How Creative Should Your Resume Be?

Resumes are getting fancier and more creative.  Applicants are playing in Photoshop, adding design elements and various colours. I've received resumes on CDs, as video links, and even wrapped around a plate of doughnuts. With all the advice out there on grabbing the attention of hiring managers and being memorable leads to a common question: how creative should you get with your resume?


The answer is so subjective. Depending on who is receiving the resume, what the job is, the culture of the company where you've applied and a myriad other factors, you'll get a different answer.


I do love creative resumes, like the ones here or here. I'm impressed at the talent and skill that goes into the concept and execution of these designs  A part of me is jealous, because my brain just doesn't think that way.


As a recruiter, however, I have to admit that I'm apt to take these candidates less seriously than others. If I'm hiring for a creative position - a designer or artist, for example - this type of resume will obviously catch my attention.  But for most other positions, I prefer a clean, easy to read, linear resume.  Partly because that's how I think and it's easier for me to process information that way. 


I also think that your skills and experience should shine through in your resume, and that you don't need fancy graphics or a wacky concept to catch someone's attention.  If that's what you're relying on, then you're in trouble.  Hiring managers are looking for what you've accomplished and what you can do for them, not necessarily how you can present the information.  Sometimes they're one in the same, but not often. (If you're applying for a creative position, or want to share visual examples of what you can do, then consider putting together a portfolio and using it as a supplement to your resume.)


There are practical reasons for keeping your resume in a traditional format, too.  Most employers will have you upload your resume into an online database or applicant tracking system. These systems parse out your key words, dates and skills and deliver the raw data to recruiters in a format that looks like a text file.  Pretty boring. So all the work you put into your fancy resume won't even be seen by a real person.


Even worse, though, is that you also run the risk of your resume not being readable by the systems in the first place.  Which means that none of your information is getting through to the hiring manager.


The bottom line is that when I'm hiring someone, it's not for their resume-writing skills.  It's for their experience, their accomplishments, and how they can bring those to my workplace.  Focus on those things, and the hiring manager (and the applicant tracking system robots) will take notice.

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