One of the most hotly-contested issues in job applications is this one: should you include color on your resume?
The answer certainly isn’t straightforward.
Corinne Clawson, a Premier Nutrition Corporation recruiter, suggests that color makes a resume look unprofessional.
“The information listed on your resume should speak for itself,” she said.
Other recruiters say color makes it look like candidates are trying to distract from the resume’s content.
“Whether you’re a senior VP or a junior analyst, even if you work in a reasonably creative industry, you need to appear professional. Add to this the fact that most ATS that companies use cannot parse colors and graphics; you may actually end up at a disadvantage,” said Lilly-Marie Lamar, writing for Ivy Exec in 2020.
Clawson was writing in 2017 and Lamar in 2020. Years later, is there any way to use colors for resumes in 2022?
“Simple use of color to denote section heads or call attention to a specific section on a resume can help to direct the reader’s eye while also making the document unique,” suggests Indeed.
How can you use color for your resume in 2022?
Read on to learn how to incorporate it effectively.
Research your industry to decide if the color on a resume is appropriate.
A good rule of thumb is your resume should only be as creative as the industry you work in. So, if you work in the marketing or UX fields, the hiring manager would likely welcome a colorful resume. But if you work in a more staid industry, like law or finance, color likely isn’t going to do you any good, and it may even hurt you to deviate from standard black and white.
Use color to highlight specific resume sections.
Don’t over-use color for its own sake. Instead, use color to draw attention to certain sections that you want to emphasize. For instance, you could draw attention to your name at the beginning of the resume by changing its color. Then, you could direct your reader to the resume’s major sections by using that color again on all of your subheadings.
The key here is consistency. If you change your “Education” subheading to teal, you also want to change your “Experience” and “Career Summary” to the same color.
Only pick a few colors to arrange the resume effectively.
You’re not trying to turn your resume into a Picasso. Rather, you only want to add two or three colors max. More than that will be distracting.
Michael Dovhanenko for Ladders suggests using color theory to guide hiring managers to the most important sections of your resume.
“Visual hierarchy arranges elements in the order of importance and leads the reader’s eye through the page. The most dominant color helps the recruiter see what they should read first. Secondary colors, or accents, help organize content on the page. You can use them to highlight subsections, portfolio links, etc.,” he explains.
So, three colors – black for general content, another for your name and subheadings, and a third for subsection headings and links – is likely your best bet.
Choose appropriate colors.
Colors provoke different emotions than the traditional black and white. For some, red-colored words might remind them of when they made mistakes in school. Blue, on the other hand, can convey calm or peace that might not be appropriate if you’re trying to land a high-powered finance job.
So, be aware that using color on your resume opens a new can of emotional worms that black and white resumes don’t. You can use color theory to your advantage; see our chart for what different colors usually signify:
Opt for high-contrast colors to make it easy for the ATS to read.
One of the concerns in using color on a resume is that it will make it more difficult for applicant tracking systems (ATS) to read the information. As you probably know, ATS connects content on a resume to the job posting, ensuring that applicants’ information and the job requirements match.
So, does adding color still hurt your chances of “beating” the ATS in 2022?
The answer is not usually. You just need to be careful that the contrast between your text and your background color is high. So, that means avoiding lighter colors, like yellow, on a white background.
Colors for Resume 2022?
It seems that most hiring managers believe that colors on a resume won’t make or break an application unless you’re in a conservative field. If you’re applying for a creative career, adding a few tasteful colors to an eye-catching resume template may be the way to go.
If color fits in with your vibrant, unusual personal brand, then go with it. But if you’re putting your resume in the running for a more serious, technical job, a bright resume may do more harm than good.
No matter where you’re applying, the bottom line is this: there are more important resume elements to consider than choosing between color or black-and-white. Specifically, have you written a career summary that helps you stand out from the crowd? Are you customizing your resume for every application?
If the answer to either question is no, you’re much better off focusing on the content of your resume rather than on its style. You want to sell yourself first and foremost, not just make your resume look snazzier than your competitors’.