I see most people use a black and white academic CV. Will it be any problem
if I use a color CV like this template, which is mostly monochrome but uses blue in some places.

(I am applying for Graduate admission)

  • 39
    If you do use a color CV make sure it still looks good when printed monochrome! – Noah Snyder Jan 7 '16 at 20:19
  • 1
    @NoahSnyder this should be an answer. – dgraziotin Jan 7 '16 at 20:28
  • 1
    @dgraziotin: Ok. – Noah Snyder Jan 7 '16 at 21:17
  • 2
    Whatever you do, dont use coloured paper! – Spacedman Jan 8 '16 at 8:24
  • 1
    @Ooker, quite likely at the shortlist stage, so the interviewers have it to refer to. – Chris H Jan 8 '16 at 9:33

The general advice is that CVs should be outstanding because of their content while their form should be relatively dull-to-boring.

The example you link to has very subtle use of color (a dark blue for headings) and is tolerable. However, you still run the risk running into faculty with the perception that:

  1. your over-designed CV is either hiding things (i.e., lack of content)
  2. your over-designed CV is just a dressed up resume and that you don't understand academia at all

For those reasons, it's safest to go with a boring CV style and work on building content instead. This is generic advice for both graduate admissions as well as academic job searches.

  • 17
    I disagree about making it boring for the reasons you list. Design is a game of psychology with remarkable power. If you can convey the information in a more impactful way, then do it! Also, I think this must be field dependent because there are many top HCI researchers with extremely nice CVs with a lot of embellishments and images throughout. – Austin Henley Jan 7 '16 at 21:03
  • 1
    Conversely, the bigger your name, the more latitude you have to make your cv more beautiful. – RoboKaren Jan 7 '16 at 21:05
  • 1
    @AustinHenley A quick google search for cv in HCI reveals to me that they are still in simple format. – Ooker Jan 8 '16 at 3:01
  • 1
    @Ooker Ok, I'll be more specific: Many CVs in HCI do not follow the typical boring format. – Austin Henley Jan 8 '16 at 4:44
  • 5
    A basic implementation of the moderncv package is hardly a case of over-design. Really, all it means is that the applicant preferred to write their CV in LaTeX rather than Word, which is a pretty common situation in STEM subjects. – Moriarty Jan 8 '16 at 13:40

If you do use a color CV make sure it still looks good when printed monochrome! Some people on the committee will prefer to read hard copies, and in all likelihood they will be printed in monochrome.

  • 3
    It's a good general rule in academic writing to fall back gracefully when printed in monochrome -- most journals make it a (soft) requirement as well. – Chris H Jan 8 '16 at 9:35
  • also often photocopied in b&w – JamesRyan Jan 9 '16 at 16:18
  • 1
    (+1) That's true for every electronically created file that is destined for reading. Think how it would look on printed page... the even stronger test is "think how it would look after being faxed" (still around, these old timers). – Alecos Papadopoulos Jan 9 '16 at 18:31

The content is the most important thing on a CV.

That said, those reading your CV will be reading many others, and you want to do everything possible to make your CV readable, but also make it stand out.

If you can use color in a professional way that makes important stuff stand out, it is my opinion that you should go for it! Just make sure your colors do not stand out too much against the rest of the text. (Bright red and black on white paper doesn't look good, but black and a gray-blue theme could go well.) Some color palettes are better than others, and different palettes might go better with different fonts or layouts.

Make your design simple (so as to not distract from your accomplishments), easy-to-read (to make the document easier to skim), and visually attractive (to make it stand out from all the other CVs). Choose a color that enhances these qualities.

I would also caution against using more than one color, unless you really know what you're doing and/or graphic design is part of the job you are applying for.


The moderncv class is the left-justified Times New Roman of CVs in LaTeX. It looks good, uses color reasonably, and has well-engineered defaults, so don't worry about issues when printing in black or white. It is a very popular package; for sure, everyone who has ever had to scan an academic CV in a scientific field has already seen a CV formatted to look exactly like yours. This isn't a bad thing in my view: it is unlikely to attract negative attention. As for attracting positive attention, generally you want to do that with the content of your CV, not with its unusual formatting. :)


In my point if view, a CV with colors is for digital viewing purposes. For instance, I usually color links in my CV for a person who views it in a PDF viewer to be able to click on the links.

However, if darker colors are chosen (such as navy blue or brick red), it would not cause any problems when printed grayscale. However, if one chooses to use colors like bright green, then the links (or references) will be printed obscure.


I agree with most of the replies given above. Most of the PIs use hard copies of applications while doing a video or phone interview with you and that is when they will look for specific points to frame a question for you. As such having a CV with black font is better. You can always use differences in font sizes for topics, sub-topics and text such that it becomes easily readable.


My thoughts:

  1. Body text should always be black. At small sizes on normal printers black text will be far sharper than any other color.
  2. Background should always be white.
  3. Larger text doesn't have to be pure black but shuold be in dark colors that will stand up well to black and white printing and/or photocopying.

Overall the template you show doesn't look too bad but a darker blue would reduce the risk of bad copies.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.