Q: I’m planning to work in a creative field and want my resume to stand out without being “over the top.” How should I approach designing it?
If you’re planning to pursue a major or field of study in a more creative field, it is easy to want to incorporate as much flair and eye-catching design in your resume as you would with other elements in your life (such as dress, your portfolio, and creative projects). However, it is imperative that as you craft your resume, you let your information and experience shine and not allow a creative format or design to overpower the document. At the end of the day, a resume is crafted to get you through application tracking portals, past human resources teams, and in the door to get an interview for the position.
Below are some suggestions to make sure that you aren’t passed over for a perfect role as a result of an overly creative resume.
- Form follows function. Your resume is meant to demonstrate that you have the skills, experience, and qualifications necessary for the role you are applying for. Your design should prioritize high quality content.
- Many employers print resumes in black and white. If your creative resume is designed in color, make sure that your type, hierarchy of information, and other visual elements still work when printed in black and white.
- Avoid the temptation to make your resume your brand. The purpose of your resume is to demonstrate that you are qualified; your portfolio allows you to offer more robust examples of your skills. If you’d like to showcase your creative skills, make sure you include a link to your portfolio with sample projects.
- Leave off personal logos, as they tend to brand you as a beginner or student.
- Consider reserving your creative resume only for opportunities where you will physically hand your document to an individual, or share it as a part of your portfolio. Applicant tracking systems can have a difficult time processing creative resumes. You don’t want your application passed over because of a technology issue!
- Be thoughtful and intentional about design elements and what they might convey to an employer. For example, a resume with red and blue fonts and accents on a white sheet of paper will have a strong political reference. Remember that you often won’t be present to explain your design choices to your audience, so consider all potential interpretations.
- Use simple, easy-to-read fonts. Limit your font choice (colors, styles, sizes) to 2-3 so that information is clear and reads at quick glance.
- Your visual hierarchy is critical! Think about how you arrange your information and your resume’s design elements to showcase what is most important to the human eye. Consider: What is biggest? Boldest? Brightest?
Things to Avoid
- Template designs. Despite how sleek many templates are, you need to highlight YOUR design skills, not someone else’s.
- Photos or headshots of yourself.
- Color schemes that are difficult to read or don’t print well in black and white.
- Objectives, professional profiles, or summaries.
- Emojis or icons that resemble emojis.
- References or a line indicating, “References available upon request.”
- High school experiences (once you’re into your second year at college).
- Bar charts, graphs, or infographics where you measure your own skills. This is a completely subjective assessment and not considered professional by employers.