Should You Add Graphics to Your Resume?

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Improve Your Resume or CV

The chief purpose of a resume is to highlight your experience and skills and grab the attention of a hiring manager, convincing them you’re a top candidate for their open position. It’s essentially an advertisement for yourself as a professional, and you only have a few seconds to make a great first impression. So, do graphics help accentuate those points, or are you better off without these embellishments?

Some say using graphics distracts from what you have to offer, while others believe they can help you stand out. Ultimately, it depends on various factors. We outline the pros and cons to help you decide what's best for you. If you still need help with your resume, check out what we have to offer.

Pros of using graphics in your resume

Graphics can come in handy under certain circumstances and could even help you land a job. Here are a few reasons why you might want to have them on your resume.

  • If you're applying for a job in a creative industry—such as graphic art, fashion design, or advertising—including graphics can help showcase your skills and talents. Just make sure they can convey something better than plain text can and don't distract from the rest of your resume. Adding unnecessary graphics that don’t fit into the layout indicates that you may not be as good at design as you should be to do the job.
  • Some companies have a more laid-back culture and may be impressed by a resume featuring graphics; they may even request in their job listings that you include visuals. In that case, put them in, but do it in a way that keeps your resume looking clean and professional. Even if you’re not applying for a design-related job, poorly crafted charts and graphs will make you look sloppy and unprofessional. If you don’t have a flair for design, show your resume to family and friends you can trust to give you honest feedback.
  • Graphics can sometimes send a powerful visual message. For example, they can help highlight important accomplishments or credentials better than text and even help you stand out. However, don't go overboard! Remember that you want the recruiter to focus on your qualifications and experience first and foremost. So, use graphics sparingly and only if you’re certain that they truly add value to your resume and present information that can’t be as easily expressed in words.  

Cons of using graphics in your resume

  • The top reason not to have graphics on your resume is that applicant tracking systems (ATSs) may not be able to identify them. Many companies use an ATS to screen resumes before they get to a hiring manager, and the computer program may have a hard time reading fancy images and fonts. This could get your resume cast aside right off the bat. While it won’t be possible to know what kind of ATS software a given company uses, you can make some educated guesses based on the type of organization you’re dealing with. A cutting-edge tech venture is likely to have a way more sophisticated ATS than an older business far removed from the tech industry.
  • Graphs, charts, and other visuals can clutter the layout of your resume, distracting from your qualities and experience and making it harder for a recruiter to navigate the document and focus on what's important. If you do opt for graphics, remember the golden rule of design: Less is more. Just as you wouldn’t give your credit card information to a gaudy website with flashing text and jarring music, so a hiring manager won’t be too keen on employing someone with a flamboyant resume.

In short, your resume should focus on your experience, skills, and unique accomplishments that entice a hiring manager to send you an interview invitation. Don’t let fancy visuals get in the way of what’s most important—landing a job.

Whether you use graphics depends on the type of job you're applying for, the company culture, and the presence of a specific request to that effect in the vacancy listing. Charts and graphs can convey important information better than plain text, but only under certain circumstances. If you’re applying for creative jobs, well-designed graphics can certainly give you a boost.

When in doubt, take the traditional route. A simple, modern resume design that's easy to navigate is your best bet. A creative resume can hurt you in many cases, not just because the ATS might fail to process it, but also because the recruiter may not be pleased with a resume that breaks with tradition. If you need help crafting your resume (with or without graphics), take a look at our professional services. 

Improve Your Resume or CV