What Do the Colors on Your Resume Say About You?



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Color can serve as a powerful means of communication. For example, drivers pay rapt attention to red, yellow, and green traffic lights, as well as red stop signs and yellow yield signs.

Even in nature, colors are used to convey meaning. Flowers have colorful petals to attract pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Some animals have bright colors that serve as warning signs, saying, in essence, “I’m poisonous.”

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We, too, can use this nonverbal communication method. Today, we’ll discuss what the colors you use on your resume can convey about you.

How can you choose the best colors for your resume? Consider your field of work, the company culture, and possible nonverbal cues generated by each color.

What Is Expected in Your Field?

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When selecting colors for your resume, the first consideration is what is generally expected and accepted in your career field. For example, hiring managers in the fields of banking, accounting, law, and C-suite positions may expect a minimalist black-and-white resume.

On the other hand, if you are in a creative field, the hiring manager might expect to see a hint of your creative side displayed in your resume design.

Additionally, certain colors are strongly associated with certain industries and the lifestyles they promote. For example, companies that take a “back to nature” approach – be they environmental nonprofits, national parks, camping outfitters, or organic snack producers – often utilize earthy tones of green and brown. We’ll talk more about colors and company culture in the next section.

What Is the Company Culture Like?

Getting to know the company culture is important when deciding if a certain workplace is a good fit for you. This principle also acts in reverse. Your resume makes the first impression, and this impression of your personality and qualities may influence the hiring manager’s assessment as to whether you will fit in with the company culture.

Where can you learn about a company’s culture? Examine their products and services. What sort of lifestyle do these cater to?

Next, check out their website and social media. Finally, if you have a contact at the company, ask them what the company culture is like.

Then, tailor your resume to what you know about the company culture, whether it is creative, expressive, or conservative. Use bright colors and combinations for creative departments or startups, but stick with muted colors for more conservative businesses.

Another option is using the company’s brand identity colors on your resume. This communicates the idea that you are in tune with the company and already a team player.

Consider Potential Color Meanings

The meanings we ascribe to colors are complex. Some seem instinctual – for example, we recognize a reddening of the face as indicative of anger. Some colors affect the brain physically and are thus universal in meaning. Others are universal because they are related to universal experiences. For example, blue is calming because it is associated with water and sky, and green for its connections to plants and nature.

Others are cultural. If you are applying to an international company, be sure to do your research and avoid the use of colors that may be culturally inappropriate.

Finally, some of the meaning we ascribe to colors is based on our personal experiences. If someone made fun of you for wearing a green shirt, green might not be your favorite color. But if your beloved grandmother lived in a brightly painted pink house, you may still feel happy and nostalgic about that hue.

So, predicting how colors will be interpreted in every situation is impossible. But, according to the London Image Institute, colors are generally associated with the following qualities:

  • Red – excitement, strengths, love, energy
  • Orange – confidence, success, bravery, sociability
  • Yellow – creativity, happiness, warmth, cheer
  • Green – nature, healing, freshness, quality
  • Blue – trust, peace, loyalty, competence
  • Pink – compassion, sincerity, sophistication, sweetness
  • Purple – royalty, luxury, spirituality, ambition
  • Brown – dependability, ruggedness, trustworthiness, simplicity
  • Black – formality, drama, sophistication, security
  • White – cleanness, simplicity, innocence, honesty

The above assertions are part of a theory known as color psychology. The question remains – does it actually work? Most evidence in favor of color psychology is anecdotal. The research has largely been conducted by marketing firms rather than scientific organizations.

But, the anecdotal evidence is strong. For example, changing the color of a button on a screen or device can have a huge effect on button use or conversion rates.

Keep It Clean

A word of caution is in order. Make sure your use of color does not make your resume difficult to read. Try printing it in black and white to ensure there is enough contrast between the text and color sections.

Key Takeaways

Colors are a powerful form of nonverbal communication. To employ color psychology on your resume, consider industry trends, the company culture, and universal meanings assigned to certain colors.

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