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  • Writer's pictureMatt Chung

Fancy vs. Traditional Resume Layout

Updated: Nov 6, 2023



Is the black-and-white traditional CV format a thing of the past? Surely, it is time to replace them with a visually pleasing, fancy, modern layout, right?

Not so fast!

I constantly receive this question. Is it better to use a creative layout or a more traditional, professional format? If you search for fancy resume templates, you will find a ton of free and paid templates that claim to increase the effectiveness of your resume and lead to more interviews.

Based on all my experience and interactions with professionals in the recruitment and HR industry, unfortunately, this is just NOT true.

One caveat before I continue: the tips in this video are NOT for design or art-related industries where there is often an expectation to showcase your creativity, even in your CV. In such a case, you should absolutely do so. The advice in this video is for people working in a more corporate setting rather than the more artistic/creative arena, which I believe is most of you.

Now, back to the topic, what are the benefits of using a creative/fancy layout:

  1. The biggest (and perhaps the only) benefit is that it looks nice; It has colors, columns, tables, sometimes infographics, charts, etc. They look modern.

  2. So You may be asking, what’s wrong with a CV that looks nice? Why shouldn’t everyone use it?

The reason is this. These new so-called modern designs, while they may enhance the look and feel of your CV, they sacrifice other, much more essential factors that enable you to land your first interview (which by the way, is the ultimate goal of a successful resume).

What are these factors? I’m going to talk about three things in this video.

1. Readability

  1. When I say readability, I am referring to the ability for readers to find the information they are looking for easily and quickly

  2. Let me explain what happens when recruiters, hiring managers, and hr professionals open a resume. They do not spend 10 minutes carefully analyzing every aspect of your CV. They don’t even spend 1 minute.

  3. The average time spent reading a CV before deciding either to close it or to read further is about 6 seconds.

  4. During these 6 seconds, if they can find the details they are looking for, they will read further; if not, it’s closed

  5. Is that too short? Probably. But then again, when you have to go through that many resumes every day, there is simply no way you can spend very much time on each and every profile that comes their way

  6. When people need to screen through hundreds of CVs, finding the information they are looking for in the location they expect to find them becomes crucial.

  7. I am all for a clean and nice look. But if it sacrifices readability by re-organizing the usual layout that most people are used to. And causing them to spend more time adapting to the new format in the first 6 seconds, then it actually becomes counterproductive

2. Wasted Space

  1. On a related note, these templates also waste valuable space, especially on the first page of your cv

  2. The first page (especially the top half of the first page) is where the most attention will go first. It is the prime real estate of your profile.

  3. So many of these templates have columns that display low-priority information right on the first page.

  4. I am talking about things like the skill section, hobbies, education etc.

  5. And as a result, the more essential, higher-priority details get pushed further down your resume which, in turn, makes it even more difficult to find the key details employers are looking for.

3. Content

  1. Another big problem that I observe with creative templates is that the main focus is on creating a nice look and feel rather than the actual content

  2. Many of these templates have relatively rigid structures that force you to fit your content into their columns and tables.

  3. So what generally happens is that the most important message of your CV, such as Work experience, career summary, and others, become relatively shortened in order to ensure a nice design.

  4. Or you need to make the font much smaller to fit all your details into these layouts (which again sacrifices readability)

  5. Please make no mistake. What will lead to your first interview is not the design or how many colors you have, etc.

  6. The decisive factor is your content. A detailed, engaging description of the most relevant experience written in a clear, easy-to-read manner is what will ultimately lead to your success.

Again, I have nothing against clean and nice-looking designs. In fact, your CV must have a clean, clear, and professional look and feel.

The problem with these creative templates is that they go too far to the point that the more essential and critical factors are neglected.

The main point is to ensure that the reader can find the right details they are looking for as easily and quickly as possible.

In that department, the traditional professional layout is the proven and safe choice.

Thank you for reading, and all the best!

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