6 Reasons You Should Use a Minimalist Resume

Plus the dangers of using graphics, columns and pre-set templates.

Plus the dangers of using graphics, columns and pre-set templates.

6 Reasons to Use a Minimalist Resume

As a resume specialist, I look at a lot of resumes. Pinterest and online templates often encourage you to use lots of colors, graphics and attention seeking doo-dads. These resumes look great - they’re even Instagrammable. But are they the best option for landing an interview? Only if you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer or an artistl Otherwise, not so much. 

Contrary to what you often see online, color blocks and the design layout are not the most important feature of your resume. 

And even worse - those graphics and columns can actually hurt your chances of landing an interview. Yep. That’s right. All that stylized design can make things worse. 

When you apply for a job online, the first eyes that examine your resume are computer eyes - bots. Due to the sheer volume of applications for online jobs, businesses and hiring managers use a system called ATS - applicant tracking system. A computer scans each resume, looking for keywords and skills that match the job description. If your resume is not scannable by ATS, it will be rejected and you may never know. 

Some reports show that up to 75% of submitted resumes are rejected by the ATS because they are not correctly formatted or keyword optimized. That means the hiring manager  will never see your application. So, it’s important to carefully follow the instructions on the applicant website and make sure your resume is clean and clear of any troublemakers.

So what is the most important thing? Words. The actual content. 

You can have a great looking resume but without the right content that clearly articulates your skills, proficiencies and experience AND without a format that makes that content easy to scan and read, you will have little success making it to that coveted interview. 

When I help someone with a resume, I almost always use a clean, minimalist style resume format - no graphics, no photo, very little color (maybe navy or dark green to highlight a headline) and no pre-set template. Here’s why:

6 reasons to jettison the colors and graphics and create a clean, minimalist resume. 

Do NOT USE on resume.png
  1. We’ll start with ATS. Those bots. The fancy graphics and template you are using are not only not important, they can be a hindrance to making it through ATS land. Not all file formats can be read by ATS. Applicant tracking systems cannot scan and decipher the information inside tables, text boxes or boxed columns. This means that this data won’t make it into your applicant profile. Images and graphics also present a problem for ATS. 

    ATS reads information left to right. Anything placed in a column will be read left to right across the page - not down one column and then the next. So your carefully created, stylish columns turn into a hodge podge of jumbled words and phrases. Columns work ONLY if you are simply listing skills that make sense in any order. 

  2. Invisible headers and footers. Info placed inside headers and footers is invisiible to ATS and other computer scanning systems. The computer doesn’t see it so that info is not added to your applicant profile. I often see resumes where the contact info (emails, address, phone numbers) are placed into headers or footers. In many cases, that info won’t show up so even if you are a top candidate, your contact info won’t show up in your profile. 

  3. Be aware of the danger of using a online resume template or resume builder. Many have text boxes (designed to simplify adding your info) or other unseen formatting that will create problems in the ATS. Your best bet is to create a simple resume from scratch. You can use a template as an example, but start your resume with a blank word document.

    If the online application asks for a ASCI or plain text resume, you need to make it even cleaner. Follow the directions here for creating a plain text resume. These look just down right ugly, but they’ll make it through the system. 

  4. Once your resume makes it past the bots, it will often be printed for human eyes in simple black and white - or even gray scale. Why bother creating a perfect colour scheme, when your resume will be printed out in black or grey print? Instead, design a resume that looks good in classic black and white.

  5. Hiring managers and recruiters often note that they prefer resumes to be as clean as possible and easy to read. They want to be able to scan them quickly and find the information they’re looking for.  Rather than helping with legibility, many resumes with blocks of colour and graphics often look cluttered. It’s hard to know where to look for essential skills and job history. 

    When I have trouble finding the pertinent information about your job skills on your resume, I know that a hiring manager will pass on that resume quickly. Most hiring managers, faced with a stack of 100 or more resumes, will spend less than six seconds glancing at your resume. Studies have shown that their eyes spend more time at the top 1/3 of the page. Many resumes I see fill that space with name and contact info in fancy fonts and color boxes. Keep it simple and use that space for your best qualifications.  

  6. A minimal style showcases YOU. Clean and professional, a minimalist resume says that you don’t need to add a lot of fluff to overcompensate. Your skills and experience speak for themselves. 

So what can you do to create a great looking minimalist resume?

Minimalism is based on the idea of “less is more.” In creating a resume, it’s often wise to follow this trend. Three hallmarks of minimalism are clarity, purpose and intentionality - a great place to start in creating a clean, stream-lined resume. Focusing on minimalism can help you get rid of the excess and the superfluous and focus on what’s important.

Here are some formatting options that will pass ATS muster and add some understated style to your minimalist resume. 

  • Fonts: Stick with a classic standard font like Arial, Calibri, Cambria or even Times New Roman. Avernir Next and Garamond also work well. Most resumes look cleanest in just one font - absolutely no more than two.

  • Bold: Bold fonts are great to use for your name, job titles and section headings.

  • Bulleted lists: Standard round bullets are fine. Just don’t get fancy with arrows or other symbols. And don’t sort the lists into columns unless you are simply listing skills. 

  • Colored text: You can use colored text to highlight headings. Make sure it’s not too light to be read when printed in grey scale.  Navy, dark green, and even reds can be acceptable if used minimally. 

If you really just can’t give up that cool, graphic resume, you can always create two resumes. One resume with colors and columns to submit by email or in person (always export to PDF first!)  and a second clean resume for online applications. Or you can simplify your life by just creating one great looking resume that works both places.

Follow the minimalist trend. Get clear on your purpose. What job do you really want? Tailor each resume clearly for each job application.

Lose the clutter - and get the job. 

Anita Flowers, MA, BCC

Anita Flowers, MA, BCC

Anita Flowers is a Board Certified career and life coach and resume specialist at Blue Sage Career Strategies. A little different than most life coaches, Anita’s background in clinical psychology and years of experience as a counselor gives her a rich understanding of human development and family dynamics. Her work history includes 13 years working with an international business company and 14 years doing individual and family counseling as well as career counseling. This blend of counseling and business experience gives Anita a unique perspective on the world of work and life. Anita works with people literally all over the world to help them discover a life and career they love. Contact Anita here to get started on your new career and life!