Is a graphic resume right for you? Here’s what to know about this unique approach. [TWEET]

Decorative resumes on colorful paper may be pretty and unique, but they are often tossed right away. While hiring managers love unique content, organized in an easy-to-read format, they aren’t as pleased with resumes using logos and colors; these resumes can appear unprofessional and a little silly.

However, there are a few careers where the use of a visual resume is necessary to show ability. Graphic designers, artists, advertisement specialists, and web designers often chose to get a little creative and wild with their documents, thus displaying on their resume what they are capable of. When is a creative resume too much though? Here are a few suggestions to help you decide when and if you should use a graphic resume.

When to use a graphic resume.

First, only certain careers should use a graphic resume – period. As stated above, these include web designers, advertising specialists, artists, and graphic designers. If you do not work in these fields, stay away from these formats. There are plenty of other ways to utilize a creative resume in other fields. Second, remember online uploads and ATS programs cannot see the graphics, and your hard work may not be seen by human eyes (we'll dive into this more in depth below). But, if you’re emailing or snail mailing your resume, a visual resume may be appropriate.

Place an emphasis on content.

Whether you choose a graphic or standard resume, the emphasis should be placed on content. Graphic designs still follow the basic resume format: title, summary, key skills, experience, education, and professional development. Don’t include photos of yourself and instead, focus on the content as much as the design and layout. Content should use strong action verbs, achievement statements, and contributions. Stay away from standard job descriptions as they will advertise you as a doer rather than an achiever.

Optimizing the content in your resume is done using three basic techniques:

1. The first technique deals with the wording of the content. Remove articles, such as “the,” “a,” and, “an,” from your resume. They are not necessary and can take up a lot of room. Use action verbs and achieving language. Stay away from standard job descriptions. Search for, and incorporate, keywords relating to the job.

2. Technique two deals the placement of content. Ask yourself a few questions to determine placement. Is this information more or less important than other information? Is this information redundant? Should I place this with the achievements? Basic rule of thumb is to place all major achievements and contributions in a bulleted list below each position. Organize descriptions according to importance, from most important to least important.

3. Technique three takes the content and organization, turns it into an easy to read layout, and allows for some small design.

Stay away from Infographics.

Advertising designers are used to displaying raw data into design formats. However, rather than listing sales increases, new contracts, etc. in an infographic, look towards the individual position. Create a key achievements and notable contributions section below each position. List those achievements in bulleted format. This connects your best information with the job where you accomplished it.

Portfolios speak louder than words.

Candidates often mistake their resume as an extension of their portfolio. Your resume is simply a one to two page summary of your career, abilities, and skills. Don’t include links to your website, portfolio, etc. There will be an opportunity to share this information later.

In addition to sending a visual resume or a standard resume, a well-organized portfolio of your best five projects is highly useful. Once your resume is complete, include a cover letter as the first page and include an attachment of your portfolio. This serves to display certain design skills better than a graphic resume.

Consider the 30-second test.

Statistics from the Professional Resume Writers Association show hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds scanning resumes they receive. If your resume - whether it's a standard resume or graphic resume - doesn’t display your top achievements, experience and education within 30 seconds, chances are your resume will land in the trash. If you place too much emphasis on design elements and graphics, that is all the hiring manager will see.

Take the 30 second test to determine if your resume is optimal:

  1. Highlight five to eight key skill requirements from a job advertisement in your field.

  2. Fold the first page of your resume in half.

  3. Set your phone’s alarm clock to 30 seconds.

  4. Count how many key skill requirements and accomplishments match the above highlights.

Results: If you could read your resume in 30 seconds, counted at least five highlights, and understood your abilities, the test was a success.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) don’t read graphics very well.

ATS software scans resumes received by hiring managers, looks for keywords applicable to the targeted position, deletes resumes not meeting those criteria, and stores candidate's’ information electronically. If the ATS finds too many elements it cannot read or understand, the system will delete your resume and the hiring manager will never know you existed.

It’s best to leave these elements off your resume as ATS programs don’t work well with them:

  • General titles

  • Custom headings

  • Images, columns, and tables

  • Special characters and fonts

How to replace graphic resume with a different format.

After taking out logos, special fonts, characters and art, you may look at your resume and think it’s a little dull. We can change that and come up with a more creative resume without damaging your chances for an interview.

First look at your main title. Your name, targeted position, and contact information should be prominently displayed at the top. Play around with the lettering, while keeping the font a basic, common design.

Other areas that could be changed:

  • Consider adding a border to the document to help “contain” the content.

  • Job titles and positions look better when formatted with bold or italics.

  • Each section should have a header.

  • Use borders and shading to make those areas more attractive.

Just remember too much will confuse the ATS and hiring manager.

Look at the above rules we discussed, and don’t overdo it. You want to advertise yourself without actually appearing to advertise yourself.

Want to see how your resume stacks up? Try out our free critique today!