Do creative types really need their own resume guide?

Editor’s note: I made some minor edits from the original post. Thanks to keen eyes for noting my initial proofreading failure. The content is the same, but the spelling and grammar edits have been corrected.

I got a tip from Bryant Turnage (aka @turnageb), one of my awesome readers, about a resume guide for creative professionals put together by Derek Leavitt, an architect. While resumes are typically textual in nature, this guide makes the point that designers are significantly more visual in the work that they do, so their applications should reflect that.

Working as an HR guy for an architecture firm, this was right up my alley.

For those of you who aren’t in creative professions, don’t worry, this actually applies to you just the same. You may not have the expectation to build in imagery (and if you’re a lawyer or an accountant, for example, it’s probably discouraged), but many of the principles are universal.

I’m on board with the philosophy. There are no “must have” things for your resume, no key phrasing or imagery that will automatically signify that you’ll get the job. But honestly, there are no limits. Often times, you should break “the rules” and try something different. One small change: you should be trying to be bold and different AND creating something of enormous value – it’s not easy, but when you do it right, you’ll speak to employers on two levels.

Moving on to format, I’m in more of a disagreement mode. Yes, please add imagery to your standard resume. Nothing’s bores me more than seeing the Microsoft Word template replaced with your name and job history. But please DON’T send me a print resume booklet. We’re desperately trying to go paperless (sustainability, anyone?) and keep better track of our candidates to be able to call on people well after they apply when we have an opening. If you send me a resume shaped like an origami crane, as beautiful as that may be, I can’t possibly store it anywhere. What I’ll do is take the key information and log it into my database and then throw it out. No, I won’t feel guilty about it – my desk is cluttered enough as it is.

To the next point, go ahead and put your website and YouTube videos together, but make that a supplement to and NOT a replacement for the standard resume. That one’s actually to help hiring managers. I’ll do my research based on what you give me, but I have a hard time convincing those folks to do multiple clicks for the sake of a candidate.

As far as content goes, this is actually pretty awesome. Less is definitely more. Be personal and tell me about yourself. I’ll add that I want to know who you are and why you want to work with us (and not just how awesome you may be). And the last one is the kicker: show off your business skills. Even designers have to have them, so don’t ignore that. 

One change: I don’t want a picture of you on your resume. The ones that come with photos are, honestly, a bit creepy. And more seriously, photos can potentially lead hiring managers to make decisions based solely on what they see, which is a clear violation of Equal Employment Opportunity laws. You’re better off not dealing with that and helping employers reduce liability.

And here’s where I lose it. Don’t do anything on this Delivery page. At all. If you want a job, don’t ask for an informational interview – that’s a waste of everyone’s time and I promise you I won’t hire you if you lie and disturb my employees because of that. As for submitting materials, most places have a process written on their website for applying. If we wanted something else, we would have that up instead. Not following the rules is just going to annoy whoever is supposed to receive your resume. And definitely don’t stop by to ask what to do. That’s just not necessary. Don’t you dare give me a call after you’ve submitted your resume. It’s one of my goals to write everyone back, so I do, but I understand that I’m in the minority – not everyone has the time. So if that’s the case, calling to ask if your application was received and what the next step is certainly not going to make people happy to talk to you.

So while this does have specific tools for you as a creative professional, ultimately, you’re in the same boat as everyone else. You do have expectations related to your imagery, but as far as philosophy, format, content and delivery go, it’s no different for you. I’ll repeat, gimmicks don’t work. If you’re the best candidate, prove it on your application. Plain and simple. What you should really be focusing on is building the relationships in advance and then developing a position in conjunction with HR and hiring managers. If you do that, all of this stuff becomes significantly less important, doesn’t it?


13 responses to “Do creative types really need their own resume guide?

  1. Oh the headshots kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiills me.

    What are your thoughts on on the below scenario? A lot of my international friends like to put that on their resume. I tell them that information is inappropriate for potential employers with the equal opportunity employment. Their response, particular when male, they like to show that they are married and ‘stable’, which I can see as a plus to convey to potential employers. Thoughts?

    • Yeah, unfortunately it’s something that does differ based on location. Internationally, that is the standard, so I do know that it’s hard to get out of the habit when here (and it’s probably just as hard for most Americans to think about that when they’re abroad).

      I can see their point, but most employers are looking for someone who can do the job, plain and simple. The personal life should stay out of it – being married and stable has no translation to how you do your work.

  2. YES. I agree with the whole thing. Well put.

    Also, thank you for putting this out there: “If you want a job, don’t ask for an informational interview – that’s a waste of everyone’s time and I promise you I won’t hire you if you lie and disturb my employees because of that….” and the rest of the paragraph. It drives me crazy when people call or push their way into the office to make sure that we got everything. It’s overkill and it pushes people away.

    • Thanks for your comment Sarah. It’s definitely something that’s increased with the economy the way it is, unfortunately. It’s frustrating, but you do what you can!

  3. Great post, Mike! I’ll agree about the follow-up phone calls. I’ll never forget something happening in 1989 — a day or two after the big San Francisco earthquake. We were still feeling the shock of the quake and its aftermath (Bay Bridge and a freeway collapsing, plus the fire in the Marina District). Most of us in S.F. still didn’t have power, and I had one phone that didn’t require electricity, which I connected to my business line. The phone rang, and it was someone I didn’t know who wanted to make sure I was okay … and by the way, had I received his resume? Needless to say, I don’t remember his name.

    • Man, I gave him credit for having the guts to do that. Any excuse, right? Doesn’t surprise me that his name has since escaped you, Marjanne!

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Do creative types really need their own resume guide? | The HR Intern --

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Do creative types really need their own resume guide? | The HR Intern --

  6. Mike,

    While I completely respect your criticism of the “Rethink Your Resume Guide”, I’d like to weigh in on a few of your opinions.

    Just like my perspective is that of someone that runs a small firm, your experience seems to be the opposite – large corporate firm. Many of your criticisms relate to the fact that your employer has strict protocol for resume formats and filing. Not all firms are like this. In fact, most architecture firms don’t even have an HR department. Resume format can and should be situational. It’s not a bad thing to cater your resume to the audience.

    My old resume, which was the basis for the article, wasn’t sent to any large firms. I doubt any of them filed resumes in databases. What they did was my resume on their desk and called me over the next year to ask for an interview.

    I understand your criticism of sending a print resume, which is why I stated (in point #13) that you should also consider utilizing technology. I’m also skeptical of claiming sustainability as a reason not to send a paper resume. Architecture firms burn through paper like crazy. Calling out someone for a few sheets of small paper is pretty hypocritical.

    On to your criticism of the ‘Delivery” section. Once again your perspective is from a large firm that hires people in a very formal way. You probably have high turnover and many seats to fill, so you hire often. For us small firms, the hiring process is often different. More personal and far less frequent. An informal interview can help to build a relationship with a firm that is not yet hiring. A chance to get on their radar, so that when they have a position to fill, you already have a leg up.

    I could go on, disagreeing with your criticisms, but it’s really just a difference of opinion and circumstance. I actually applaud you for writing this and giving people a different perspective. There are so many personalities and job types in our industry that no one should blindly follow anyone’s resume advice.

    Keep up the good work Mike!


  7. I simply like the debate. the two views are important. A younger person – or anyone these days – also has to consider cost of creating and sending a hundred resumes. The key to me is that the applicant has to fit the firm and their needs. and I think to get a job now, you have to stand out somehow, either knowing more about the firm, knowing some of the people, hopefully decision makers, know about their clients or project types. You have to go beyond normal, break the rules, be different somehow to be the one, as Derek shows (beautiful job, Derek, inspiring).

    and yet, photos, I’m w/ Mike on that. I really dont think those work unless you could be a stand in for Howard Roark – an architect from central casting. Otherwise, try to meet FTF for the human connection too – too easy to get a biased decision. and a pre-interview? not for me – we were always too busy, even busier during downturns, looking for work. If you wanted to meet me or my people, you could go volunteer at AIA or pro bono projects we were active in.

    nice job, Mike and Derek, a real service.
    Cindy @urbanverse

  8. @Derek – First off, let me add something that I should have off the bat. I truly appreciate the work that you’ve done and think that it raises a lot of excellent points that people may not consider when they’re putting out their applications. In my haste to critique, I failed to mention my respect for what you’ve done.

    You raise an excellent point. When considering the place that you apply, you do need to consider what the culture of the firm is. I recently talked to someone who said that a company had her dream job, but that there were more than handful of people there who she didn’t get along and wouldn’t enjoy working with. To me, that says that it’s not the place for you – the job may be great, but it’s the culture and the environment that you’re evaluating.

    Even with the small firm and large firm perspective out there, that’s truly the most important part. Getting to know the culture before submitting your application is the way to go, something that is very well addressed in Derek’s piece and something that I worked to include in my own. There are ways to do that without being intrusive – as Derek suggests, at a small firm, get to know people and set up informal meetings in advance, while at a large firm, the online presence is probably greater (though not always) and it should be easier to find people in your network or in your network’s network who work there (who are not hiring managers) who can you try and talk to about what things are like and what the process should be.

    Derek, thanks again for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. This is a great dialogue and I appreciate the mutual respect. Happy to have the dual perspective represented here with this post!

  9. @Cindy – You hit the nail on the head – at all times, but especially in today’s economy, it’s important to do something outside of the norm. While that may differ from firm to firm, the concept is the same. Break the mold and don’t be afraid to be yourself in a way that is truly unique.

    I think that’s a great suggestion to encourage networking opportunities through volunteer work. Besides being excellent for the community and the industry as well as being a good way to advance the profession, volunteer work does provide a chance for people from firms of all sizes to mix and mingle with one another. I do hope that designers are taking advantage of that.

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving some of your thoughts!

  10. Pingback: Talentstar Help Desk | talentstarblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s