Can Resumes Have Color?

Can Resumes Have Color?

In a competitive job market, standing out can often be a significant advantage. One way to differentiate yourself is by adding a splash of color to your resume. But is this a wise choice? This article will dive into the pros and cons of using color in your resume and offer practical tips for those who choose to go the colorful route.

Should Resumes Have Color?

The debate around whether resumes should have color usually revolves around professionalism and readability. Traditionalists argue that a black-and-white format maintains a formal tone, ensuring that recruiters focus solely on your qualifications. However, others assert that a tasteful use of color can help make your resume stand out in a sea of monochrome documents.

Deciding to add color to your resume is a personal choice and can depend on various factors, such as the industry you are targeting and the culture of the company you are applying to.

While it’s crucial to present a professional image, it’s also important to remember that recruiters sift through numerous resumes each day. A pop of color could make yours more memorable. But how much is too much? Let’s delve into the specifics.

Pros of Adding a Splash of Color to Your Resume

Color can have a significant psychological impact on the viewer. For instance, blues can evoke a sense of trust, while reds can signal passion and energy. If used correctly, colors can serve to guide the reader’s eye and highlight crucial sections of your resume, such as your skills or achievements.

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Adding color to headers or specific sections can make your resume more visually appealing, and easier to navigate. This can be particularly beneficial in creative industries like design, marketing, or advertising, where your resume serves as a testament to your creative skills.

Another advantage is differentiation. With many applicants sticking to a black-and-white format, your colored resume could stand out, leaving a lasting impression on the recruiter.

However, it’s vital to use color sparingly and strategically to avoid overwhelming the reader or making your resume look unprofessional.

The Cons: When Color Could Work Against You

While there are advantages to adding color, there are also pitfalls to be aware of. In highly formal industries like law, finance, or medicine, traditional black-and-white resumes are generally the norm. Using color in such contexts might make you appear unprofessional or out of touch with industry expectations.

Even in less formal sectors, poorly chosen colors can have the opposite of the desired effect. For example, overly bright or clashing colors could make your resume difficult to read or even irritating to the eye.

Printing could also be a concern. If your resume looks great on screen but becomes muddy or illegible when printed, that could be problematic, especially if hard copies are required.

Lastly, some applicant tracking systems (ATS) may have difficulty reading resumes with too much color, which could result in your resume being rejected before a human even sees it.

Industry-Specific Guidelines for Colorful Resumes

Understanding the norms and expectations of your specific industry is crucial when deciding whether to use color. For creative industries like advertising, marketing, or graphic design, a colorful resume might not only be acceptable but expected.

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On the other hand, sectors like finance, healthcare, and government usually have more conservative guidelines and may prefer the traditional black-and-white format.

If you’re in a field where you feel the use of color could go either way, researching company culture can provide further insights. Look at their branding, website design, and any available staff photos to gauge how formal or creative their corporate culture seems to be.

Doing a bit of detective work on LinkedIn can also give you a sense of what others in your field are doing, which can help guide your decision.

How to Tastefully Incorporate Color

If you’ve decided to go ahead and add some color, it’s important to do it tastefully. Stick to two or three complementary colors, and use them consistently throughout your resume.

Use color to highlight the most important sections of your resume or to draw attention to specific accomplishments. Avoid using color for the main body text, as this can be hard to read.

If possible, test how your resume looks both on screen and printed out, to ensure readability in both formats. This will help you confirm that your use of color enhances rather than detracts from your resume’s effectiveness.

Finally, always have a black-and-white version of your resume ready to go. Some employers may specifically request this, and it’s good to be prepared for all scenarios.


The decision to add color to your resume is ultimately yours to make. While it can make your application more memorable and visually appealing, it’s important to consider the industry you’re targeting and how well you execute this creative touch. Whatever you decide, remember that content is king; even the most brilliantly designed resume won’t make up for a lack of skills or experience. Good luck!

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