As a professional resume writer, I’ve worked with thousands of clients over the past 10 years to clarify and capitalize on their career-related strengths. A lot has changed during this period; LinkedIn has continued to play a large role in connecting job seekers with opportunities, and candidates have gone to great lengths to stand out against their competition. Trends in resume formats have changed as applicants try to set themselves apart from hundreds of contenders. While graphics tools have become more accessible and easier to use, the question remains as to what type of resume format is truly optimal when it comes to getting hired for your next great role.

Over the past two years, I’ve noticed a substantial increase in the number of clients requesting flashier graphics and non-conventional fonts in their resumes. Popular career websites and blog posts have highlighted CVs that look like magazine covers, with stylized headshots and striking fonts. While these tactics do a great job of making a job seeker feel like they stand out, the resulting resumes often fall flat when it comes to articulating the person’s actual professional progression. Below are the primary reasons why I’ve found simpler resume layouts to be more effective.

Consider the Role of ATS – Applicant Tracking Systems

In the U.S., 75% of large companies use ATS systems, which are tools that evaluate and discard resumes before they even reach the HR department. These platforms range from advanced to old school, as their capabilities vary with the budget and level of IT innovation of the organization. There is very little consensus in the industry regarding what visual and graphic elements these systems can actually decipher. Many highly qualified candidates get rejected because of a complicated resume format. A recent discussion with HR professionals revealed that a basic Word document – without color or graphic elements – is the best way to make sure that your information can be processed and coded by these tools.

Limited Resume Real Estate

From my perspective, the real challenge of creating a winning resume is showing how a candidate has contributed to measurable, quantifiable successes throughout their career. Presenting these details in a way that resonates with hirers while showcasing professional progression can be challenging in only one or two pages. As anyone who has done hiring can attest, most applicants do not do a very good job of clearly articulating their strengths in a format that is easy for the reader to process. Most of the colorful, visually-charged resumes that I’ve seen are very nice to look at as images. But they always fail to highlight the most important factors: what the applicant has accomplished, and how they’ve grown throughout their career. Instead, using a simpler and well-organized, text-based resume often is a better strategy to ensure you have enough space to showcase your relevant and impressive achievements.

The Place for Creativity

Especially for those seeking positions in marketing, branding and tech, the resume is often viewed as another way to showcase design capabilities. My advice is to keep the resume simple, opting instead to utilize a personal website or LinkedIn profile media elements showcase your creativity and design skills. You can now add great features like background photos, infographic images and video content to your profile and provide hyperlinks in your resume.

Ultimately, each of us has a choice to make regarding the balance that we strike between style and substance on the resume. In doing so, make sure the format you use opens doors rather than closing them!


  • Andrea Gerson

    Top-Ranked Resume Writer & Career Strategist

    Andrea Gerson is a career expert with more than 10 years of experience helping professionals find clarity, confidence, and a renewed sense of energy around their work. As the founder of Resume Scripter, she has provided expert guidance and support to over 5,000 clients, many who have gotten hired at organizations including Google, Facebook,Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and the United Nations. Andrea is especially adept at helping those who have difficulty marketing themselves to showcase what they've accomplished. Learn more at and