A year or so ago, I was creating a lot of infographic-style, visual resumes for clients. It was in demand, and I enjoyed it because it was a great way to combine my expertise in resume writing and HR, with my creative background in art & design.
Then I realized that ideology was more about me than it was my customer. People were buying them – a lot of them. And then I stopped offering them altogether. Pulling the plug on a highly profitable product is a tough call, but a necessary one if you want to continue to retain your customer base, and be providing the best quality product for their investment. And that’s it – while it looked nice, and even communicated well, graphical resumes simply aren’t what hiring managers want to see in 9 out of 10 cases.
I create tools to help people get hired quicker, not make them look creative.
Yes, having a flashy resume will make you stand out. For a second. And in a job seeking world where it takes a hiring manager approximately 6 seconds to decide if you’re qualified for the job by looking at your resume, that’s arguably a good chunk of time. But here’s the thing with overly-dynamic design and resumes – it’s often interesting, and even more often poorly executed. And when it is interesting, that supposed wow factor just comes at the expense of the overall message you’re trying to convey through your content, and that’s a recipe for failure.
I hear what you’re saying: “Well, what’s the difference if they’re not reading my resume in the first place? At least having an interesting design will get them to look at it.” There is a big difference between looking at it, and reading it. The only people who might get away with a flashy infographic resume are creative industry professionals, and after 10 years of recruiting for that industry specifically, I will tell you honestly that I have rarely ever seen someone get hired using one.
But fear not, as there are still a couple of creative tactics you can employ to give your resume a well-designed look that helps it stand out among a sea of Helvetica 12 point devotees.
Play with font and formatting in your headline.
You don’t want to be too liberal in your font choice for the body of your document because you want it to be easily readable. But you can deviate slightly with the font, style, and color choice for the header of your resume, i.e. your name and contact information. But use that creativity within reason. I’m a big fan of Helvetica Neue Light – it’s a crisp, clean, light font that gives a slightly stylistic and modern look to text, and I often like to play around with different shades of gray, or even a subtle color to add a little pop.
Incorporate small, non-invasive imagery into your contact info.
I typically encourage people not to put unnecessary graphics on resumes or other documents, but one place you can integrate a more visual element is in displaying your social media profiles, phone number, even email address. Keep it small, one color scheme, and make sure it doesn’t detract from the rest of the document.
Incorporate color & shading into the formatting.
Subtle color and shading can be an effective way to separate out columns and organize different sections of information. Play around with a shaded table for the section header to incorporate a visual element.
Add a page border.
Finally, a thin single or double-line page border can give a sleek look to your resume, and is another way to subtly add color to the document without going overboard. My suggestion is to keep the border around the half inch margin, and use no more than a 1 point line weight. Make sure the border isn’t so commanding that it draws your eye away from the main content of the document.
A creatively designed resume is only half the equation – it needs to be written well above all, telling a story around your career, using key phrases that best describe your value, & convey a brand that speaks to the skills, strengths and experience you bring to the table. That, is what they’re buying.