In the Properties Panel, you can change the angle of the line, its stroke width, color, and even its style. 


Use Multiple Textboxes

When making your resume, keep in mind the common resume tips, such as using professional fonts and colors. It is also helpful to have separate textboxes for different sections or details to move them more precisely on the page. For example, you may want dates to be right justified, and all other text left justified. But you want the dates to be on the same line as the job title. Instead of adding spaces until the dates reach the other side of the page, you can type them in a separate textbox and move it to the other side until it matches up.


Aligning Objects

To make sure different boxes and text are lined up properly, you can add ruler guides to your document page. These lines are for editing purposes only and will not be present in an exported file. 

To create a ruler guide, click on the ruler near the edges of your document and drag your cursor towards your page. This will create a teal line. The side ruler will create a vertical line; the top ruler will create a horizontal line. 

You can also turn on smart snapping in InDesign by going to ‘View -> Grids & Guides -> Smart Guides’ or pressing Ctrl/Cmd + U. When moving a frame, this will show green lines when your frame matches the edge or middle of another frame on the document page. 

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