Ever applied for a creative job and wondered what the person on the receiving side thinks of your resume? You’ve spent hours designing it and thinking of relevant content to include so you want it to pay off with a job offer. Each employer is different and it’s so difficult to predict how each individual person will react to what you send them but I wanted to share with you a few tips and pointers from my personal experience of being on the receiving end of creative resumes that might be helpful in your next job search. My goal with this is to give you some things to think about and consider when designing your resume. These aren’t hard and fast rules by any means.
Just a bit of background about me: I’ve worked as an art director in an international department of a large publishing corporation for 7 years and spent many of those years receiving resumes and interviewing interns and designers for various positions in the art department. I’ve seen hundreds of resumes and while I mostly based my decisions on online portfolios, I’ve seen and read many things that have made me second-guess certain applicants no matter how good their work seemed. Most of these are common sense things and may seem very obvious but you’d be surprised how many people make the same mistakes.
So, without further ado, here is a little list to consider next time you’re sending off your creative resumes:
1. Check for typos, seriously. Wait, check again before sending!
I know this is one of those common sense things but it’s amazing how many resumes I’ve gotten with really bad typos on them, sometimes even in headers, like in “Accomplishments.” If you’re not great with spelling, have someone else look over your resume. If you’re not absolutely 100% sure about the spelling of a certain word, look it up, it’s so easy to do. Typos, in headers especially, signal laziness to the employer. Your resume is only one page long, it’s very easy to read it over to make sure all is written correctly. Little tip, sometimes, the easiest way to do this is to print a copy out and go through it with a pen in hand. Mistakes are a lot more noticeable on paper.
2. You’re a designer - Word docs are not ok
When you’re applying for a creative role, make sure that your resume reflects your design knowledge in some way, even if it’s very subtle. This is the first thing that the employer will see and if it comes as a Word doc or just a typed out list without any consideration to spacing, hierarchy, and contrast, it may prompt the employer keep scrolling through the resumes. You can have a very simple resume but it has to look like it was intentionally designed. One really easy thing to do that shows intentional design is to make your points/dashes hang so that they clearly stand out from the text and the text is all perfectly aligned. See example here:
It’s so simple but looks so much cleaner.
Sidebars are another great option to pull out some special skills, languages you speak, or anything other than job experience, which should be the main focus of your resume.
And while your resume should look nicely designed, there is always a fine line between well-designed and over-designed. If your resume has too many colors, too many fonts, or just looks like Photoshop threw up on it, tone it down a bit. I’d say a maximum 2 fonts (and that could be two weights of the same typeface) and 2 colors is enough for the resume to still feel cohesive and well-designed.
3. Fluff is for cute puppies only, not your resume
I’ve seen designers with a few years of experience submit resumes that only fill half of a page and intern applicants that had so much text crammed into one page that it had to be set in 6 pt type (please don’t do this!). The half-page resumes not only feel more honest and digestible but they also just look better because they have enough air in them for the design to shine. Don’t fill up the page with any and all experience you can think of. Babysitting your neighbor’s kid when you were 15 is probably not relevant. Designing your school year book probably doesn’t warrant an entire paragraph of explanation. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Packing your resume with lots of text doesn’t make you look more impressive to employers, it makes them have to squint.
Just to add to this point, when I was in school and applying for internships, I’ve definitely made this mistake, too. I didn’t realize this until I was the one reading through resumes.
Similarly, make your header and title relevant to the position you’re applying for. I’ve seen many internship applications that list the person as a creative director, for example. This is not only confusing for the employer, who may be looking for an intern or a junior designer, not a creative director with 10 years experience under their belt, but also just plain misleading. Even though you might have been the creative director of your school newspaper or you have your own creative side business, you have to consider the industry for which you are applying. What is your level of experience within that industry? If you’ve only had internships of junior designer roles in that industry, list yourself as a designer. Once you’ve worked your way up to Art Director or Creative Director, after several years of work in the field, then it makes sense to put that “Creative Director” title in your header. You’ve earned it!
4. “Here are some things I totally dig…”
So I’ve actually gotten resumes with language like this on them. This might be fine for a small cool start-up where people are looking for more laid-back applicants (maybe??), I don’t know, but it didn’t feel appropriate for a corporate job.
Inserting your personality into your resume is a huge plus if you can do it effectively. Just make sure that it’s appropriate for the job you’re applying for. You don’t have to be a stiff if you’re applying for a creative job and people always appreciate humor.
5. Infographics and Illustrations
Ok so I think many people will be divided on this subject, which is why I want to again reiterate that this list is not about hard and fast rules. It’s about my personal experience. I have very mixed feelings about infographics on resumes and I want to explain why.
Don’t get me wrong, I think visually illustrating information is an amazing strategy. When you can see information at a glance without having to read through it, it’s great.
The reason I sometimes don’t like seeing infographics in resumes is that people often use them to show how great they are at using some software programs and how bad they are at using others. I’m all for showing your skills and telling employers how great you are at InDesign but if using an infographic to illustrate this means that you will give yourself 10 stars for InDesign and 2 stars for another program, I feel that it’s almost not worth it. Showing what you lack in your infographic is not really working to your advantage.
Illustrations and infographics are a great way to spice up your resume but make sure they are as clear as possible and work to your benefit.
6. Make your links active
This is a really small thing but you will make the employer’s life easier if they can click on your email and website right from your resume. Make the hyperlinks in InDesign and test them out before sending to make sure everything works. When the employer is reading through a hundred resumes on a Monday morning, while still drinking their first cup of coffee, I promise you they will appreciate your links so much.
7. Parental unit SOS
This is not a resume tip but I wanted to include this in here because it actually happened to me one time. An applicant’s dad called me to ask why his daughter was not hired for a position she applied for. I know that this is not even necessary to say but since it actually happened, please don’t ever do this. Even if your mom or dad work at the same company, which was the case here - that’s even worse. What followed was a really awkward and uncomfortable conversation that didn’t need to happen.
So there you go, these are just a few things I've really wanted to tell people whose resumes I've gotten in the past. I hope that you find it even a little bit helpful. Let me know in the comments if you've got any other helpful resume tips! I'd love to hear them!