Job seekers often look for any way possible for their resume to stand out from others in a stack. Yet while gaining the hiring manager's attention is an admirable goal, actions need to actually advance candidacy – not come off as gimmicky. Tactics such as using a rainbow of colors on a resume or choosing huge type may garner a glance, but the novelty quickly wears off and the candidate deemed immature.
Instead, think of color and font size as tools someone might employ to subtly enhance the overall appearance and readability of a resume. Here are some considerations and tasteful ideas:
Black print on white paper has long been the standard for resumes. Such an arrangement creates a highly readable document with a polished air. It remains the most common, safe and acceptable set up. However, black type is not absolutely the only choice nowadays.
"The use of color on a resume has become more tolerable by hiring managers, so deciding whether to use color is not a hard 'yes' or 'no,'" says Kenyetta Nesbitt of Ambition Evolve Career Consulting. "Instead, the use of color vs. the standard black and white theme should be approached situationally."
Start by considering the industry in which you are seeking employment. Art, web design and similar "creative" fields tend to be more accepting of color on resumes. Employers in business, accounting and other "conservative" sectors may be less tolerant.
If you do decide to try color, Nesbitt notes that it is important to strike a balance between being creative and remaining professional. "You should never use bright colors or too much color in your resume as it will be viewed as distracting and unprofessional to hiring managers and is a sure way to get axed from the hiring process."
Instead, incorporate color to emphasize content that you want to bring to the employer's attention.
"Color can be used to separate and break up information, such as in subheading titles (Employment Experience, Skills, Education, etc.)," Nesbitt says. "Using the color scheme of black, white and a third color (such as navy blue, gray, or green) can aid in maintaining the balance between standing out and professionalism. The important point to remember is that the use of color should complement the content and formatting of your resume, not take away from it."
The same advice holds true when pondering font issues. Size and other presentational elements should enhance visual appeal and help the reader quickly spot vital information.
Ron Auerbach, author of Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success, offers this advice on font size:
- Name: 18 to 24 point. The biggest thing on your resume should be your name because it immediately focuses the attention on you.
- Headings: 14 to 16 point. This will help separate out the resume sections from the information contained within each of them.
- Content/Information: 11-12 point. (Some experts opt for 10 point as their minimum font size, but Auerbach believes that is too small for a lot of people to read comfortably.)
Bolding, italicizing underlining or using all caps can make your name or headers stand out. Just make sure not to overdo highlighting efforts. You'll lose visual appeal and may even contradict your purpose. As Auerbach astutely notes, "If you have too many things bolded, then the bold will look as though it's the normal and the unbolded will appear to stand out."
Want to experiment with color and font? Try working with a resume template. They eliminate the guesswork of how to personalize resumes using color and font while keeping your document looking professional and beautifully formatted.