Best Colors for the Resume

best colors for the resume

What are the best colors to use on a resume? Should I use color on my resume as a way to stand out? If I were to use color as a way to make my resume stand out, how would I do it? These are great questions for job seekers who want to stand out from the crowd when submitting their job application assets

Let’s jump into understanding best practices for colors and your resume.

Why Use Colors On Your Resume?

For many job seekers, they may have found templates that contain side rails or columns in the layout that are colored. They may have dark backgrounds with light-colored fonts on top of it. In these columns, it might be sections like skills or accolades.

And when the job seeker opens this template they want to know what colors they should use when modifying the column background.

But is this the best thing to do? No. This is not the best template to use, either. But before we get into that, there’s one more reason why job seekers feel like they should use color on their resume: to stand out.

But is using color on your resume the best way to stand out? No.

What About Creative Resumes? Don’t Use Color on Those?

For many creative job titles, like Creative Director or Graphic Designer, it would make sense that your resume should be designed in a way that speaks to your creativity. But actually, that’s not true.

Resumes have a function. They serve a simple purpose to the reader. They allow the reader to comprehend your education and work history in a simplified way. In under 60 seconds, they can get a full picture of who you are and whether not you’re qualified for the position.

When creative professionals design their resume with these intentions in mind, it often comes down to your more basic black and white, type-driven resume. It doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your layout. But it means your color choices should be black and white (white for your background and black for your font color).

What Colors Are Acceptable

No matter what you do with your resume, have the reader in mind. Have their goals in mind. They may want to print your resume. So does having a dark black background with white font make sense? No, it doesn’t. It may make it very difficult to read when printed. And it could make you look unprofessional, as well.

Resumes should be standardized. And the way to stand out is by making your resume content impactful. Listing skills, listing work accomplishments, certifications, and personal projects that make you qualified for the job title you’re applying for.

If you want to use color, make it subtle. For example, a dark grey beige line to separate your resume sections might be okay. But for the most part, keep your resume greyscale. Small touches of neutral color might be okay. But keep in mind, this should be less than 5% of your resume in terms of color use.

This technique is similar to using an accent color. This means your primary resume is black and white with some light or neutral accent color that you can use to add some character to your resume. A red line, for example, might be okay.

Are There Any Resume’s Where Color is Required?

No. Remember, resumes are designed to be digestible one-page documents where your resume reader can comprehend who you are, in a fast way. They want to spend less than 90 seconds reading your resume.

If they have a difficult time comprehending your resume, this could risk them spending more than 90 seconds reading your resume, which could tell your hiring manager that you don’t know how to professionally present yourself.

Knowing how to design business letters is an important component of professional etiquette. If you make your resume too unique, it could have the opposite effect for your hiring manager than you originally wanted.

You wanted your resume to unique and stand out. And then to your resume reader, it could indicate that you don’t know how to carry yourself professionally or have little experience since you don’t know how to properly craft business letters.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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