Resume Icons – Should You Use Them and How?

Published on: 21 December 2020

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.”, right?

Well, the sad truth is that people do most of the time. And that goes double for your resume.

Making your resume stand out is not an easy task, and if you do it wrong, it might earn it a one-way ticket to the Trash Town. Not a good destination, I’d say.

This means you need to know how to do it right.

Something you might have asked yourself is, “Should I use icons for my resume?”. And it’s a great question.

Will they help your resume make an impression? Will it be the right impression? Can it make me look like I’m trying too hard?

The answer to all these questions is – it depends.

So, let me take you on a journey exploring resume icons! You’ll learn:

  • Should you use icons on your resume;
  • How to use them to make your resume pop;
  • Where you can find the best free resume icons.

And, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to craft the perfect resume with none of the stress, give the Enhancv resume builder a try! You’ll have access to tons of templates, designs, content suggestions, and – of course – resume icons.

Now, let’s dive right in.

Should you use resume icons in the first place?

If this question is bouncing around in your head, then you’re on the right track.

Using resume icons can make your CV more visually appealing and help it attract more attention.

If you’re smart about it.

That being said, let’s talk about why resume icons work and why they don’t, starting with the positives.

Resume icons pros

In the past, I’ve talked about the importance of making your resume stand out from the crowd and catching the recruiter’s eye from the start so that they’d want to keep reading.

Choosing a great design and layout is essential in this case. You want to make an impression. You want it to be a showstopper.

Icons, when appropriately used, can contribute to the visual appeal of an otherwise dull document (let’s be honest, resumes are rarely an exciting read).

They can save you space, too, leaving room for more important things. For example, swapping out the words “email” or “telephone” for their respective icons will still convey the information while saving space and making the section look less boring.

Suppose you want to get a job as a graphic designer, illustrator, or a position in another highly creative field. In that case, resume icons can help you demonstrate your design skills and creative nature, along with other graphics, styles, and fonts.

Additionally, people react more to visual data, meaning they’re more likely to respond to icons rather than text. While it’s not always the best course of action, there are situations where it can work like a charm.

So, what are the benefits of using resume icons?

  • They make your resume stand out.
  • They can increase the visual appeal of your resume.
  • They help separate and illustrate the different sections.
  • They can save space.
  • They can showcase your skills (if you’re an artist or graphic designer, for example).

Sounds pretty good so far. But, as I said, icons might not always help you. In fact, they can do more harm than good in some cases.

Resume icons cons

While people generally react better to visual data, some recruiters say resume icons are an unnecessary addition; they only take the focus away from what’s truly important – the content.

And they do have a point. A hiring manager will only look at your resume for about 6 seconds on average. You’d want them to spend that time reading about your skills and achievements, not looking at the icons going “Ooh, fancy!”.

If you’re applying for a job as a doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc., and you want to make a good impression, you should probably avoid icons and other decorative graphics. Stick to a text-based, traditional resume format and put the content in the spotlight instead.

And even if your desired position calls for more fun and creative resume style, overusing icons and graphics (or just misusing them) can make a bad impression.

So, why are resume icons not always the best choice?

  • They can shift the focus away from the content.
  • They do more harm than good if not used right.
  • They can make you seem less professional in some fields.
  • Not all recruiters respond well to icons.

Things seem a bit more complicated now, huh?

Well then, what’s the answer? Should you use resume icons or not?

As I said at the start – it depends.

If you’re applying for a position in a creative field – art and design, writing, tech, etc. – then, by all means, go for it! As long as you know how and where to use icons, you’ll give your resume that extra kick that might just get you hired.

However, if the job you want calls for a strict, professional, traditional approach – law, medicine, engineering, etc. – then you’d better steer clear of fancy graphics and focus on the content.

So, if you’ve decided that resume icons are the way to go, you’ll want to learn how to use them properly, right? Let’s get into it.

Types of icons to include on a resume

It probably goes without saying, but you can’t just throw random icons onto the page in the hopes of making your resume look fun and engaging. That’s not how this works.

In the previous section, I emphasized the importance of using resume icons in the right way. So, let’s learn how to do just that.

Where and how to use resume icons

Several parts of your CV can benefit from icons.

  • Contact data/personal information – You can easily use icons in the contact section of your resume header. Phone, email, address, website – all of these can be replaced with an icon to illustrate the information and maybe add a fun pop of color.

  • Social media – If you include your social media on your resume, such as LinkedIn, icons are a good choice, as they’re easily recognizable.
  • Section headers – Using icons in your section headers can strengthen the information visually. Add a briefcase to your experience section, an academic cap for education, etc.
  • Bullet lists – This is optional, but sometimes using bullet list icons can make them easier and more pleasant to read, as well as separate them from the rest of the content.

Whatever you do, make sure the resume icons you choose are easily recognizable. You don’t want to make the hiring manager think and wonder what in the world a stapler has to do with your experience as a doctor.

Don’t make the icons too large; this will only make them take up space and become visually overwhelming.

Don’t make them too small, either, because then the recruiter will be squinting at the page, spending precious time trying to make out the shape.

Find the right icon style for your resume and stick to it – you want to keep it looking consistent, not like a randomly put together quilt. Ideally, all the icons you use should come from the same pack.

And, last but not least, use icons in moderation. A ton of icons and graphics can make the page look too busy, so use them sparingly to illustrate key sections.

Should I put a logo on my resume?

Now, logos are another kettle of fish.

Sometimes, you can put a logo on your resume instead of a photo (which should also be used carefully). This is especially true if you’re building your personal brand or if you’re known for a product/service/brand you’ve created.

However, if your portfolio is not all that big, it may come across as cocky, which is a turn off for many recruiters.

So, if you’re wondering whether you should include a logo on your resume, keep in mind that it’s a bold move – think about whether you have what it takes to back it up.

Best websites and tools for free resume icons and symbols

Now that we’ve covered the basics of using icons on your resume, you’re probably wondering where you can get them.

For your convenience, here are a few websites and tools you can use to find resume icons for free or make your own!

Visme

This is “the #1 online design software for non-designers”. There, you can find a variety of icons and graphics to suit your needs. They offer icons in four different styles – flat, multicolor, outline, and isometric – so you’re guaranteed to find the right ones for your resume. Check out their selection here.

Icons8

If you’re looking for a particular icon style or are unsure which one will fit your resume best and want a wide range of options, then Icons8 is the website for you. With a whopping 33 styles, your cup runneth over with possibilities! Take a look at what they have to offer here.

Enhancv

Looking for a resume builder with a variety of templates, designs, sections, and – of course – icons? Look no further than here. From content and bullet suggestions to a fully customizable template, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.

Adobe Illustrator

If you pride yourself on your design skills, be it basic or intermediate, you might choose to make your icons from scratch. This is an excellent way to keep them unique and perfectly suiting your resume style. While this software is not free, you can get a free 7-day trial.

Inkscape

If you’re looking for a free vector graphics editor to make your own resume icons with, Inkscape might just be what you need. It’s an entirely free, open-source software that has everything you need to create the perfect icon. Take a look.

Sample resume templates with icons

No article about resume icons will be complete without some examples. So, take a look at some resume templates that have used icons in the best way.

The Contemporary

Enhancv Resume Icons – Should You Use Them and How?

This resume uses icons sparingly – but the balance is just right. A twist on the classic resume template, the Contemporary is perfect for those who wish to keep their resume traditional with a touch of personality.

The Modern

Enhancv Resume Icons – Should You Use Them and How?

Take your resume into the future with the Modern template – a double-column resume with all the works: eye-catching graphics, clear sections, and smart use of icons (naturally).

The Classic Double Column

Enhancv Resume Icons – Should You Use Them and How?

A classic resume template with just a bit of tweaking, the Classic Double Column is the right choice for entry-level positions or jobs that call for a traditional approach. With the double-column format, you can fit even more of your achievements and skills in!

And, of course, the resume icons are there to make it look that much more appealing.

Conclusion

So there you have it! I hope you’ve learned everything you need to make your CV pop with a few resume icons.

To summarize everything I’ve said:

  • Resume icons can be a great addition if you’re applying for a creative position.
  • Some resumes, especially for jobs that require a traditional approach, won’t benefit from icons.
  • When used right, icons can make your resume more appealing and showcase your skills.
  • Use icons in moderation, only to strengthen the content. Don’t make them the focus of your resume.
  • Find the right style and keep it consistent throughout.
  • There are many websites and tools out there where you can get free resume icons or make your own.

***

I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions (or maybe your own piece of advice), don’t hesitate to comment down below!

Kal Dimitrov

Kal has 10 years of experience as a marketer and lecturer in youth leader organisations, with a focus on career and job skills enhancement. He has written and edited over 100 resume creation guides for different jobs. Kal is also a co-founder of a career accelerator hub that helps students and recent graduates excel at job interviews and get the job of their dreams.

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