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How to Use Color on a Resume: Best and Worst Resume Colors

Updated: Jan 31


Top view of paint roller on white background. Overlay black text says: how to use color on a resume.

In a job search, first impressions are everything.


When applying for a job, if you want to make a lasting impression, it's important that your resume stands out and catches the eyes of potential employers before they even read through your qualifications.


In doing so, certain design tools can give your resume a little more personality and flair. One of these tools is color, which can make your resume pop and do the heavy lifting while conveying specific messages about you as an applicant.


When applying for a job, if you want to make a lasting impression, it's important that your resume stands out and catches the eyes of potential employers before they even read through your qualifications.

However, when it comes to resume colors, some colors will help you create a good impression, while others will hinder your job application.


While working in recruitment, I've reviewed over 30,000 resumes.


And I've seen it all: the good, the bad, and... the one completely covered in company colorsred, blue, and yellow. :(


In this blog post, I'll answer the most important questions about using colors on a resume, including the best and the worst resume colors. I'll also share tips on using color on your resume to get noticed by recruiters. (As a recruiter, I know what my colleagues look for and like in resumes.)


So, in the next few minutes, I’ll answer the following questions:


Alright. Time to dive in!


Disclaimer: This article includes relevant affiliate links to services, resources, and tools I wholeheartedly recommend. If you buy something through these links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase helps me share more helpful content. Thanks if you choose to support me this way!


 

Can you use colors on a resume?


When working on your resume, your aim is to create a resume that stands out.


Since employers first notice the visual aspect of your resume, it's important to create a polished resume design that draws attention at first glance. While you don't want your resume to look like everyone else's, you still want to give a positive and professional first impression.


This is where colors may help.


But remember—the color scheme you choose can influence your resume design and make it stand out or blend in.


Using colors on a resume is a simple yet effective way to make your resume more attractive to draw a hiring manager’s attention. Color can also help accentuate a resume's structure and emphasize the most important parts of your resume, making it easier to read.

So, to answer the opening question - yes! You can absolutely use color on your resume.


But be careful when choosing the color. Selecting the right color and using it appropriately on a resume isn't as easy as it may seem.


Read on to learn how to choose the best resume color and determine which colors work well and which should be avoided.



 

Why is the color on a resume important?


Color is the first thing readers see when they open your resume.


Colors have a strong psychological meaning and can affect our thoughts and feelings on an unconscious level.


For example, red is typically associated with passion, danger, or anger and can make us feel uneasy, whereas pink brings thoughts of happiness and innocence; blue can be calming, and yellow can energize.


As such, colors on your resume send a message about you and your personal brand before the readers even read the first word on it.


While resume color schemes can make a resume visually interesting, color can make or break its success. It all depends on how you use colors to get the desired effect.

It's crucial to choose resume colors that convey the right tone of voice for your resume and reflect well on you as a job seeker.


So, you must be careful when choosing the color to ensure it sends the right message - that you are a professional, skilled, and qualified applicant. Otherwise, you might end up with a resume that is less effective in presenting your qualifications and hinders your job-hunting efforts.




 

Is having a colorful resume good or bad?


Wondering if having a colorful resume is a good or a bad thing? Well, define colorful :)


Having too many strong colors competing for attention can make your resume hard to read. As such, it's definitely not a good thing.


But that doesn't mean you should apply with a bland black-and-white resume. Using professional colors to accentuate key information and add visual organization to your resume is more than desirable.


 

Is it unprofessional to have color in your resume?


Generally speaking, using colors on a resume is a good thing. But only if you use the right colors in the right way. If you use too many colors or the wrong colors, you're risking that your resume might come across as unprofessional. That choice depends mainly on the industry you're targeting.


Let's get into more details and see what you should consider when choosing colors for your resume.


 

What to consider when choosing colors for a resume?


When choosing colors for a resume, you need to consider the following:


  • What message do you want to send about yourself? Do you want to come across as conservative and professional or creative and bold?

  • What color preferences are appropriate for the job or industry you're aiming at?


Basically, both questions boil down to your field and expertise, or better yet, the industry you're applying for. It's the most important factor to consider when playing with a color palette.


To simplify the decision, industries can be divided into two categories: conservative and creative industries. Both come with a set of opposite best practices for the hiring process.




Conservative industries


Some sectors and industries prefer traditional resumes - classic black text with a white background. Such fields include conservative industries, such as law, finance, and banking.


Since they are more conservative in their hiring process, the creative use of color on these resumes doesn't meet common industry standards.


However, if you select a professional color such as navy blue or gray and use it modestly, it can help break up the resume, make it easier to read, and help you grab the employer's attention in a professional way.


Want a shortcut? Explore our collection of classic, professionally designed resume templates perfect for conservative industries.



Creative industries


On the other hand, some sectors and creative industries prefer resumes with a more innovative or modern resume design.


Such creative fields are media, marketing, advertising, public relations, and graphic design.


These firms often want candidates who can think outside the box and showcase it from the start through their job applications.


So, hiring managers in creative industries have a more open mind for colorful resumes and less prejudice against bolder colors. Strategic, even bold use of color can give you a competitive advantage.

However, don't forget that your resume is ultimately a formal document that must effectively communicate content and remain professional.


Get a resume you'll want to show offpick your favorite resume from our collection of creative resume templates.


 

Best colors to use on a resume


Choosing the best resume colors to create an eye-catching resume design is challenging. The colors you choose can either benefit or harm your job search.


Simply put, choosing the wrong color for your resume can potentially ruin an otherwise perfect resume -- and slow down your job search process.


So, I've created a list of colors that are more likely to catch the reader's attention and the worst colors that should be avoided.


Blue


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of blue paint on white background.

When it comes to resume colors, blue is a safe and elegant color used to communicate honesty, reliability, confidence, and stability. As such, it's a great choice for both conservative and creative resumes.


Depending on the shade, blue frequently adds a modern feel to resume design without being boring or bland.


Even though it's the most frequently used color on resumes, considering the range of shades of blue that can be used, opting for blue still allows you to create a unique and professional resume that comes across as polished and put together.


Gray


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of gray paint on white background.

Gray is a neutral and balanced color typically associated with meanings of sophisticated, formal, and conservative. This timeless and practical color can add some dynamic to design, helping your resume stand out while remaining fully professional.



Green


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of green paint on white background.

Green is a color often associated with harmony, nature, and growth. When used in resume design, it can help emphasize personal qualities of balance, creativity, and intelligence. To ensure you're using green on your resume correctly, choose shades on the darker end of the spectrum rather than going with light colors or too bright shades of green. Dark green works best.



Purple


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of purple paint on white background.

Purple is a sophisticated yet playful color that adds elegance to resume designs without being too conservative or rigid. This vibrant tone helps highlight the most important parts while still fitting the professional environment. Same as with green, it's best to go with darker shades of purple to keep it professional.



 


Colors to avoid on a resume


Red


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of red paint on white background.

Red is a bold color. It's often associated with power, passion, and confidence, so it can be a good color for job seekers who want their resume to stand out while conveying a strong personal brand. However, red also symbolizes action and aggression. Practically, all resumes I've seen with a red color scheme came across as too aggressive. So, I don't recommend using red in a resume.



Yellow


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of yellow paint on white background.

Yellow indicates energy, positivity, and happiness. Even though this playful color has a positive meaning, it doesn't work well on resumes. It may come as unprofessional as it makes the text hard to read. Also, since it's a light color, it doesn't print well, so employers may lose some of your content if they review printed job applications.



Pink


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of pink paint on white background.

Pink is associated with love and romance. It symbolizes femininity, sensitivity, innocence, and sweetness. Though a cheerful color, it's not appropriate for a resume as some employers may interpret pink resumes as unprofessional or immature.



Neon


Top view. Paint brush and stroke of neon green paint on white background.

Fluorescent or neon colors are extremely bright versions of primary and secondary colors that appear to glow in the dark due to their intensity. Using these bright colors in a resume is a bold (and extremely rare) choice, but it's also a huge risk, as they can be off-putting or overwhelming to some hiring managers who may discard your job application. Since they are distracting and difficult to read, resume colors like neon are a no-go.



 

How to use colors on a resume?


There are many colors to choose from.


But it's not only the color selection that matters. It's their application too.


But it's not only the color selection that matters. It's their application too.

To make colors work on a resume, it's vital to use them in moderation.


Keep your resume colors simple and consistent so as not to distract the reader's eye or confuse them in any way. Also, make sure to choose appropriate resume colors for your industry.


For example, if you're applying for a job in finance, you want resume colors such as black and blue rather than pink and yellow.


In general, don't forget that color on a resume should be used wisely and sparingly. Using too much color will make your resume look unprofessional, regardless of what colors you choose to use.


 

Where to apply color in a resume?


To make the most of color application in a resume, it's important to use color smartly. Colors on job applications work best when they are used sparingly and applied to certain graphic elements that draw attention.


For example, you can add color to:


Looking for examples? Nothing helps more than seeing all these tips in action, right? I applied all the above to one of the professionally designed resume templates from ByRecruiters resume shop, so you can see which style you like the most.


Let's explore them all.


Headers and Footers


You can use color in a header to add a modern and professional twist to a resume's design.


Front view. Modern resume template on grey background.

Contact Information


Color can highlight contact information at the top of your resume.


Front view. Modern resume template on grey background.

Design Elements


Use color to highlight small design elements, like lines, icons, bullet points, and shapes, to add a modern feel to your resume.


Front view. Modern resume template on grey background.

Headings


Accentuate the structure of your resume by applying color to its headings, such as work experience, education, and skills.


Front view. Modern resume template on grey background.

Subheadings (Job Titles, Qualifications, etc.)


Make it easy for a hiring manager to find the most relevant information by coloring subheadings, such as job titles and qualifications.


Front view. Modern resume template on white background with shadow.

 

7 Practical Tips for Using Colors Effectively


Let's get into 7 practical tips that will help you effectively use color on your resume and stand out in the best way possible:


1. Use black as a primary color.


In both conservative and creative industries, most resume content should be written in traditional black. Due to high contrast with a classic white background, black is the easiest color to read on resumes, whether on a computer or in print.

Therefore, black should be the primary color for most of the content, while another color of your choice can be an accent color used to emphasize some elements of the resume's design.



2. Avoid using too many colors.


You should also avoid using too many different colors, which may confuse readers instead of drawing their attention. Instead, stick with one color scheme that looks professional while still helping you stand out just enough.


Check out other common resume mistakes you can easily avoid.



3. Match your resume and cover letter.


For a professional job application that stands out, match your resume color scheme to your cover letter.


Cover letters are often mandatory documents needed in the job application process. As such, they can be as important as resumes. So, pay attention to its design and ensure they are both polished and professional.



4. Tailor resume color scheme to the industry.


If you're applying to a creative industry such as fashion, design, or social media where the application of color is more important, use colors appropriate for your specific field. Feel free to get creative and add color to your resume to make it stand out.


For conservative industries, it's always best to opt for a traditional resume - going with your application in black and white with a pinch of blue or gray is a safe bet.



5. Use color consistently.


Consistency is the key to job applications that stand out in a professional way.


Make sure to use the same color throughout the document. Also, apply it to the same elements of content or design. For example, if you used blue to highlight the heading of the work experience section, make sure you use it on all headings and subheadings.



6. Improve readability with effective use of white space.


White space is an important aspect of a resume and can play a key role in your job search success -- without you even knowing it. Using white space effectively improves the readability of a resume, accentuates the content, and significantly affects the overall impression and visual appeal of your resume.


Find out how to use white space on a resume effectively.



7. If in doubt, use a resume template.


Ready-made resume templates are designed by graphic or hiring professionals. Since they are designed in line with resume best practices, these rules about choosing the right color palette and using it in a resume are already applied. So, opting for professional resume templates is an easy way to upgrade your resume and present your experience in style.




Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. If you shop through these links, I might earn a commission, making this site fully reader-supported. Big thanks for your support!


Conclusion


A resume's color can make or break its success - it all depends on how you use colors to get the desired effect.


To ensure you're presenting yourself in the best light, choose wisely when selecting the colors for your professional documents. Many factors go into determining the appropriate colors for your resume, but by following these tips, you'll easily choose and apply the best ones.


To help with this process, here's a list of some of the best and worst resume color choices.


  • Best colors: Blue, Gray, Green, Purple

  • Worst colors: Red, Pink, Yellow, Neon


 

Take that one extra step to stand out:


  • Impress employers with a professionally designed resume

  • Download the template and fill it in with your experience

  • Save and submit your job-winning application today





 

Remember -- you only get one shot at impressing recruiters or hiring managers with your resume! If you want to speed up the process and land your dream job fast, use this resume cheat sheet or jumpstart your job search with a professionally designed resume template and impress employers right from the start.


 

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Ana Colak-Fustin


Hi there! I'm Ana — a former recruiter, HR consultant, and founder of ByRecruiters.com. My career advice and job search tools have been featured in Yahoo Finance, Jobscan, A Better HR Business, Starter Story, and other global media. Since 2018, over 8,000 professionals worldwide have used my resume templates to land new jobs. And I'm on a mission to help 80,000 more!


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