Your resume is a business document, but it's also a mirror that reflects who you are. A personal touch can help potential employers form a picture of you in their minds, so it's easier to see how you might fit in with their team. By finding ways to add personality to your resume — while remaining professional — you can set your application apart from a sea of similar candidates.
Do: Use a Professional Summary
A professional summary sits at the top of your resume, so it's the perfect place to add personality. Start by using the word "I." Since many resumes use more detached, pronoun-free language, this can surprise employers into paying attention to the start. Use the summary to express your personal brand with phrases such as, "I'm a marketing professional with a science and engineering background," or, "I'm an arts administrator with a passion for pushing traditional theatrical boundaries."
Do: Showcase Your Unique Expertise
Chances are, most of the applicants for any given job have similar experience. To add personality, consider the things that make you different, such as unusual certifications or a background in a completely different industry. Then, include your personal passions in a Hobbies or Personal Activities section. Have you traveled to 50 countries? Are you a long-time volunteer for Habitat for Humanity? Did you complete a training course in wilderness first aid? Small personal facts can make you memorable and relatable.
Do: Enliven Bullet Points
Employers often scan bullet points, looking quickly at qualifications. Draw them in for a closer read by using your lists to add personality. Use a light touch; instead of "Devised a new organizational system for filing," say, "Used my organizational skills to revamp the filing system." This strategy is more engaging and keeps employers connected to you as a professional.
Don't: Use Graphics
Graphics can add personality to your resume, but often in a bad way. Images mark you as an amateur — and worse, they detract from your content. If an employer is viewing your resume on a mobile device, graphics take up valuable screen space that's better devoted to your accomplishments. When your resume is printed, the images may lose visual impact or become pixelated. Keep the focus on your qualifications by staying away from headshots, company logos or ornate section dividers.
Don't: Get Creative With Fonts
Readability is crucial for a professional resume. If an employer must decipher a fancy font, your resume is likely to hit the reject pile. Plus, you run the risk of choosing a hiring manager's most-hated font, automatically predisposing him against you. A better option is to stick with standards: Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Garamond and the like.
Don't: Be Too Casual
Injecting personality into a resume requires a careful tonal balance. Taken too far, this strategy can result in an unprofessional or overly casual document. Stay away from slang and informal language, and avoid talk of politics, religion and personal information that might lead to age discrimination or otherwise bias the employer against you. When in doubt, err on the side of professionalism.
When you add personality to a professional resume, it presents a picture of a whole person rather than a list of qualifications. With the right personal/professional mix, you can present a compelling case for employment.
Image courtesy of One Buck Resume at Flickr.com