This is what experts say about using colors, graphics and emojis on your resume

Photo: Bonnie Kittle

Brevity might be the most telling element of a good resume. It also happens to be one of the more overlooked ones. Experience has to be conveyed in ways that transcend a list of places you’ve worked at thus far in as little time as possible.

According to a new study by staffing firm Robert Half, many young candidates are going the wrong way about standing out from the pack—namely straying too far away from traditional formats. 

“It’s not surprising because we live in a social media world but Bitmojis keep popping up… it’s becoming a really big thing now,” explained Michael French, Regional Vice-President with Robert Half. “Keep it pretty straightforward. Don’t have a lot of fancy fonts or colors. Unless you’re in a really creative field, keep it standard.”

Their in-depth poll of senior managers revealed that 42% would not interview an applicant who used any sort of cartoon imagery in their resume. Just about 25% said they felt the same about applicants who used an excess of colors or unconventional fonts.

To be clear, these stipulations aren’t a rejection of modern aesthetics. A comparable majority of employers surveyed agreed that candidates who evidence a strong online presence are well-positioned to receive callbacks. It all comes down to execution.

Including an infographic in your resume, for instance, is an unconventional way to articulate ingenuity and professionalism which is why participants said they were more likely to hire a candidate who did so.

French suggests that the best way to take advantage of the digital age is by adopting the mind of a recruiter: if you were a hiring manager googling a potential candidate, what kind of results would pique your interest?

“Many employers will Google you to see what comes up. It gives them a bigger picture of who you are and what you do,” said French. “Linking to an online profile like LinkedIn or a personal website is almost going to guarantee you a good chance of moving forward in the hiring process.”

Using a backlog of research Ladders devised a rubric for the perfect job application. Here is the abridged version:

  •  A cover letter should not exceed three paragraphs
  • A resume should use Calibri font, feature zero emojis and be readable in six seconds or less
  • Candidates should follow up one to two weeks after submission

The do’s and don’ts put simply

Most of the tips below relate to transparency.

Recently business expert Suzy Welch revealed how recent grads sabotage their own campaigns by employing dishonest, borrowed phrases.

“Seasoned” “accomplished” and “experienced” are all terms that are positively associated with hireability but how accurate can any of them describe a 23-year-old right out of college?  Nevertheless, these words appear fairly often.

“As a hiring manager I know what you learned during that summer internship,” Welch told CNBC Make it. “You did some research. Mention it. You attended some meetings where important things happened. Describe what you saw and learned. Tell me about your believable, reasonable wins. I will be impressed.”

This rule applies across the board. Transparency elevates a resume from a taxonomy of zip codes to a compelling argument against other applicants.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of hiring managers decide if they are going to hire a candidate six seconds into reading a resume. Given that, there are a couple of things that need to be immediately apparent: Name, contact information, certifications, supporting media.

The first two do not require an explanation. Certifications or any kind of tiles that indicate an advanced degree are great economic ways to convey a lot of information. Similarly, links to relative brands  (blogs, portfolios, social media, etc.) let the employer know that you’re both active and serious. If you’re unsure if you’ve advertised yourself in a timely manner, Amanda Augustine of TopResume has a helpful trick:

“When you glance at the top of your resume, are your job goals and qualifications obvious? If you’re unsure, hand your resume over to a friend. It actually helps if this person is not in your line of work. Ask them to quickly scan your resume for no more than 30 seconds – this is longer than the average recruiter takes. If they can’t easily identify your job goals and qualifications, then you know it won’t pass a resume test and there’s still work to be done.”

Brevity is the meat of a good resume but there are little ingredients that provide an additional boost to callback rates.

According to research, Calibri is the safest choice as far as fonts are concerned. Professional resume expert Donna Svei posits that because it renders so smoothly on computer screens hiring managers are more likely to continue reading documents that feature it.

French of Robert Half recommends a cover letter length of roughly three-paragraphs based on past research. Each paragraph should be able to be read in four seconds or less. An independent survey published by Robert half asked hiring managers how long job seekers should wait before following up, check out the responses below:

  • Less than one week: 19%
  • One to less than two weeks: 43%
  • Two to less than three weeks: 30%
  • Three weeks or more: 8%
  • They shouldn’t follow up: 0%

“I think so many people focus on their hard skills, things they’ve done at work, they forget that companies hire the whole person,” French said in a press statement. “They want to make sure the person they’re hiring has interests outside of work and what those interests are. So the outside of work experience is just as important as the at-work experience.”