6 Resume Gimmicks You MUST Avoid

When you’re writing your resume, it’s natural to want to stand out. After all, this one document is the only thing that most employers see of their applicants before beginning the “weeding” process in which interviewees are selected. Why let yourself slip between the cracks with a cookie-cutter resume? Distinguishing yourself in your resume with unique content and formatting might seem like a smart way to get across to a hiring manager.

And for some professions, this would be entirely true. Graphic designers, web designers, advertisers, and other creative professionals would be well-to-do to make their resumes appealing, artistic, and unique; this would consistently convey the very properties that the content of the resume should describe. However, there are some resume-building gimmicks that should be avoided at all costs for professionals who want to stand out for the right reasons – and not as a “circus sideshow” applicant:

1) Including images and special formatting:

Before a single word of your resume is read, there is something that conveys volumes about the type of applicant you are – and that’s how your resume is formatted and designed. Slightly bending the rules on formatting with classy, subtle features such as simple borders and bullet points can help give your resume a professional sheen. But how far is too far? And what should we avoid during the formatting process?

RELATED: Creative Resumes – How Much Is Too Much?

2) Don’t think twice about a mug-shot:

Including an image of yourself in your resume can certainly be an eye-catcher – to their HR department, anyways. Many employers immediately weed out resumes which feature personal images due to the fact that it can contribute to accusations of hiring discrimination later down the road. In addition, images can interfere with companies who use automated processing software to get your resume in their systems. Anyways, with one page to succinctly describe your feats and qualities, why waste space with an image?

3) Format your resume for the right reasons:

With one page for most resumes, it can be tempting to shove as much as you can into it – which is a mistake many applicants make. After distilling the content of your resume into a concise, action-oriented narrative of your skills and experiences, it should be structured with a fair amount of space. If sentences are scrunched to the point of being difficult to read, it can be discouraging to hiring managers who have a stack of applicants to weed through.

Use indentions, font modifiers, and bullet points to separate your sections while leaving a little empty space between. Avoid gimmicky graphics or charts, which can again confuse automated processing software and make your resume look more eccentric than anything. These formatting tips can greatly improve the chances that someone will actually read your resume.

4) Using peculiar or difficult-to-read fonts:

Changing your font type and color can be a one-click solution to making your resume aesthetically unique among a sea of other applicants, but this can also convey some attributes that you wouldn’t want an employer to think of you. Getting passed on based on the content of your resume is far better than being noticed in a negative light because you used Comic Sans and rainbow lettering.

RELATED: What Is the Best Resume Font, Size and Format?

5) Readability first:

I won’t get into specific fonts and their connotations, since personal taste and appropriateness can vary depending on each situation, but using fonts that adversely affect your resume’s readability can only be a bad idea for obvious reasons. If you have any doubt about a typeface’s readability (or if you have to squint and tilt your head to make sense of it,) don’t even think twice about sticking with it. Also consider how you use font modifiers, such as bold and italics. While they can be used effectively to highlight key experiences and achievements, excessive use of them can look messy and become hard to read.

6) Is it professional?

Using less conventional typefaces can be appropriate in a “themed” resume for creative professions, but using anything but a standard-issue style can be distracting and a major turn-off for employers looking for applicants with a sense of professionalism. The fact is that most non-traditional fonts used in resumes are seen as acts of vanity, or even worse, naivety.

For most circumstances, try to stick with traditional fonts, an easily read format which directs the reader to your strengths, and good old black-and-white. (Unless, of course, you’re applying to your local tattoo parlor.)

Final thoughts:

The job application process can be frustrating, and the desire to be noticed can sometimes defeat logic and reason while we’re crafting our resumes. But instead of relying on gimmicky design choices or artsy fonts, concentrate on how you can make your design inviting more than anything. Conventional structure with formatting features which highlight your strengths is a winning competition for most job applications.

It’s important to realize that the only function of resume design is to serve as a welcome mat to enjoy your content. A masterfully formatted resume will only result in rejection if your resume contains typos, weak language, or vagueness. Content should be your first priority, and an inviting format which is easily read and understood is the best way to make sure that this content is read.

Author: Katherine Gredley is an elementary school teacher and an author with She has a special interest in small business management and professional development.

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