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Can Visual Elements Be Included on my Resume?

Resume guidelines change over time. Years ago, the infographic resume was popular. It included graphs and charts, allowing accomplishments to be visually displayed. Then along came applicant tracking systems (ATS). These computer programs were created so hiring managers could organize the hundreds of resumes they were receiving via electronic submissions. However, ATS software was not able to parse the graphs and charts contained within infographic resumes, so they went by the wayside.

If you last applied for a job during the infographic resume era, you may think the process has gone backwards. Visually appealing resumes felt like a step forward, and now the industry standard is back to plain, text-only resumes. Let's look at a few reasons why it's a good idea to leave visual elements off your resume:

Visual Elements May Not ATS Friendly

graph on a resume

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, graphics may not be ATS-friendly. When the computer program brings your resume in, it may lose the charts and other visual elements you included. The hiring manager will only see what remains. If you have included vital information in an graphic, it may be lost. Keeping your resume simple allows the entire document to be read by the ATS. That, in turn, means that all of the content will be visible to the person making the hiring decision.

Visual Elements Can Result in an Unprofessional Looking Resume

Some job seekers took the infographic resume too far. It ended up being a cluttered mess that was more a distraction than anything else. Although intended to make it easy to see accomplishments and achievements, many resumes became more difficult to digest.

In some cases, the graphic itself was hard to interpret and left the hiring manager scratching their head. Does it show an increase or decrease in sales? What is it meant to display? You don't want to leave the hiring manager guessing or confused.

Resumes have regimented guidelines. Using standard sections and keeping the document simply formatted allows the hiring manager to easily spot what they are seeking. Writing bullets allows information to be clearly presented. Although it may seem boring, it provides a professional appearance.

Any Exceptions?

Yes, there are some exceptions. For example:

  • If you are a graphic designer, a resume that showcases your design skills may be desired.

  • Some job seekers create two resumes. One is formatted for an ATS without any visual elements. This version is used when applying to jobs online. The second may have a few simple visual elements. This one can be sent directly to a hiring manager or recruiter when a job seeker knows an ATS will not be in use.

Final Thoughts

Resumes are expected to be text-based documents. Any use of visual elements, like charts or graphs, should be done sparingly. Visuals are often distracting. They can take away from overall clarity and professionalism of your resume. They may also not be properly interpreted by an Applicant Tracking System. Keep your resume simple to increase your chances of being called in for an interview.

Need help? Revision Resume offers services for job seekers. Reach out to learn more or set up a 15-minute complimentary call to talk about your unique situation.



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