One of the most common mistakes people make is adding graphics to their resumes. The most frequent example of this is the use of diagrams.

There are several reasons to avoid using any type of graphics on your resume, some of which relate to diagrams specifically.

Readability and Parsing

In very specific cases, conservative use of graphics is acceptable. However, you should limit them to Unicode symbols like bullet points.

Unicode: Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems.

— See http://unicode.org/charts/#symbols for more information on Unicode symbols.

You should avoid non-unicode graphics completely. In other words, never import, place, or drag-and-drop an image into your resume. This is because images can interfere with the software companies use to parse your resume.

Parsing: Parsing is the process of analyzing a string of symbols, either in natural language, computer languages, or data structures.

When you apply for a job online or create a new account on a job board like ZipRecruiter, you will be asked to upload your resume. Often, the contact information on your resume will be parsed into the application form. In other words, the software will automatically fill out the application form using information from your resume. Good parsers can interpret more complicated information like your employment history and list of skills, so having a parsable resume can save you a lot of time!

Meaningful Information

When used in the right context, a diagram can be a great communication tool. It can be tempting to use diagrams like bar charts or pie charts in your resume. However, doing so will not only interfere with parsing, but it will reduce the amount of meaningful information on your resume.

Let’s look at an example:

This example provides some meaningful information. Specifically, it tells the reader that this person has experience using Adobe software and web-design languages. To communicate this to the reader, this person uses something called a 100% bar chart. While these certainly look nice, the information represented by each bar is actually meaningless.

In order to convey meaningful information, we need to know what’s actually being measured. For example, we know the total value of a dollar, so we know that 25% of a dollar is twenty five cents. But these diagrams are measuring something else. For example, one of them shows us that this person has 50% Photoshop experience. What’s the objective, measurable value of Photoshop experience? There’s simply no answer to this question. These diagrams aren’t telling the reader anything and are taking up space that could be used for more meaningful information.

There are several better ways to showcase your abilities on your resume. For more information on how to do this, please see the articles on Experience and Skills.

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