For most job seekers, there are basic rules to follow when writing a resume: Focus on accomplishments, incorporate important keywords, print on professional paper and use black ink. But for those applying for jobs in more creative fields, is it necessary to break from tradition and design a creative and provocative resume to get an employer's attention?
In most cases, the answer is no. In fact, even designers, art directors, web developers and other creative professionals need to have resumes that present information clearly, concisely, and in a manner that is easy to read. Corey Schaaf, a graphics and Web designer based in St. Louis, says that the content of a person's resume is more important than the resume's look and feel. "When I'm hiring someone, their resume doesn't exactly have to have a design quality to it," he says. "What I look for is experience and technical knowledge of software applications."
So how do you best showcase your creative talent? Here are five tips to follow:
1. Consider the environment.
Susan Kuehnhold, a graphic designer based in Indianapolis, says that one of the most important things to think about is the environment of the company to which you are applying. She points out that many designers end up working and gaining most of their experience not in creative agencies, but rather in corporations as in-house designers. Kuehnhold says that for most positions and companies, a professional, well-laid-out resume is the most appropriate course to take. If, however, you are applying for a position in an extremely cutting-edge environment or an agency that gets thousands of resumes, a more creative approach can help. Create a clever teaser ad, inviting packaging or an attractive format that demonstrates your creativity or eye for design and draws your prospective employer into your resume.
2. Don't ignore the style of your resume.
Professionals in creative fields should give some thought to the design of their resumes, According to AIGA, the professional association for communication design. Your choice of typefaces, layout, paper stock and other factors contribute to the employer's overall perception of you, and exhibits what you can do with one piece of paper. But, the AIGA warns, don't go overboard. In the end, a resume needs to be readable. Schaaf agrees, and says that when he sifts through resumes, he does not want to see design work at this point, because he is first looking for technical capabilities. Once he finds candidates who offer the right technical abilities, he reviews their creative skills.
3. Consider sending a portfolio "teaser."
Kuehnhold says it is a good idea to send something with your resume that demonstrates your abilities. For example, you can send a CD, a link to a personal portfolio Web site or a few hard copies of your work. Do not expect to get these pieces back, and don't overwhelm the company with examples. Your real opportunity to wow them will come when you show up with your full portfolio.
4. Remember that a resume just gets you in the door.
For those applying for creative positions, the portfolio is a vital job searching tool. According to the AIGA, a portfolio is "portable proof of your design education and a document of your work." It should be professional, have a thoughtful and creative layout, and speak to who you are as a designer. Pieces within the portfolio should be removable and the work should be labeled with descriptions in case you are asked to leave it behind for review and do not have the chance to narrate. Some hiring managers, however, will want you to walk them through your portfolio. "I usually only like looking at portfolio work during the interview because there are so many questions I usually have," Schaaf says.
5. Professionalism counts no matter what the field.
If you want to get noticed by a big advertising firm and are designing an eye-catching, out-of-the-ordinary resume, you still need to follow the same standard rules of professionalism. Typos and grammatical errors are deal breakers, no matter what the field. Follow-up calls and thank-you letters are necessities, not just nice things to do. And, regardless of your creativity, you will get nowhere if you do not do your homework. Know the companies you are approaching, and you will have a better chance of letting your creativity shine.
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