Overall, the results are quite clear. Here are 5 key takeaways:

1.Recruiters pretty much always see the original version of the resume, whether it’s in Word, plain text, or a .PDF file – the original will be seen by recruiters. 

The responses for this question were nearly unanimous, with over 91% of respondents claiming they always view all resumes in the original formats. Just under 9% claimed they only view the original resume presentation of top-ranking candidates once they have used ATS. Nobody claimed they only ever reviewed the plain text produced in applicant tracking software (ATS).

2.As offices go paperless, fewer resumes are being printed as hard copies.

This isn’t surprising. Fewer than 7% of respondents print out every resume they receive, and this practice mostly occurs in the HR offices of small firms and private (and presumably small) recruiting firms. Over 56% of recruiters surveyed print out only a handful of resumes from their top contenders, and 36%+ of respondents work in completely paperless environments.

3.Resume screening and recruiting is a young person’s game.

Bear in mind, this is a survey of recruiters and HR resume screeners – not of final decision-makers. Most job seekers have to get their resumes through these gatekeepers, who tend to be younger, before they get a chance to impress their future boss, who may be significantly older.

Of the 103 respondents, only 13 were Baby Boomers and 34 were Gen Xers. Nearly half of all respondents (51) were Millenials, and even 5 recruiters claimed to be born after 1995, representing the emerging Generation Z.

4.There is a clear generational divide when it comes to visual preferences. 

Overall, recruiters prefer a dash of color and many are opening up to graphic elements. Of 103 respondents, 39 preferred simple black and white resumes, 46 wanted to see at least a little color, and 17 preferred visually interesting resumes with charts and graphs.

The results get more interesting when you compare them among the generations. 

  • Baby boomers overwhelmingly prefer plain black and white, but even 30% wanted to see at least some color. 

  • Only 50% of Gen Xers preferred plain black and white resumes. The rest preferred some color, and even 14% wanted to see charts and graphics.

  • Millenials are steering away from the plain black and white zebras, with only a 25%+ vote. More than half of Millenials (52%+) wanted color and 19%+ favored charts and graphs.

  • Generation Z recruiters need at least a little color with 0% preferring a plain black and white presentation.

5.HR offices are slightly more conservative than private recruiters.

Overall, there did not seem to be great differences between HR offices and private recruiting firms, though HR firms tended to be more conservative in their formatting preferences, favoring plain black and white resumes by 42%+, colorful resumes 47%+, and graphic resumes 9%+. By contrast, only 34%+ of respondents from private recruiting firms preferred plain black and white resumes; 44%+ chose a dash of colors and 19% liked graphic resumes.

In Conclusion:​

​It appears the best strategy for job seekers is to tailor their resume style to the industry and company they are targeting. For example, if you are applying to an accounting position at a large, established firm like Hartford Financial Services Group, you’re probably safe with a plain black and white resume. In contrast, If you are working with a private recruiter to find marketing jobs at cutting-edge Silicon Valley startups, you’ll likely want to be generous with the colors and graphics.

You can view the details of this survey for yourself at 

2019 AspirationsResume.com Recruiter Survey

View results by type of respondents:

Results from Baby Boomer Respondents
​Results from Gen X Respondents
Results from Millenial Respondents
Results from Gen Z Respondents

Results from HR Offices - Large Companies
Results from HR Offices - Small Companies

Results from Private Recruiting Firms

Eye-Opening Survey of How Recruiters View Resume Formats

The Results Are In. I surveyed 103 recruiters about preferred resumes formats and their answers may surprise you.

The respondents represented a good mix of private recruiters versus resume screeners who work in internal human resources departments. Of the 103 recruiters surveyed, 52 came from private recruiting firms, 42 came from the HR offices of large companies, and 9 came from the HR offices of small firms.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a scientist or statistician – I am a resume writer who is trying to do the best job for her clients, and on one particularly frustrating afternoon, I set up a brief SurveyMonkey poll that asked 5 simple questions:

  • Where do you work (HR office or private recruiting firm)?
  • Do you even see original resume formats (or do you only see plain data through ATS)?
  • Do you still print out hard copies of resumes?
  • What style of resume do you prefer (plain, colorful, or graphic)?
  • What is your general age/generation?

I then posted this survey on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, targeting recruiter groups and reaching out to random recruiters recommended to me by LinkedIn until I received at least 100 responses. 

If I had to do it again, I would absolutely add a question about industry. Probably the most common messages I received from recruiters was along the lines of “I recruit for many different job types, so a plain black and white resume is fine for an accountant, and a creative resume is fine for more creative professionals.” A couple of recruiters even told me that they selected the “A little dash of color, but otherwise plain” option just to split the difference.

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