Using color in your resume can be a dangerous thing, or a sleek advantage. Mostly, which way it will fall really depends on the type of job you are applying for. As a general rule I say forego bold colors unless you are applying for a creative position, something like graphic design. However when you do decide to use color and bold formatting choices there is a right and a wrong way to do it.


  • Make sure that everything is easy to read. Use simple fonts like Ariel, Calibri, or Times New Roman for most of your text, and don’t change it up between sections. Two fonts is plenty.  You can choose a fun font for your headings, especially your name, but make sure the font is large enough to read clearly when printed.

Professional Resume Design: Utilizing Color

  • Use a simple color scheme. Please don’t make it look like the paint machine at the Home Depot vomited color on your resume. If using color for the font itself, chose dark colors, or white on a dark background so that it is still easy to read. Remember that reading in neon gets tiresome after about the second word. Instead use color blocks or some similar design element that does not include changing the color of the font.
  • Limit your colored areas. Try to keep your text area clean, and maybe only two sides decorated. Top and one side is usually enough to add plenty of color and drama to your resume without overwhelming your typing space.


  • Try to be Picasso. The bottom line is that this is a resume, not a work of art. Do not go all abstract and expect your prospective employer to “get it”. They must be able to easily identify all the appropriate information without having to think too hard. As a general rule, human resources personnel do not like to put effort into reading a resume.
  • Let your design make you run into more pages. If your design elements take your resume onto a second page, you have done too much. Either pare back your design, or slim down your resume, whichever is more important.

Professional Resume Design: Utilizing Color

  • Use a lot of pattern. One pattern is probably plenty if you must, two if they just work fantastically together and your job has something to do with textiles. Remember, the main focus here has got to be the actual text in the resume, the information. If the patter distracts from the text then you are defeating your purpose. Try using tonal patterns, or pastel colors so the pattern becomes a gentle backdrop instead of the main focus.

If you find your creativity getting the best of you, think about putting together a small design portfolio instead of channeling all that creative energy into your resume. Take the usual “References available” line at the end and change it to “Portfolio and references available upon request”. At the end of the day if you hand your resume to a friend and they have to ask what it is, you have gone too far.

There is also a free resume builder software which can produce a nicely formatted resume after you input details. Check it out at

About Lindsey

Lindsy is a career counselor working at a university in Ohio. She loves to write useful articles that help undergraduate students to focus on their career.