Resume Graphic Elements

Charts, graphs, tables, text boxes, logos, watermarks, drop caps, industry icons, and spot color are among the other graphic accessories available to you. If you choose to use them, remember that they should be applied like jewelry, tastefully and sparingly.


Typically, you will want to have one main design point on the resume: your name. Adding a text box, table, or graphic might potentially fight with your name for attention, so exercise discretion with these add-ons. Moreover, the extra effort involved in finding the perfect industry icon or watermark might go unappreciated by human resources managers polled in one resume preference survey indicated that the use of an icon does not measurably improve a candidate’s chance of being selected for an interview. This does not mean you cannot use one.

Table of Contents

Create a Visual Pattern

Remember those fashion no-no’s your mother nagged you about? Don’t wear white shoes with a dark, winter print. Don’t wear horizontal stripes if you’re trying to camouflage a few extra pounds. Never mix paisley print with buffalo plaid. A few fashion tips can help your resume earn a place on the best-dressed list. In this section on visual pattern, you’ll learn how to use tabs, create white space, accentuate important text with bullets, organize information into groups of threes, and other important techniques for creating a visual pattern.

Before getting into these pointers, we’ll look at the critical role that consistency plays in attractive formatting. It’s important that you select a pattern and stick with it. You can be creative in your design, but you must be rigid in your application of it. In other words, you can choose from a number of fonts, tab sets, and special treatments to dress up your copy; however, once you have made those choices, don’t introduce new combinations somewhere else in the resume.

Consistency Counts

Design consistency can make a resume more visually palatable and give your reader a sense of order, logic, and purpose. Although readers are primarily looking at the content of your resume, they also can tell certain things about you from the appearance of your resume. Though not a surefire determinant, the appearance might tell the reader that you know better than mixing paisley and plaid. With that in mind, be sure to do the following:

  • Use the same font and point size for each and every heading throughout the resume. Use the same font for all body copy throughout the resume (occasional use of italic within the same font family is acceptable).
  • Use the same amount of line space between headings and copy for each and every entry.
  • Use the same line spacing between headings and horizontal rule lines for each and every category.
  • Use consistent tab sets and bullet styles for all bulleted items within a category heading.

Use Tab Stops Sparingly

To create a pleasing visual pattern, limit your use of tab stops. Depending on the design you choose, you might need only two or three. This number will increase if you use two or three columns of bulleted items under a heading. Every tab stop on the page gives the reader another invisible vertical line to visually absorb. Limited use of tab stops (two or three) minimizes these invisible yet discernible markers. Excessive use of tab stops erodes the sense of pattern.

Apply White Space Liberally

White space—crucial to accentuating visual pattern—refers to any space on the page that is not covered by type. Proper positioning of white space can significantly enhance the readability and appeal of your resume. The Professional Association of Resume Writers concurs. In its examination for the Certified Professional Resume Writer status, writers are graded on a number of criteria for their preparation of a fictitious resume—white space and readability are an important component. While serving as an evaluator for PARW’s and NRWA’s certification boards, we repeatedly saw this visual pitfall (insufficient white space) even among experienced writers.

It is a challenge to find the balance between adequate white space and thorough content in a one-page resume. To squeeze out maximum white space, you’ll need to become friends with some of the lesserknown functions of your word-processing software. Relying solely on the default line spacing to create white space is akin to wearing a baseball glove to take a splinter out of a child’s toe: It won’t do the trick.

Keep Headings to a Minimum

For a clean look with more white space, limit the number of category headings used on a page. Three to five is usually sufficient, with the lesser number preferred. When you have five or more categories and any of them contains just one or two lines under the category heading, experiment with combining the more sparsely populated sections. The following Before and After illustrations saved several line spaces for candidates using one-page resumes.







Three separate categories totaling nearly 13 lines now become one category of 4 lines.



The next example details how a teacher advertises her ability to assist with co-curricular activities (sports, the arts), traditionally a strong selling point in the teaching profession.





Segment Paragraphs

Some situations make it difficult to avoid lengthy or thick blocks of text. For instance, individuals who have worked at the same company for most of their careers might need to devote the majority of their copy to one position. If this is the case, use the segmenting technique to break up an otherwise thick paragraph. Segmenting refers to grouping similar responsibilities together and presenting them in multiple paragraphs, as this investigator needed to do after spending 21 years with the same public agency.