Here’s a career question I get every day: I’m a creative person and I have had creative jobs but I’m not a trained designer--can my resume be graphic?
When it comes to resumes, I am decidedly old school. I’ve always believed you should stick with a more conservative format since doing the opposite can turn employers off. But we may be at a turning point, as sites like Pinterest gain in popularity and infographics seem to be the order of the day.
To test my assumptions, I spoke with a number of hiring managers and agency heads in advertising, branding and design. While their answers didn’t surprise me, there are some nuances I thought I’d share to provide a more balanced perspective.
Q: If a resume is coming from someone who's not a designer, how receptive are you to color, icons, fancy fonts, background designs and infographics?
A: “Not at all”, says Debbie Millman, President, Design at Sterling Brands. “Graphics--especially not from a designer--smack of gimmickry and narcissism.”
“But I also would discourage designers from using any color, icons, fancy fonts, background designs or infographics. Case in point: My first resume--created 30 years ago--is pictured here. As a designer, I tried to pull out all of the stops. And yes, I look back on it with abject horror.”
Sue Karlin, President of Suka Creative, concurs. “Resumes should be clear, clean and to the point. I don't believe they should entertain, distract or compete with the information the prospective employer or recruiter is looking for. I'm looking for a resume that is clear and easy to scan and for me to get information I need. No fancy fonts, no wild colors, no background designs.”
On the other hand, Rob Wallace, Managing Partner of Wallace Church, believes that everyone, including non-designers, can be creative with a resume. “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 color palette…but never lose vision of the information.”
Bruce Stockler, Global Director of Brand Community at McCann Erickson, says: “You have to think about the specific department to which you are applying. If you're applying to our growth (new business) or account leadership departments, a flashy resume probably won't help. If you are applying for a job in digital creative or digital strategy, a sharp-looking website, Tumblr or HTML resume would probably be a good idea.”
Q: Where do you draw the line?
A: “The line is clear”, says Millman. “Substance over style is the rule for ALL resumes. Any special effects will dilute the gravitas and stature of the impression. You want people to concentrate on your accomplishments and your successes, not the curlicues of a font or unusual shades or contrast of colors.