Designed Resumes: Help or Hinderance?

Recently just about everyone in my life has been talking about resumes. I personally have completely redesigned my resume within the past week, and I know of a few others who have done so. Many people’s first instinct is to open a Word template, choose a non-threatening serif typeface (usually Times New Roman), and key in the details like they have ever since they began looking for jobs at 16. However this is no longer the best practice to ensure getting an interview, or even better, being offered the position.

People try to stand out by bolding, underlining, or italicizing wildly in order to grab attention and keep it. Some people even go as far as to use a different paper stock to help set them apart. But, in the end, your Times New Roman resume will end up looking much the same as every other Times New Roman resume in the pile without the help of design.

Going off my own experience, many people do not expect designed resumes. Many people have been hired without one, so what’s the point in paying someone to add some colour and switch out typefaces?

Firstly, a designer can help breathe a little life and personality into a resume without going overboard. An article in Forbes titled “Will A Graphic Resume Get You The Job? Experts Respond” by Allison Cheston strongly warns against the superfluous nature of overly-loud resumes. Many experts such a Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands and Rob Wallace of Wallace Church suggest that simple is better. Millman’s reaction is decidedly negative, stating that “Graphics–especially not from a designer–smack of gimmickry and narcissism.” Wallace is more receptive to designed resumes, stating the following:

“For a designer or writer, or even a brand strategist, a portfolio or web site is the place to let your creative star shine. A resume needs to be that much more information driven. However, I would say that I spark to people who brand themselves and use their resume as a place to reflect their core essence.  My recommendation?  Create a logo, use a considered font, explore an expressive colour palette…but never lose vision of the information.”

In the end, communication is key. You need a resume to convey information about yourself in a way that is easy to navigate and understand. If your resume is too gimmicky, then it lacks substance but if it is too plain, it errs towards the side of forgettable. So how can you tread the line between too much and too little?

While it is easy to get frightened off by what the Forbes article says, keep in mind that they probably are referring to colourful, over-the-top resumes you might find on Pinterest. There is a big difference between a six colour, infographic-packed resume and one that has been artfully styled. Here are a couple key factors to keep in mind when delving into the world of designed resumes:

  1. Target audience. Make sure that, no matter what, you design towards an audience. If you lose sight of the type of job you’re applying for, it will almost definitely backfire. This includes customizing certain aspects of your resume to fit the position you want. Only offer pertinent information or else run the risk of looking like you’re trying too hard.
  2. Be wary of standing out too much. Like Millman expressed earlier, too many elements can skew more towards narcissism and leave a prospective employer with a bad impression.
  3. Communication is key. Your resume presents your qualifications as to why you should get the job so you have to let it. If your resume becomes too much of an art piece, it no longer functions the way it is supposed to and therefore becomes useless.
  4. Proof-read. Don’t just count on spell check to catch mistakes. Give your resume to a friend to check for grammatical errors and inconsistencies. More often than not they will catch something you didn’t even notice.

Personally, I have only been met with positive reactions with all of the resumes I have designed. Many employers like the added thought put into them and appreciate the break away from traditional bullet-and-paragraph formats. I’ve complied a list at the bottom that I strongly suggest skimming through as they all have very valid points both in favour and against designed resumes.

If you take nothing else away from this, take this: resumes are a reflection of who you are professionally. While I believe they should have some of your “essence” as a person, they are they to preform a task. Don’t go overboard and, hopefully, everything will work out just fine.

Have you had any luck with designed resumes? Any tips or suggestions to offer? Leave them in the comments!


Additional readings:

Business Insider: Employers Either Love or Hate These Creative Resumes

Her Campus: Creative Resumes: Should You Have One?

Career Cast: Are Creative Resumes A Good Idea?

Undercover Recruiter: Creative Resumes – How Much is Too Much?



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