Graphs on Resumes – Mostly Bad

One of the current trends on resumes of top executives are graphs – graphs that show the increase in share price, increase in revenue, company growth rate, reduction of costs, and related metrics of performance.  Most recently I have seen such a graph placed as part of the description for each of the last few positions held.  While a graphical display of certain trends can be impactful, most of what I have seen is just plain clutter.

First, if one of the resume’s destinations is a searchable database, most of these systems cannot handle graphics.

Second, for the human reader, most executives and a large proportion of resume writers know very little about graphic design and in particular the graphic display of information.  I have seen bar graphics with multiple colors that are not consistent from graph to graph, not drawn from a consistent color family, or just plain ugly.  I have seen graphs in which the size and scale of the graphs is out of proportion or inconsistent.  I have seen graphs not properly placed from a design perspective within the text.  And on and on…. It reminds me of the early days of graphics being easily available to users, who got so enamored with the new toys that documents became a hodge-podge of colors, fonts, point sizes, borders, and clip art.

For those have a true application for a graph, it should be punctuation – a single graph with a real message properly designed and placed into the text.  Furthermore, presentation of graphical information is an art.  To learn more about this, check out Edward Tufte’s books, the most famous of which is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, a classic in the field.