One piece of business communication that hasn’t changed in a thousand years is the résumé. It’s the first contact you have with a prospective employer and your chance to sell yourself in 20 seconds. With such pressure, most people make huge mistakes with their résumé.
Seasoned professionals struggle with issues such as the chronological vs. the functional, editing to keep a long career under two pages and how to truthfully show one’s life without broadcasting they are older, heavily experienced and most probably highly paid.
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For those just beginning, the biggest problem is having little to nothing to put on a résumé. You can go through books on résumés, web sites, examples of the résumés of friends and family members but the best way to see what is strong and what is frightening is to advertise a job opening and see what examples you receive. Every now and then, I find myself in a position that needs a designer, assistant or associate and hundreds of résumés pour in. Almost by nature, three piles form: possible, probably not but I’ll reconsider them and save these for a book of the worst résumés I have ever seen.
For those just starting out, what can you really put on a résumé? Perhaps you did a logo for your uncle’s business or made fliers for a school dance? That’s more than some people have. You will get many opinions and advice about your résumé but there are hard and fast rules and with many companies using on-line applications, it gets tougher. Computers and not people take the first round of the three piles, kicking out résumés without the dozen or so keywords programmed in to help the Dreamcrusher 3000 throw away those who don’t make each needed keyword. Keywords are little words a programmer installs in the search code to separate applicants by the words in their résumé. If it’s a management position, the words, “leadership,” “management” or “executive” will pass the filter. You can pick up on keywords from the job ad. Use the responsibilities listed in the ad to come up with keywords and install them into your résumé. I suggest you read up on keywords, cover letters and résumés. It’s an ever-changing field.
Whether just starting out or a you’re a seasoned professional, even with changes in hiring software and practices, these are the biggest problems you will find listed in endless articles about the proper résumé:
If you are applying for a position as a graphic designer, obviously that is your goal – to design! When I see someone list their goal as, “to make the world a better place, one design at a time,” or “to stretch myself as a designer and discover new techniques and experience,” I die a little inside. Actually, I laugh and throw them away. It’s foolish and reeks of amateurish attempts to be poetic and impressive. No one is buying it and you wouldn’t want to work for anyone who does.
Some advice, which I follow, is an untitled overview to catch the eye. List some specialty that pertains to the position to which you are applying. “Certified Google AdSense Expert.” It’s $10 to take the test, so seek out simple tests and certifications to pump up a résumé that has no or limited work history. Read and reread the Adobe manual for Photoshop and get certified as an Expert by Adobe. Find something to make the reader go to the next line!
Bad move! At least in America, identifying your gender, color or culture before an interview is a problem for the Equal Employment Opportunities Act. The hiring manager will have to throw away your résumé no matter how much you may fit the position. In countries without the same hiring rules, you just run the chance the hiring manager will not like the way you look or you will remind them of someone they hate. A picture adds nothing.
I skipped by a résumé that told me the applicant collected weapons and was a fourth degree black belt in mixed martial arts and enjoyed horror films. If you tell someone you have six cats, they will most likely be a dog lover. If you reveal you study clog dancing… well, no one will like you! Hobbies have no place in business communications and neither do your interests, living situation, number of kids, weapons or pets.
If you want to be a designer but have never worked as a designer, listing you were the assistant checker in the local supermarket means nothing. It is another red flag for a hiring manager that you are not serious enough to take a chance on.
Always keep in mind that every new employee represents a gamble for a company. Training, loss due to mistakes on the learning curve and severance pay for people who are fired can add up, so employers need to be 100% sure they have hired the right person.
Says who? If you include a few claims, like, “great leadership qualities,” or “intense desire to grow as a designer,” the reader will just throw out your résumé. Once you have experience under your belt, either as a staff or freelance person, you should include accomplishments such as, saving production costs, a successful campaign that brought in higher revenue or more business. Companies want people who will make them money and not just someone who will park themselves at a desk all day and then leave.
I’ve always sought out opportunities I could do that would benefit the company and be a great entry in my résumé. While at one corporation, my daily emails to a number of coworkers, which included innovative technologies that could apply to our products, became a weekly e-newsletter that eventually was distributed company wide. It took 20-30 hours a week, eating up my lunch time, a few hours after work and a couple of hours on weekends but the notoriety within the company still has people talking about the newsletter over three years since I departed that corporation and it’s a great tick on my résumé!
Even seeking out volunteer opportunities outside your company, if it has to do with your field, can be very impressive on a résumé. If you are still in art school, try volunteering to design something for a non-profit organization. Aside from the freebie entitling you to do what you want without design-by-committee, you create a portfolio piece as well as a great listing on your résumé and networking connections, too!
So, you have nothing to list for work experience. What do you do? Time to become creative… but not TOO creative. Here’s a few creative résumés that creatives love and emulate. They don’t work and here’s why:
While I can’t make heads or tails of this résumé, the person to whom it belongs claims, “Been busy working for the man. This is my CV which I did at the beginning of the year which probably laid me the job.” (sic). I don’t know if he landed a fulltime job or a project but being “laid” doesn’t sound too bad. His post reminds us all that you need to have your résumé proofread by several people because too many people will miss a typo and that’s a deal-breaker for most employers.
An interesting approach which, for better or worse, resembles a WordPress theme. If anything positive can be said… it looks like a nice WordPress theme. On the negative side, it’s very busy will not printout well on a black and white printer (remember, most human resources/hiring managers have a laser printer for printing) and will end up being thrown away once the recipient sees it’s too grayed out.
Yikes! It looks like a car accident without the charm. The biggest mistake the person to whom this belongs makes is in his posting; “I use some picture that i got from [link]. if you own those picture. msg me for credit.” (sic). Again, plenty of typos and admitting to pirating images tells me the person may be a liability to my business. It’s also too long to be printed out in one piece. Despite what you may think, no hiring manager wants one résumé sticking out of a neat pile of 8.5×11 papers and it won’t fit into their file tray. Won’t fit? Out it goes!
More interesting as a leave behind portfolio. As a résumé, it’s too much work to read it. I’m also willing to bet it was really expensive!
I’ll say this for her résumé – it’s clean! Personally, I hate the timeline because it makes the reader work to decipher the dates. The big mistake, at least in the United States, is the equal opportunities law mentioned before. Keep the photos for a dating site. In business, it’s better to let your experience and work speak for itself. To be truthful, if you are a stunning beauty, you may have a better than average chance at getting the job. You also have a better than average chance of your boss wanting certain “favors.”
I’m a huge fan of retro design and this is well done. Otherwise, between the format, colors and content, it breaks too many rules… and not in the good way.
Closer on the readability scale, there are still the mistakes of experience that has nothing to do with design and aside from the flowery objective/goals entries, the design is needlessly “flowery.”
I love the creative angle and this would impress a creative director to whom it was given. It’s a reminder that everyone needs not one but several résumés. Know to whom you are submitting your résumé! If it’s a hiring manager, go more traditional. If it’s a creative director, then you should go for impressing them with your creative ability. The previous examples, despite my comments, should be aimed ONLY at creative directors.
For these pieces, I would leave several in a coffee shop near a large agency or even in the reception area of a large agency or design firm. Get friendly with the receptionist and he/she might put a stack in the company kitchen!
Absolutely brilliant! You’ll get a great waiter job with this résumé.
Apparently, according to the artist, she still hasn’t found employment. Perhaps she’ll read this article and find out why. Her screen name “cunt-art” won’t win any fans among hiring managers.
Fans of negative space will love this résumé. It still leans too heavily on non-design personal information. Clean and readable can work for hiring managers as well as creative directors. Many times both will share one résumé. It can be a tough choice for the designer.
The truth is, as mentioned, a résumé is usually viewed by someone who isn’t creative and they don’t understand the previous examples. They are familiar with the age-old rules and that’s what they want to see. Creative directors want to be amazed by a résumé. So what do you do?
In conclusion, a résumé should not be written in stone. It has to be flexible for the position to which you are applying. As with some of the cleaner designed résumés shown as examples, you must be able to plug in different information based on the position’s requirements. You have to know your audience with each résumé, much like any web site or print piece you design. Your résumé, after all, is an ad for yourself and you want an employer to buy you. As with any ad, if you clutter it up with information people don’t believe or want (i.e. non-related job history, self assessed skills and personal information), you aren’t going to sell a thing.
While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great facts and tips. Feel free to share it with us.