How Design Elements Can Enhance Your Resume

pineappleLet’s assume for a minute that you have all of the components you should have on a well-written resume: contact information, including LinkedIn URL (you can link this to the LinkedIn blog I just wrote!); succinct title; brief, focused summary with searchable areas of expertise; and professional experience full of accomplishments. But still it feels like something’s missing. How about adding in a little design to really make it pop?

If you’ve seen Legally Blonde, you know that Elle Woods made her resume pop by printing it on pink, scented paper. While that may work, it’s probably not the best option — especially since we usually send resumes via the Internet these days. But what you can do is to add some eye-catching visual elements.

Pictures Are a No-No

When I say “visual elements,” you probably go right to pictures or images. Unless you are applying for a position as a model or actor, you should not include a picture of yourself on your resume. If someone really wants to see what you look like, he can head to your LinkedIn profile (because your URL is right there on the resume… right?).

On a rare occasion, I have included images on a resume, though, when they are appropriate. For instance, I had a client who had a Ph.D. in the sciences and an Associates Degree in culinary; she wanted to combine them to get a position as a research chef. Her resume was a bit tricky, so I grouped her culinary and academia / research experiences separately and added a small black and white image of measuring cups to the top of the resume. It was eye catching — and just enough to quickly differentiate her from the competition.

A Word on Color

Some people like color on their resumes; some do not. I do. But let me caution you that, as with any visual element, color should be used sparingly. Choose one neutral color (grey, tan, navy) and use it only for your bar separators, headers, or text boxes. Don’t add color all over the place, as it will only serve to distract the reader.

If you do print out and mail your resume, you should choose a 20-lb paper in white, cream, or grey. Stay away from pink, no matter how much you love Elle Woods.

Graphs and Boxes

An excellent way to really make your resume pop is with the addition of graphs or text boxes. If you’re in sales, a graph of your increase over a span of years looks extremely attractive. You need to be a little savvier than the average user to incorporate the graph because you link Excel and Word, but it is a big attention grabber with the right information.

A text box is where you can pull in a testimonial about yourself. We all know that someone else saying something good about you has more weight than you touting yourself, so look at letters of recommendation and your LinkedIn testimonials or just ask a customer or supervisor to say a sentence or two about you. I had one client who was convinced this little addition to her resume was what got her the interview!

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