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Shred It | Are Graphic Resumes Better?

Marcus Wood
November 5th, 2019 · 4 min read
How We Look At Resumes

If you ask ten people for resume advice, you’ll get different responses. We look at your resume as if we’re evaluating you for an interview, and that means our feedback will be different than what you may receive from a recruiter or professor. We aren’t going to say put in certain buzzwords or optimize your resume for an applicant tracking system (ATS) because we assume you’ll be bypassing the ATS. Engineers look for the meat and potatoes of a resume, and that’s what we’re here to help you cook up!


This week we have a graphic resume sent to us by someone looking for product/project management roles with a focus on software engineering. We really wanted to showcase this resume because A) it looks cool and B) to give you our take on if this gives you and edge.

full resume

First Impression

This resume looks fantastic and is easy on the eyes. I can tell the candidate spent a good amount of time perfecting it and the avatar is a nice touch as well. However, I still prefer a traditional resume. Here why:

  • A measurable portion of the page is filled with graphics over things the candidate has done. I’d rather see that space used for cool side projects, especially for technical resumes.
  • It’s risky to submit this to companies because you don’t know who’s hands it will be in. If I received this resume I’d look at it, but the design doesn’t give an edge over someone with a plain black and white resume. The issue is that it could rub someone the wrong way in a professional environment, and maybe that’s a good thing because the resume acts as a filter for you.
  • I’ve also tried the graphic resume and had absolutely no luck (although didn’t have a lot of experience) for what I believe to be a couple reasons. First, maybe recruiters toss it out because it looks different, but what’s more likely is that ATS systems can’t parse it and your design is never seen by a human. I’m all for bypassing ATS systems, but sometimes you gotta apply through them and wait.

Like I mentioned in my first Shred It post, you have to come out swinging at the top of your resume because people may not make it to the bottom.

Quick aside: Don’t add avatars or images to your resume. Add your LinkedIn to the header if you want people to know what you look like.

Meat and Potatoes

resume intro

Before I look at the work experience I want to share my take with grading your skills on a resume. Don’t do it because it’s too divisive. Here’s what my brain does soon as I see the rating:

  1. I look for the language I’m the most comfortable with (JavaScript) and see 8/10
  2. I compare that ranking to what I’d say about myself. I’ve been working in it for close to five years non-stop and would say I’m a soft 7/10. You don’t know the scale of who’s looking at your resume. My scale is high because I’ve met the crazy smart people who author the libraries I rely on and know I’m not there (yet 🚀).
  3. I look at the bullet points on the resume to see what JavaScript experience is on there, but don’t see any. Now I’m suspicious.

Do you see what I mean? You’re exposing yourself to a lot of risk without a lot to gain because a self-assessed grade won’t increase my view of you as a developer. Moreover, you won’t be in the room when I look at your resume to back up what you’re saying or justify the ranking. The candidate that submitted this resume could definitely be an 8/10 in JavaScript, but the work experience should demonstrate that over a quantitative ranking. Same thing for the tools section, everyone has different scales and you’re not around to back it up.

Chop the ratings and tools section and add an “Open Source” or “Projects” section that showcases your skills that way.

work experience

Wow - now these are bullet points. I’m jealous 🤩. This reinforces using a traditional resume more than anything because you don’t want to distract people from work like this. I love seeing numbers to backup what you did. I put orange rectangles around bullets I would like to see more information on. For example, “Increased 30-day retention rate from 12% to 30% through adding features designed to increase engagement.” I’d like to know what features specifically and it’s good chance to drop in a few buzzwords.

Lasting Impression

resume outro

I always look at the bottom of a resume. This one leaves me feeling…meh. Don’t get me wrong - it covers the bases, but I’d like to see an interests section. I think a cool and quirky interests section makes you more memorable than a graphic resume.

Overall, the candidate has super solid bullet points and experience so I wouldn’t risk getting passed on because of using graphic resume. If anything, it’s taking away from the great working experience they have.

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