Should you use color on your resume? Recruiters say it's not black and white

In the movie "Legally Blonde," Elle Woods, played by actress Reese Witherspoon, submits a pink resume for a job in law school.
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If you want to get hired, you'll want your resume to stand out — in a good way.

The details of your resume should be carefully thought out and unique — everything from the experience you choose to highlight to the font you use to the file format you save it in.

But should you add color?

On the one hand, it could help make an impression on a recruiter. On the other hand, that impression could be a negative one.

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In short, hiring managers say, if you choose to use color, be very, very careful how you do it.

Color, as a rule, is a distraction

Corinne Clawson, who oversees recruitment at Premier Nutrition Corporation, the company behind PowerBar and other brands, has hired more than 100 people in the past three and a half years.

She's seen many resumes that incorporate color, the most recent of which was "bright blue and covered half the page."

Bright colors can make it difficult to read your resume, which won't help your chances. But even more than that, using color on your resume can make you look unprofessional.

"The information listed on your resume should speak for itself," says Clawson.

Color can also, Clawson notes, appear to be an attempt to distract the hiring manager.

Charlie Nelson, vice president at SmartRecruiters, works with hundreds of recruiters and also sees it as a red flag. He calls the use of color "unoriginal" and adds that "it's not a creative way to stand out among other resumes."

In fact, according to Nelson, using color in your resume isn't only unhelpful, it could actually appear that you're trying to overcompensate or mask shortcomings, hurting your chances.

The information listed on your resume should speak for itself.
Corinne Clawson
senior manager of people support at Premier Nutrition

"In my experience as a hiring manager," he says, "I will cut a candidate for adding a color or an image."

Exceptions to the rule

There is some leeway for those apply to a creative role — like creative director or brand ambassador — but not much.

Lori Riviere, founder of The Riviere Agency, a fashion and beauty PR and production agency in New York, has seen many shades of pink and blue in resumes that come her way. Her usual job postings include positions to help work on campaigns for New York Fashion Week.

"Since I am in a creative field," she says, "I don't mind the use of a little color if the layout is clean and easy to read."

But she also adds that there is a very fine line when it comes to making your resume unique.

"I am typically suspicious," she says, "that the candidate is trying to distract from some sort of flaw, such as lack of relevant work experience or permanency."

Both Riviere and Nelson say job candidates should pay less attention to adding flare, and instead focus on highlighting relevant skills and making sure the resume is error-free.

"I would rather see people focus on substance," Riviere says, "and making a resume easy to read with proper grammar and spelling than color."

Check out the best format to send your resume in

These are the best fonts to use on your resume, according to designers
In the movie "Legally Blonde," Elle Woods, played by actress Reese Witherspoon, submits a pink resume for a job in law school.
Getty Images
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