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Making your resume and cover letter combo stand out among the dozens or even hundreds submitted for creative jobs may sound like a smart strategy on the surface. But adding visual flair to your application requires a delicate balance of originality and tasteful discretion. In fact, some hiring managers cringe at the mere sight of distracting fonts or glossy headshots. Further, 55 percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said gimmicky resumes are unprofessional — not exactly the kind of first impression you want to make during a job search.
On the other hand, crafting a nonstandard resume can strike a positive chord with hiring managers. Case in point: An especially creative millennial landed an internship at British GQ — without an interview — after submitting a stunning 20-page resume that replicated the magazine’s layout and style. Another hopeful marketing professional scored 10 interviews by dressing up as a courier and hand-delivering resumes hidden inside doughnut boxes.
Lukas Yla’s donut box resume | More info via Business Insider
But how far is too far? And how can you discern the positive resume trends from the gimmicks? If you want to try a creative approach when documenting your career achievements, you’ll need to determine which tactics will work – and which will make hiring managers groan. Following are some resume tips to help you decide which route to take in your search for a new job.
1. Make it relevant to the role.
You know to customize your cover letter for each job post. Why not adapt the format of your resume to a specific opening? For example, to land work as a UX designer, you might show off the skills you’ve amassed by creating an interactive resume website for each potential employer. Or if a design job requires video editing experience, consider assembling a clip that addresses the hiring manager. But writing your resume on a kite for a web developer job? Just no.
2. Let function rule.
Twenty-seven percent of creative executives surveyed said nonstandard approaches work as long as the style doesn’t detract from the information. No matter what format you choose for your resume, make sure your career experience and skills are the main focus. Besides, an overly artistic document may not make it past some companies’ talent management software.
3. Meet a business need.
As you’re writing and customizing your resume and cover letter for each position, go beyond what’s in the job post. Let’s say you spent a year studying in Argentina, and you read in an industry magazine that a company you’re interested in is expanding its presence in South America. Email the hiring manager English and Spanish versions of your application materials to let him or her know you understand the firm’s clientele and value communication and customer service.
4. Nix the pics.
We live in an age when most creatives have a LinkedIn account with a current headshot. Many of us also have Twitter (and possibly Instagram) accounts set to public. But a photo on a resume is often unnecessary.
5. Complement the corporate culture.
Search the potential employer’s website, LinkedIn page and social media accounts and put your creative wit to work: What types of images do they use and what feelings do they evoke? What’s the overall tone of their writing? Who are their clients? Use those findings to customize your resume. If their style is casual and humorous, you may be able to push more boundaries. But if an agency caters mostly to buttoned-up customers, it’s probably best to stick with something more traditional.
6. Watch your file size.
Whether prospective employers use applicant-tracking software or want candidates to email their application, make sure your resume and any accompanying materials won’t overwhelm their system. Bloated files, font conversion issues and too many vector graphics might result in managers dragging-and-dropping your application in the trash.
Above all, remember that your goal when putting together a resume and cover letter is to wow hiring managers with your professionalism – not your quirkiness. When in doubt about a particular approach, it’s usually best to play it safe so you stand out for the right reasons.