Recruiters take a short six seconds to screen your resume.
Resumes are, therefore, sorted with quick first impressions in mind. Does this look like the right candidate? Are there appropriate skills on the page? These are all things the recruiter thinks about when your resume comes across their desk.
Where does color come into the conversation?
Recruiters tend to favor resumes that show a level of creativity that matches their role. Your resume color can help you stand out, show culture fit, and direct attention.
But that can backfire at any time…
Used poorly, color on your resume can look gimmicky and throw the recruiter off.
See the benefits and drawbacks of using color on your resume, along with the best strategy to get hired.
The benefits of including color on your resume
1- Demonstrate culture fit
A benefit to including color on your resume is the ability to demonstrate culture fit. Specifically, you can use your color scheme to match the brand of your potential employer.
Not only does this show your awareness of the organization’s brand, but it also highlights your attention to detail in your work. While this won’t be enough on its own to get you hired, it will certainly be a detail that sets you apart.
When Pavel was building his data scientist resume, he chose a blue color scheme that matched the brand of Booking.com, where he eventually got hired. He credits those small details for giving him an edge over other applicants.
Tip: Create a resume just like Pavel’s using Enhancv’s resume builder that perfectly balances professionalism and personality.
2- Direct attention
Ask yourself one question when putting your resume together:
What are the three things you want recruiters to remember about you?
We all have key points in our career we want to highlight for headhunters. On top of that, you’re hoping that the recruiter notices how you answer the job description.
Using color, you can highlight the most important parts of your resume — which can be key sections or even words. Anything to help you pass the 6-second test.
In his IT resume, Adam used color to organize graphics when detailing his typical day of work.
This simple graphic quickly draws the attention of the recruiter and focuses their attention on the makeup of Adam’s typical day – from utilizing his skills in technical support to building relationships through networking.
3- Automated Tracking Systems
A concern you may be dealing with is passing through Automated Tracking Systems (ATS). These are designed and utilized by recruiters to screen resumes submitted for certain resume buzzwords, key attributes, and so on.
Unlike resume length or format, color does not affect your performance in ATS. So, there’s no need to worry.
4- No limitation on your physical resume
Adding color to your resume doesn’t add limitations. On the contrary, it gives you more options.
When crafting your resume using a distinct color palette, you always have the option of printing your resume in greyscale for those organizations that may prefer a more traditional resume design.
It’s the best of both worlds.
The drawbacks of using color in a resume
Headhunters will appreciate resumes that use color to add to their resume, but not those that take away from their resume. Using countless color combinations and variations on a single page will look gimmicky.
That gives hiring managers the impression that you’re trying to overcompensate for a lack of experience and skills, which is the last thing you want to do.
2- Distort readability
Some colors can be difficult to read depending on the type of paper they’re printed on.
There’s also a chance the recruiter may struggle with very bright colors or they may not present as pigmented on their computer screen compared to yours.
If you’re using color on important text, this can distort readability.
3- More expensive printing
As a more practical drawback of color on your resume, you’ll have to spend more money on printing.
Whether this is on your personal printer (i.e., purchasing more color ink) or in printing shops, the cost is higher.
The question you’ll have to ask yourself is simple: is it worth it?
A Quick Lesson in Color Theory
Before choosing colors for your resume, you must understand the fundamentals of color theory.
What makes some resumes stand out while others are largely ignored?
Recruiters are only human, and their brains perceive color the same way we do.
So, if you apply the right design principles and use color creatively, you can lead their eyes toward what matters. You’ll enhance their interest in your profile and help them hire you.
Here are five color theory principles to apply in your resume:
The colors you pick for your resume must ensure an optimal level of contrast with the background to stand out.
Using a color that’s too bright can cause a massive distraction for hiring managers. That makes it impossible for them to read and understand any of your resume parts.
A well-contrasting color makes all your sections easily distinguishable. It will increase the readability of your fonts and text, which saves the recruiter’s time.
Be sure to pick a dominant color to contrast nicely with the background and keep your resume easy on the eye.
The right color combination allows you to establish a clear visual hierarchy and lead the viewer’s eye in the right direction.
You’ll help recruiters see which elements they should read first by choosing:
A primary color that stands out as the top of your hierarchy. It grabs the hiring manager’s attention as soon as they look at your resume.
A secondary that’s less dominant, yet complementary to your primary color. It allows you to organize your content more efficiently and emphasize secondary elements.
An accent color, which is an artistic choice that makes your resume more visually appealing. It’s also an excellent way to highlight different resume elements such as your job title, profile or portfolio links, university name, etc.
But be careful…
Your colors shouldn’t fight each other for the attention of the recruiter. They can’t be on the same level of dominance and saturation. Or else, it wouldn’t be clear to the recruiter what part to read first.
Instead, your colors must work together to lead the headhunter’s eye towards what to read next.
Jemma used different shades of blue to establish a clear hierarchy on her resume. She started with a strong, high-contrast blue as her dominant color to draw attention to her job title and section titles.
Her sentences and paragraphs were color in a slightly brighter blue that’s easy to read and doesn’t fight her primary color.
Her accent color was a different tint of blue, and she used that to color smaller elements on her page.
You may have wondered before:
What colors look best when used on a resume?
Unfortunately, designing a resume requires creativity and originality. There is no universal answer to the question asked above.
But the rule of thumb is this:
Don’t just pick a color you like and cross your fingers that the hiring manager has the same taste as you. After all, you’re making this resume to convince them.
To pick the right color palette, you must think of color within the context of the job and the hiring company.
- Use green if you’re applying for jobs in the health industry
- Blue works well for web developers and software engineers
- Orange is often used in sports and athletics resumes
These are just examples that you shouldn’t take by heart. You could use different colors in different industries as long as they look good.
Be sure to check out the resumes of other applicants in your industry to see which colors they’re using.
Do you ever wonder why successful companies rarely change their brand colors?
It’s all about brand awareness…
Big brands can spend millions to make changes to their brand. But that would have the opposite effect of what they’re aiming for.
Companies want everyone to remember their products and services when seeing a specific color. So they stick to the same colors.
What does all that have to do with your resume?
You should think of yourself as a successful brand and start acting like one. Be consistent in the colors you use in your resume, cover letter, portfolio, business card, etc.
Make sure your colors stick inside the recruiter’s head to keep you on top of their minds. That’s a fantastic way to stand out and showcase your creative abilities on a simple resume.
When given the option, most applicants get excited and use too many colors. They see that as a way to make their resumes more interesting.
But the truth is…
That only makes things worse because it’s hard to find a unique color palette.
Not all colors work well together, and most color combinations aren’t visually appealing. You’ll only end up confusing headhunters and giving them a hard time trying to decide what to read next.
You need to keep things simple and not get too creative when choosing which colors to use on your resume.
That’s what Jessica did when creating her medical technologist resume:
Use the same color to group things together and keep them within a category. Be consistent in the color you pick for section titles, separating lines, paragraphs, etc.
More importantly, choose color variations that go well together to maintain color harmony. For example, pick two complementary colors, such as blue and orange.
3 Steps to Choose a Brilliant Color Scheme for Your Resume
1- Primary, Secondary, and Accent Colors
To catch your recruiter’s attention and avoid coming off as gimmicky, the best way of using color on your resume is to pick three.
One color should serve as your primary color, a second color as your secondary color, and your third color as an accent.
When developing his teacher’s resume, Ben did just this.
Using grey as his primary color, black as his secondary color, and blue as his accent, St. Francis Xavier College saw the skills that made him a gifted career advisor and teacher.
The primary, secondary, and accent strategy has been used across countless industries. Our users have effectively used it when getting hired at places like Spotify, Verizon Digital Media Services, and Booking.com.
2- Match to your cover letter
Consistency is key in most aspects of life – and the same is true when using color on your resume.
There’s little sense in topping your resume (that’s full of life and color) with a black and white cover letter.
Be sure to match the color scheme across all materials your present the recruiter.
3- Consider resume paper
The resume paper you print your resume on can have a great effect on the color fonts and graphics you include.
If you’re planning on printing on white paper, most colors will print and read well off of this. The same can’t be said if you use black paper, or even blue or pink.
So… Should you use color on your resume?
When it comes to resume color, the question shouldn’t center around whether you should or not (you should) but rather on how you’ll incorporate color.
As outlined above, there are color theory fundamentals you need to understand to help you pick the right colors.
Pick the right colors to use in your resume. And split your palette into primary, secondary, and accent colors. That’s the best way to get noticed by recruiters and focus their attention.