I'm wondering if it's ok to spice up your resume up with a bit of color as someone who isn't a graphic designer, or will this make people take you less seriously?

Of course it would have to be tastefully done; I was thinking something like... enter image description here

as opposed to ...

enter image description here

  • Is the design in version 1 including the background graphic stuff like the pen and ink? For comparison purposes just include only the "page" part of the design, not the decorative graphic stuff (you're not going to print out the graphic of the pen and ink are you?). Also if you use version 1 design, it looks like you're going to need twice as many sheets of paper as with version 2. I think having it fit on one page in a readable way is more important than it being pretty.
    – Brandin
    Apr 29, 2015 at 16:06
  • Good suggestion, I cropped the first picture
    – Ryan Stull
    Apr 29, 2015 at 16:09
  • I don't see anything wrong with it but many technical resumes just would not fit that format. Does not mean you cannot spice up the second.
    – paparazzo
    Apr 29, 2015 at 16:16
  • you are presenting two extreme examples imho. You can add a dull blue just to the titles à la Word and format it in a more interesting way. Background colors are a waste of money and you can't print them on the fly when you need them, gotta have them printed, and if you find an error afterwards you just threw your money away.
    – Formagella
    Apr 29, 2015 at 16:18
  • I like the first design. I actually use a similar design. Keep in mind: 1. Everyone will print your resume in black&white (usually 2-4 copies) - make sure you have white background (You can use a nice double line border instead of background colours) 2. Make the top & left side "frames" thin, otherwise you won't fit on 2 pages. Apr 29, 2015 at 16:55

4 Answers 4


As a hiring manager I'd say no, don't do it. 4 reasons spring to mind:

  • Agencies - apply through an agency and they will inevitably change the doc into their standard format for sending, you'll be asked to redo it.
  • Job portals - apply directly and many use software to rip details out into fields automatically (and to screen candidates), good luck on it understanding your doc.
  • HR people - Depending on the company, I may well get a pre-screened CV from HR copied and paste as text into an email/ multiple CVs in one attachment etc. They will likely bin your CV and I'll never be impressed as I'll never see it.
  • The doc itself - In this day and age you need to customise/tweak your cv for each role you apply to, good luck doing that in a heavily designed one. I'd be more bothered about WHAT it said than how it looked.

So in my opinion, don't bother.

  • 7
    And if you do get it, likely it will be a B&W copy from HR not the orginal
    – HLGEM
    Apr 29, 2015 at 18:35
  • 3
    Omg, HR people really copy + paste CV content and send it as text in an email, along with other CVs? That seems just wrong.
    – Alex
    Sep 25, 2015 at 8:25
  • 1
    Why do you think they keep talking about "keep your resume to 1 page"? It's to make it easy for them to do things like that. Sep 25, 2015 at 9:47

Graphic design is there to support the content or the function of a document. To take a quote from Joe Sparano: "Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent." Your resume is your strongest selling point apart from your cover letter and nothing should get in the way of presenting your profile optimally.

You could say that your second example is rather bland but looking at the lay-out and content it's practically perfect. The sections are intuitive, bullet points summarise the experience, entries are chronological and it looks like a resume. Hiring managers go through dozens of CVs and you're putting yourself at a disadvantage if yours requires more time or effort to process.

To answer your actual question: it's fine to add some color or very subtle design as long as you don't sacrifice content or readibility. As others have mentioned that should include being readable in monochrome or by automated parsing software. Some companies also force you to split up your carefully crafted resume into plaintex boxes on their electronic submission form which will involve a lot of effort if you're using a non-standard layout.


First you need to make sure that a CV reader can parse through your resume. If there is too much markup it could seem incoherent to the person reading it. There is nothing wrong with adding color or making yours stick out but you can't lose functionality.

In your example I like the fact that it isn't too fancy. You start adding a ton of graphics and stuff like that then I start to wonder, why? I think is this candidate thinking they are a graphic artist, are they trying to use graphics to sell themselves instead of the content, did they hire someone to do their CV?

But in your example what I really really dislike is that your name is 1/3 of the page. I want to know about you, I know your name. Also I find the font hard to read. So two really bad points there.

Adding color is fine. Make sure it formats to different versions of Word and PDF correctly. Also check an online job site to see how their parser reacts to it.


It depends on who's going to see it, and the exact nature of the job you're going for, but the cases where it will be beneficial are limited.

If you know for certain that the hiring manager themselves will see the document, and you have reason to believe that this will impress them, then go ahead - but be wary that impressing them with your graphic design skills is only relevant If there is any graphic design skill required for the job.

Otherwise, it's superfluous information that makes it look like you're trying too hard, and you should go with a more standard, more easily reproduced, more editable format.

And, for you personally, it will be less expensive to print copies.

  • That being said, a "social media designer" MIGHT benefit from having a more vibrant resume that shows off their design skills - if the practical aspects of design are going to be a part of your job. You might also consider putting this version of your resume on a portfolio website, and including a link to your portfolio with your standard resume.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 29, 2015 at 18:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .