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When it comes to your resume, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. After all, hiring managers may have to sift through hundreds of job candidates to fill just one position. Obviously, you want them to focus serious attention on your resume, right? To do that, you need to make sure that the hiring manager who sees your resume is truly interested in learning more about you.

That will help lead to more interviews and a better chance of landing the job you need. Some job-seekers incorporate color in a resume as a way of drawing attention to the document. In this post we’ll examine the issue of resume color, and whether it’s wise to use colors other than black and white.

Applicant Tracking Systems and Color On a Resume

Most companies today automatically screen your resume. Nearly 75% of candidates are rejected by the ATS and many times it’s because the resume isn’t formatted properly.

Applicant Tracking Systems instantly recognize black text but may struggle with fancy colors, graphics and icons. Since you need to get past those systems to be considered by an actual human, it’s important to comply with the machine’s expectations.

ATS Resume Test 

You can see how your resume performs in an actual ATS scan with our Free Resume Review:

Free Resume Review

(We wrote a good post here on why you should never have a “creative” resume).

What Do the Experts Say About Color on a Resume?

First, we should note that the experts have differing views on this topic. Some old-school traditionalists argue that resumes should always be presented in clear, black and white.

Others subscribe to the idea that some color is okay – if you don’t get carried away. Many in the design professions are in favor of an even more liberal approach. They believe that graphics, colored text, and other resume dressing can help to showcase design capabilities in a way that mere text cannot. As a rule, though, almost everyone agrees that resume color should be used sparingly.

Here is an example of a resume with color that uses color appropriately to break up the different sections and give the resume a more modern look:

Using Color on a resume


Using a bit of color to break up sections and give your resume a more modern look is just fine. You should however avoid fancy graphics, images and icons as this could cause the resume to be automatically rejected by an ATS.

(We wrote a good post here on why you should never have a “creative” resume)

Remember Why You Have a Resume

It is vital to remember why you use a resume. Your resume has a purpose, after all, and that purpose is to convey critical information to potential employers. That means that the document needs to be clear and presentable to readers. At the same time, however, it needs to be professional and serious. That’s important if you want people to take your application seriously. Resume color can impact that presentation if you don’t handle it with care.

Never forget that you’re trying to make the right kind of impression. Color is a powerful tool that can impact emotions and thoughts. Resume color is no different. The wrong colors, or too much color – can distract from an otherwise stellar presentation. With that in mind, one thing is clear: your use of resume color must be designed to enhance your presentation.

You can still use some design on your resume – but don’t get too creative.

Tips for Using Resume Color Properly

If you are intent on using resume color, these tips can help you to use those hues to your advantage:

  • Make sure there’s a reason for any resume color usage. Conservative use of color can help to separate information and make the document easier to digest. For example, you may be able to incorporate those color options into your subheadings or highlight special skills.
  • Do not use resume color just to demonstrate your creativity.
  • Limit your palette selection. While you might be tempted to choose multiple resume colors for variety, avoid that temptation. If you’re using color to highlight information, try to rely on just one or two. Anything more can be distracting.

Should you include colors on your resume?

In the end, the choice of whether to use resume color is one that only you can make. A bit of color is generally acceptable, if your resume meets the right standards and you choose colors that are compliant with the ATS. It’s far more important, however, to focus on the content of the document, and properly showcase your relevant skills. Those skills and your potential value as an employee will ultimately determine your odds of landing an interview and job.

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