I'm going to get my bachelor degree and I'm facing the "problem" of choosing a suitable University to further develop my interests. The two universities I'm interested in, asked me to send a short CV ( a resumé?).

I started to draft my CV, but I felt that it was going to look like the same CV as everybody else submitted. I suppose that an average University receives tons of CV from students, and every CV of a math student is roughly the same: Bachelor, course programme, language certifications,interests…

Even though I have excellent grades, and some interesting experiences to show, I want to maximize my chances to be chosen. A friend of mine, suggest me to use some Photoshop Template to write down an unusual but eye-catching CV.

I liked very much some of the templates in the sites linked, and I think they are very eye-catching and, why not, interesting: Creativity it's a critical skill for mathematicians-wannabe like me, maybe this sort of CV can stress a kind of creativity of the writer. Moreover I think that even the Universities knows that the average 22 years old guy with a fresh degree has not done outstanding experience other than university-related experience. So maybe a "different presentation" of the future student can has a positive impact.

Are there any advantages or drawbacks to using color and design to draw attention to my resume? What pitfalls should I avoid if I try this?

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    @Riccardo - I think you have a good question here that was not being well received because of the way it was formatted since it appeared at first glance to be more of an essay than a question. I think this format will serve you better and hopefully get you some help solving your issues. Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:44
  • @Chad Thanks for the editing, I'm new here so I don't understand the reason of the pattern of the downvotes upvotes here :) anyway the question looks good now, thanks!
    – Riccardo
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:52
  • @Raystafarian but the question is not about the content, is about the design. I agree with you that content>design, but I wanted to know if changing the design will improve something
    – Riccardo
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 15:11

8 Answers 8


It's highly unlikely that a creative resume/ CV will work better for you than a standard resume/ CV.

One of the benefits of asking for a resume or a CV is that the format is relatively standardized. That makes it relatively easy for reviewers to find the pieces of information they're interested while still giving the candidate the freedom to present him- or herself in the most flattering light. Sure, most of the resumes for a particular position are likely to be relatively similar-- the people applying for any particular position are likely to have broadly similar types of experience and qualifications. That doesn't mean, however, that the information on the resume is any less important.

If you want to be creative, find what makes you particularly attractive and compose a resume that focuses on that. Obviously, no program is going to be receiving applications from a bunch of students that have made groundbreaking contributions to their field. But there should still be something that you have that makes you particularly desirable. That might be your grades, it might be the set of classes you took, it might be recommendations from professors, it might be work that you've done outside of the classroom. Figure out what makes you attractive and compose a resume that helps you demonstrate that.

  • Your answer makes totally sense. (It's a shame, I really like some of the designs). I feared that "fancy" (no glitter of course) CV didn't add anything valuable, BUT I hoped someone could prove the contrary. Anyway, thanks for the helpful answer!
    – Riccardo
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 20:38
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    There are some professions where a creative looking resume/CV might be good. A graphics designer who can show off their skills in the resume, while still keeping it readable will impress me much more than a graphics designer who has a very plain one. It depends on what you're applying to, and in what capacity. If you're a student applying to study math, maybe best to no go too crazy - but maybe ask someone in that department if possible - I think some creativity might be OK - instead of boring black text on white, you might want coloured fonts to highlight headings (for example). Commented May 1, 2014 at 20:52
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    In optics I have seen some colorful resumes, and these people have also tended to be hired by companies like apple so it can be advantageous...
    – daaxix
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 2:12
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    I definitely agree with this answer. I've actually heard from several recruiters and HR folks that any kind of eye-candy resumes are likely to hit the circular file without delay. Reasons: 1. If you don't have content you use gimmicks to cover up, 2. you think you are being clever and that is annoying and 3. it takes too long to try and extract useful info out of a non-standard format. CVs are different, I know, but I think the same principles would apply. Commented May 2, 2014 at 16:49

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a standardized academic document. If your university programs' process for selecting students calls for a CV, just submit one.

You can also submit a portfolio if you wish. This may not be common in math programs, but it is common in creative programs.

You might choose to send a cover letter that says "my CV is here, and so are some examples of my creative work." Those examples could include papers you've written, fancy renditions of your resume, and perhaps links to open-source contributions or Creative-Commons licensed work you've done.

If you do that, it probably makes sense to explain why your creative abilities make sense in the context of the program you hope to join.


I'll contradict what most are saying here and say yes, a stylish resume can be a huge plus - so long as its appropriate for the industry, and actually presents a professional style that is not just gaudy and slick for the sake of using color. While not quite as fancy as those linked to, I have a nice 'branded' resume and matching business cards / web site. It presents my professional image in the way I want it to be presented. It stands out dramatically from the tired looking 'name centered at top of page' resumes most people use.

A resume is an advertisement. Much like the first step to making a sale is having someone notice your advertisement, the first step to getting hired is having someone look at your resume and then remember it. If you can't get past that stage, you will not get the job. Its your first impression. So yes, its very important to present the resume in a way that 1) makes the reviewer want to look at it, and 2) makes the information you want to impart easily scannable and remembered. If we were talking software, I'd say its basic user interface design.

Once your resume has been looked at and set aside... at that point its up to the content to close the deal and get you an interview. Again, its just like advertising - that funny TV commercial with the gecko got you on the phone with the insurance salesman, but you're only going to buy if they offer a good deal.

But... and here's the big but... you have to understand that the more you deviate from the norm, the more risk that people won't receive it well. The company or industry culture may dissuade personal creativity, or may, by tradition, expect a certain CV format (this may be the case with academia). You have to decide if its appropriate or not. The way I look at it, if a company can't handle my slightly unorthodox resume... I'm probably not the person they are looking for. So I've never seen it as a negative.

And, of course, a fancy resume isn't going to help if your resume is simply scanned by an intern and mined for keywords.

edit: Just want to add that layout and how the resume looks in grayscale is probably more important than a rainbow of colors. This is particularly true if you are emailing the resume as a PDF - if it gets printed, it will likely just be printed in black and white. But even in grayscale, the contrast can be very effective.


You want to show that you are good in the context of math.

I'm assuming you start from a common standard CV.

Contrast these two variants for illustration:

Taking a weakly structured document, the common standard CV, and present it by adding an overlay of even less structured information, which some may refer to as 'colorfulness' or 'creativity'.


Taking a weakly structured document, the common standard CV, and expose the internal structure where it is meaningful, but was obscured by 'common standards', and present it by adding structure that supports the use case at hand as specifically as feasible.

I see nothing that supports case one.

To me, it would be a good sign if the CV you are handing me just feels like a math paper.

  • As a math heavy person myself, I would certainly choose a resume with clever structure over something which was only colorful for a mathematics discipline.
    – daaxix
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 2:13

Colored is better?

CVs/Resumes are meant to convey your background and capabilities to a potential employer.

The style of your CV is far less important than the contents. Still, there are a few cases where more fanciful/artistic CVs could be a help, rather than a hindrance.

If you are applying for a position in a company where creativity is the most important attribute in the job, then it's possible for a "creative" CV to be helpful. Color, format, images - all could be tweaked for a positive impression and to stand out above the crowd.

However, those types of jobs, and those types of employers are few compared to the vast majority. And even then, many companies require that CVs are submitted electronically to a system which might strip out all the "creative" attributes anyway.

If you are applying to a University for a job, and it's math-related, it doesn't sound as if this is the type of creative position/employer who would respond positively to a "creative" CV. Only you can be the judge of that.


I disagree that everyone's CV looks the same. Surely there are internships available for undergrad math majors? Having a fancy CV is not a replacement for work experience, and your future graduate school admissions committee knows this.

I know people who would call this 'unprofessional'. Perhaps that is a bit extreme, but your work and accomplishments needs to speak for you. But when you start getting flashy it gives the appearance that you have run out of things to say.


I just looked at the samples that you linked to, and sure they look nice, but I think they present too much style, and take away from the substance.

Yes, you can use a colored resume, and those two colors are black and white. Any other color selection could be foiled for by a color blind person, a scanner, or a printer.

Don't try to make up for a lack of experience by filling it up with graphics and color. Don't put your picture on a resume unless they ask you to, and they shouldn't ask you unless you're an actor or model. Your knowledge, not your face should be what interests the employer.

What you will want are multiple versions of your resume: a plain text file, a Word document, and a PDF file. Pick one font, use bold for headings, avoid italics or underlines. Don't use a font smaller than 12, and don't use one larger than 18.

For any student or graduate, there are bound to be resources (including real live people) at your school that will show you how to prepare a resume appropriate to your locale.


There is a risk in using the fancy and colorful CV. Nobody will see it in the form you have worked so hard to perfect. In fact you might assume that they will see it in a mangled format.

The software used to process your grad school application, just like the ones used to process job applications, will be used to pull relevant information from the document. Sometimes they expect specific file types, other times they only want a text file. You risk that the version used by the committee will be missing the color and formatting that you were so interested in.

Decades ago people were interested picking the perfect color and thickness of paper to best represent them, to be able to standout without standing out too much. Now all these documents are in electronic form, and the choice of paper is up to the committee that prints it; if they even print it.

Beyond this application for grad school keep in mind that many times the CV or resume you submit will not be under your control. Frequently the company you work for will demand a specific order and format. Other times the customer of your company will be defining the format.

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