If you’ve looked at executive resumes lately, you’ve probably noticed trend lines, charts, or infographic elements.

Many resume are also featuring innovative dashes of color and other non-traditional elements. Even Marissa Mayer’s resume caused a stir when released, showing varied shades of color, a headshot, and unusual formatting.

So – what if your resume isn’t using a chart to show off your achievements? Are you behind the times?

Do you REALLY need visual elements to convey your message?

Like any other facet of executive resume writing, it depends. There’s no requirement to convert all your data into visuals, just as there are no rules about keeping it in black-and-white format.

Here are 3 items to consider long before adding a chart, unusual colors, or other seemingly progressive elements to your executive resume:


1 – Will the hiring audience want to see a chart on your resume?

executive resume writingIn a conservative field such as corporate accounting, for example, a bold look might be considered over-the-top and too distracting.

However, a candidate vying for a Marketing Director job can gain an edge by showing results across an array of colorful tables or trend lines.

The bottom line is this: no matter how you feel about the presentation of your executive resume, most employers have personal preferences aligned with their corporate needs, just as they know what type of candidates they’re seeking.

If your message isn’t aligned with employer expectations, it won’t matter what template you download or what advice you read online: the target audience has the final say.

This principle applies to any type of marketing message, in which the marketer tries a new angle and the audience either readily accepts it (such as McDonald’s color scheme) or reads too much into it (such as the design of Starbucks holiday cups).

In other words, if you’re unsure whether the style of your resume is too distracting, peel back that neon green and start over.


2 – How will you be using your resume? Networking or online applications?

Whether you’re circulating a short Networking Resume among personal contacts – or hitting Send on an online job posting – makes all the difference in the format of your resume.

In the former case, a striking presentation complete with charts can drive home your performance and make a positive impression. In the latter, an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) system can spit out your resume if it can’t parse the information you sent.

Most executive resumes with infographics are suitable for the human reader, who will digest visual data more readily than line after line of numbers. But when you’re applying for a role requiring your resume to be uploaded into an ATS or scanning system, you can lose your shot if it gets tripped up in the process.

In this case, you’ll fare better by converting your executive resume to either a plain, minimal-color version or an even plainer-looking ASCII text file (save it as a .txt file, then edit it to ensure the data is easy to read). Your professional resume writer should also be able to build a version that blends text with graphic images.

Then, use the stripped-down resume format for an online job posting, and follow up by sending your highly formatted executive resume directly to a company insider.


3 – Does your resume contain large amounts of data suitable for a chart?

Consider the chart shown in this CEO and Board Advisor resume, which clearly draws a comparison between his company performance and that of competing firms.

executive resume

By leading this operation to peak growth in history, this CEO positioned both the operation and himself for a successful exit – and caught the eye of investors lined up for the same results. In other words, a chart MADE SENSE for this resume!

If you’re struggling to assess what data could make sense on a resume chart, however, it might be best to put down the graphics tools and ask yourself what message you’re trying to send.

Not all careers will fit neatly into a visual depiction – and not all executive resumes benefit from rearranging the numbers to create one.

Be sure your career history warrants the extra effort and visual appeal of a chart before putting it front and center on your resume.


In summary, the striking presentations used on some executive resumes pack a powerful first impression, and help outline the candidate’s personal brand proposition.

Keep in mind that you may need a more conservative version, PLUS your infographic or chart-laden resume – and road-test BOTH types of resumes to gauge the results.