A good graphic design resume is hard to find, but questionable resumes aren’t such a rarity. In fact, in a recent survey by our company, hiring managers provided some examples of unusual—and less than effective—tactics job seekers have used to grab their attention. For example, one candidate put confetti in the resume package, which made a huge mess. Another circled all the “important” words on her resume.
While you may never make mistakes like these, it’s worth reviewing the do’s and don’ts of resume writing. Aside from your design portfolio, a well-crafted resume is a designer’s most effective tool for landing an interview and, ultimately, a graphic design job. But to stand apart from the crowd in today’s competitive employment market, a candidate must submit a document that makes an immediate positive impression. Here’s how:
Use action verbs instead of the personal pronoun “I,” and use an active, rather than passive, verb tense as much as possible when listing your job duties and accomplishments. For instance, instead of writing, “My company has provided me with five years of experience developing product packaging,” say, “Over five years’ experience developing packaging for a cosmetics company.”
Your bullets should be short and to the point. Avoid lofty and redundant language, puns and wordplays. The goal of a resume is to communicate your abilities clearly and concisely, not test the hiring manager’s ability to get your jokes.
It’s also best to format your resume chronologically. According to research by our company, executives prefer work histories listed in reverse chronological order rather than grouped by skills or job function. There are times when it’s necessary to arrange your resume by skills or job function—both are good options for those who have large gaps in their work history or are trying to break into a new field. But in general it’s best to use the traditional (chronological) approach, beginning with your most recent job and working backward.
Remember to tailor your resume for each opportunity by highlighting key achievements and qualifications that relate specifically to the position. Often this may be as simple as reordering bullet points to emphasize certain skills and expertise. In addition, include terms you find in the job description. If you’re applying for a junior graphic designer position and the advertisement for the job includes “project manager” and “experienced with corporate clients,” integrate those phrases into your resume (as long as they’re true, of course!). Many companies electronically screen resumes for keywords, so you can boost your visibility by adopting any applicable phrases.
If you’re sending your resume via standard mail—something many candidates do to stand out from those who submit their materials online—use high-quality, 100% bond stationery and an appropriate color. For example, if you’re applying for a job at an advertising agency, you could choose a shade other than the traditional ivory; that’s not the case if you’re sending your resume to a conservative corporation. No matter where you’re applying, the typeface you use should be simple and easy to read.
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Don’t include a vague laundry list of job duties on your resume. Hiring managers already know the day-to-day responsibilities of a designer. Instead, list the ways in which you’ve benefited previous employers and the concrete contributions you made. Be as specific as possible: “Lead designer for award-winning annual report,” for example.
Don’t list an unprofessional e-mail address on your resume, such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com.” Set up a new e-mail box, if necessary, that uses only your name or a combination of your name and numbers in the address. Along the same lines, don’t provide a link to your personal website or photographs of you and your friends at your bachelor party. You want to convey a professional image and avoid getting too personal.
Remember not to overlook the little things: Even if design is your focus, a resume marred by typos, misspellings or grammatical mistakes sends a message to potential employers that you lack attention to detail. It is always a good idea to use the computer’s spell-check function and ask a friend or relative to review your resume for accuracy.
Last, don’t list references or write “references available on request.” Interviewers assume that you will provide these contacts when asked. However, do give each of your references a copy of your resume to remind them of your achievements.
A well-crafted resume is the key to a great first impression with potential employers. Once you have the do’s and don’ts down, you’ll be one step closer to landing the position you want.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.