When looking for jobs, you will be faced with the dreaded application process. In the best case, you can send your resumé directly to the hiring manager, and in the worst case, you will have to re-write your entire CV in a centralized system and spend time writing a cover letter too. This is especially frustrating for the creative types, where your portfolio should be the ticket into a job and not boring CVs and other formalities. Alas, things are this way because your application will be first read by an HR manager for an average of 8-10 seconds. This statistic may drive you to create a very visually-impressive resumé… but consider that before the HR manager, it is likely a machine that pre-screens your CV in the hiring funnel (indeed, 90% of Fortune 500 companies use automated technology to screen and manage applications). You sadly cannot escape this process, so here we’ll show you a few tips to write a creative resumé that will get you hired.
Artist Alexandra Jackson has worked in the industry and has shared on their Twitter account what in their experience are the best tips for a CV/resumé to accompany your creative portfolio when applying to jobs. You can read their original thread here, but we are summarizing the main points below (All content and graphics are property and copyright of Alexandra Jackson.)
Now, on to the tips to write a creative resumé:
1. Resist the urge to over-design your CV
Resumés get filtered by software & it must be clean and simple for the software to read it. If your resume can’t be read by software you will get put in the reject pile (we fully agree with this point, it may be tempting to showcase your graphic design skills and originality on your CV, but keep that for later in the process once you are ready to show your portfolio to the creatives that you will meet as part of the interview process).
2. Make the recruiter’s (and your own life) easy
Go down in a Linear Fashion. Create your resume in a word processor, not Photoshop. This way you can easily export as a .docx or .pdf and easily edit it later, which you will need to (Again, absolutely true. Another benefit of this is that you will be able to easily edit your resumé once it becomes outdated, you won’t depend on having Photoshop or Illustrator handy, and the resulting document will also be exported in a print-friendly, lighter format).
3. Keep graphics out of your resumé (with possible exception of a logo)
A little bit of creativity there is fine, just make sure your name is in text form. Recruitment software can’t read images, you want as much in text as possible. (Once more, keep the creativity for your portfolio. A simple letterhead with your name and even a small logo that appears both in your CV and cover letter is appreciated and will make it stand out… but don’t forget it is a machine you’ll have to impress before anything).
4. No icons for software, no expertise bars…
…And also, don’t list a software versions or years. It can date you or make you seem out of touch if you use an icon or version that is too old. (Even if the machine somehow puts your resumé in the chosen pile, put yourself in the shoes of the HR manager that will then further shortlist your candidacy. Do you think they will recognize any icons of fancy creative software?)
5. Don’t be shy about software you don’t (yet) use
If a software is listed in the job you want and you’ve never touched it, put it in anyway, apply, then download a free trial of the software and run through some tutorials. Even basic knowledge of a software is enough to say you know it. (This is actually genius advice. If you already have worked with a graphic design software, you will find alternatives very familiar. This happened to a member of our team when needing to use Affinity Designer after years of Adobe Illustrator. A few YouTube tutorials and they were good to go!)
6. Think about both digital and print versions
Make sure your website and email are clickable in the digital form of your resume. Keep a minimum of two versions of your resume, one with just your email on your website, one with email + phone number and other info for recruiters. (Great ideas – we would suggest keeping a couple of versions of your resumés aimed at different industries. If you are a graphic designer and are interested in a job for a video game company, as well as one in the pharmaceutical industry, keep a resumé template that has a more edgy and familiar tone, and one with a more sober and neutral tone).
7. Use the internet to gather intel
Look at job listings of the positions you want, find the keywords and requirements they are looking for and focus on trying to get them in the experience portion of your resume. You can apply some of the soft skills to work outside of your industry. (This is one of the ultimate life hacks for getting a machine to mark your resumé as relevant. Plus, once you get a pair of human eyes on it, it will show you did your homework).
8. Don’t be shy about talking about all your previous experience
Writing about your experience is where a bunch of the keywords come in and make you seem like a good candidate, do not skimp out on writing about your experience. Only exception is writing about NDA stuff on a publicly facing resumes, please don’t do that.
9. Keep a master document with all the information you may need now (or later)
Create a master document that holds all of the information you would possibly ever talk about, and trim down and tailor to a particular job from that. (As we mentioned above, different industries will need different wording, tones, and approaches, even for very similar positions. You will save a lot of time by pre-tailoring your resumé to a few different industries, then just copy-pasting and tailoring as needed).
10. It’s OK to go over one page
If you have 5-ish years of professional experience its ok to start going over 1 page, and you can start trimming down less relevant experience as you get more experience in your industry.
11. Order items in an intuitive manner
In an optimal layout, these is the order of elements by importance:1. Name, website and contact info 2. Experience 3. Skills and software 4. Education and Awards
And there you go. Follow this advice to get your foot in the door during the interview process. Remember that you first have to impress a machine, then an HR Manager, and only then you will start getting interviews with the actual teams you will be working with. If you are finishing school or fresh out of your program, we highly recommend that you take advantage of the career placement center of your college or university. They usually have resumé-writing workshops, and they’ll be more than happy to personally take a look at your CV and tell you if there is anything that needs improvement. Make sure to follow Alexandra Jackson on Twitter @Alemja_art, and check out their impressive creative portfolio here.