Dissecting The Good (And Bad) Resume In A Creative Field
I’ve hired (and not hired) many people over the last seven years and I can tell you right now what will help you get a job in a creative field: A COMPELLING RESUME. We have all heard that “you will never get a second chance to make a first impression, ” which rings even more true with a potential employer, when you hand over (or email) your resume (especially in the design field). Think of your resume as your “first impression rose.” Yes, there is still room to get a rose at the end of the night, but with that first impression rose in hand you are golden. It is very hard to ruin a good first impression, and likewise, it is very hard to fix a bad one. With that said, it is 2016, and it is time to amp up your resume. Gone are the days when you could apply for a creative position by simply handing over a boring piece of paper with your credentials on it, so let’s break down the pitt falls and the peaks of what makes or breaks a good resume.
First, lets start with the bad:
1. The “Zero Personality” Resume: Your resume is the first thing a potential employer is going to see, so while you don’t want to assault their eyes with visual chaos, you also don’t want to look like every other resume out there. The content and personality you can display is heavily dependent on the field you work in. If you’re applying for a position on Wall Street, then it’s probably best to leave off the hand drawn flowers and organic lines. But, since we’re talking about creative industries where you can get a little more creative with your resume, there’s nothing wrong with introducing a little color to the page. You’d be surprised at how many resumes we’ve seen, from folks applying for creative positions, showing little to no personality. It’s shocking and upsetting. If you are applying for a creative position then you are, 9 times out of 10, a creative person – SO, get creative, and don’t be basic.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to have a beautiful resume (more on this later).
2. The “Try Hard” Resume: Now, on the opposite spectrum of the “Zero-Personality” resume we have this type – the “Try Hard” Resume. It does show creativity, I will give you that. But there is a fine line between being creative and looking like someone that, based on their resume, would take “casual Friday” way too far. Keep it professional. A few well placed graphics, the right font, and a two-tone design can go a long way in exemplifying you as the perfect candidate on your resume. Making your resume unique doesn’t have to involve 7 different colors, or overly graphic images. The above resumes probably have perfectly acceptable information, but the designs are just very distracting. I give all of these resumes an A+ for design and creativity effort, but they are slightly missing the mark and verge on juvenile.
3. The “TMI” Resume: We all have that friend that feels the need to name drop, and one-up you during every conversation. So it is with the “TMI” resume. We get it – you’re amazing, and totally qualified for the job. But, instead of showcasing everything you’ve done, a resume with too much information tends to look like verbal vomit, and causes most employers to skip through most of the info. It’s just too much to take in (unless your field requires extensive, in-depth descriptions of your skills, and previous experience). Generally a person spends 6 – 10 seconds perusing a resume (I am generous so I gave potential candidates a good 30 seconds – I JOKE), so keep it relevant, concise, and organized. Put the most important information “above the fold” (near the top of the page) and keep it simple. You can do the majority of your bragging during the interview, once you nab an appointment.
3. The “MIA” Resume: Less is more, but we still want to know something. Make sure your resume has enough information to inform a potential employer of the work experience you have. A sentence or two detailing the responsibilities you had at your previous jobs can help them quickly assess if you’ve had the experience they’re looking for. If you have jobs unrelated to the position you’re applying for don’t let them outnumber the amount of jobs you’re listing that are related. It is totally cool to include that you worked part-time for Anthropology, even if you’re applying for Graphic Design position. But, don’t list 5 retail jobs that really have nothing to do with the position, just to “fill out” your resume.
4. The “Spacial Unawareness” Resume: The layout of your resume is so important to the final look. You could have a closet full of awesome items, but if you can’t put one outfit together then you are S.O.L my friend. Same with your resume. You could be the most qualified person for the position, but if you can’t seem to organize that in a way that makes sense you will be doing yourself a disservice. That means no huge blocks of white space, type that’s too small, or confusing “artistic” arrangements. Organize your resume into clear sections or bullets with room for the eye to rest, and utilize the whole page. As a general rule, your resume should never continue onto a second page, as no one will bother to flip the page, so change up your margins or spacing as needed.
6. The “Typecast” Resume: Having the wrong font on your resume can immediately typecast you as the wrong fit for the job. In general, the body of your resume should be a sans serif font (which means it does not have the little “feet” on the top and bottom of each letter). Why? It tends to look cleaner and more modern, especially when typed in a small size. Don’t use 5 different fonts, even if you do think you know what you are doing, and have some amazing fonts in your arsenal. Keep it simple and stick to one or two fonts, using the different weights of the font to create separation between the headers and body.
And may the record forever be stated that (in my opinion) there are certain fonts that should never appear on a professional resume, including, but not limited to, Papyrus, Edwardian Script, and Comic Sans. In fact, Comic Sans should never appear anywhere. Ever.
OK – enough about what not to do, let’s move onto the good news.
Here are a few examples of resumes we think work. They’re elegant, clean, simple, and unique to you. Some of them have a little less information, and are more graphic, while others have a more standard appearance, but still with that hint that aesthetics were considered. The best part? If you’re no graphic designer, some of these resumes are , and fill in with your information. So you really have no excuse.
Left – Design by | Right –
And then, you could always go off page entirely, and come up with some totally inventive and crazy ways to share your resume. We once got one of those little plastic click cameras, where you insert a disk with images that rotate like a mini projector, and it had the portfolio images of the applicant. Although the candidate wasn’t the right for the position (the guy turned out to be over-qualified), we still talk about his resume, and how it was presented (in fact we still talk to him, and will probably someday hire him once we have the budget). It was really unique, completely original and we still have it sitting on our shelves. I call that a GOOD “first impression rose.”
Left – Design By Cai Griffith of for | Right – Design by
Bribing an employer with chocolate has never proven to hurt your chances of getting the job. Not sure if the pills scenario is a good idea, but I can appreciate that the person has a sense of humor (or an extreme addiction).
Just for fun, here are a few resumes from our crew. We’re not claiming they’re stellar examples of everything a resume should be (and they actually have both said they would revise and redesign their resumes now – so they didn’t want to let me include them). But they both left an impression and must have done something right, because they got the interview – and the job.
The long and the short of it: If you’re applying for a position as a creative show your value, skills, and personality in a way that is graceful, creative, and concise. Don’t make someone guess if you know Quickbooks, Photoshop or Excel – write that down. Don’t make them wonder if you have a sense of humor or like to have fun – show them visually, and with taste. We get hundreds of resumes or emails for each job and the ones that offer up the information in the most concise, creative ways get the interviews.
Next up? How to prep for that interview . . .
UPDATE: Many people in the comments think that some of these resumes are ridiculous and wouldn’t get them an interview in their field. If you are applying to be a doctor then No, you don’t need to have a super designed resume – this is advice for the potentials in the design industry. As a design team we have seen so many resumes come across our desks, good and bad, so we are speaking from our personal experience and letting you know how/why we bring in potential hires to interview. While these tips may not be absolutely universal I think its safe to say that having an interesting font, a slight variation in color and being concise and yet looking interesting is never bad advice for any field. Despite how serious your job is it doesn’t hurt to look like you might also be a fun person to sit next to. Am I wrong on that one?