Tag Archives: resumes

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?


Getting picked last is better than not getting picked at all.

An employee came in and asked us about why we picked her resume out of the bunch. After going back to school and changing careers, she was convinced that the long process was because there was something fishy going on in the background, and she wanted our take.

I remembered her application vividly. The resume had all the skills we were looking for, as well as internships and external activities that clearly supported what she was doing. And her cover letter was filled with enthusiasm, passion and sincere excitedness for the position. I could tell this was someone who not only wanted a job, but wanted a job with us – she had done her research and was even more interested after looking into us. And I was right – she’s been an awesome fit in the time she’s spent with us.

But it did make me think about the year and a half she spent NOT getting interviews. Was there foul play? Maybe. But without really knowing what was going on in the hiring managers’ minds, there’s no way of being sure of that conclusion, and no reason to assume the worst.

As a ballroom dancer, I used to assume the very same at my dance competitions – the judges weren’t picking me because there was something wrong with my dancing or because of politics, because they knew all the people they picked over me. Well, as it turns out, when I started to judge, I realized that sometimes you just can’t possibly notice everyone – you don’t have enough time or energy to see all of the great people out there. There are times when you, as the dancer do everything right, but you just don’t get seen, so you fall through the cracks, however good you may be.

In job hunting, it’s the same way. You may be an excellent fit and you may do everything perfectly, but sometimes, it’s not enough to get you noticed. There’s no guarantee that you’ll make it in front of the hiring manager’s eyes in time to get interviewed and subsequently hired.

So what does that mean for you? It means that you can’t leap to conclusions and lose the negative attitude. Keep applying and putting yourself out there. Eventually, you’ll get to the person who needs to see how truly awesome you are. You have to keep making those connections to better your chances of that happening.

You may not live your whole life in the spotlight, but when it comes down to it, you’ll find it. Don’t lose hope. We, as a company, are lucky that my employee was forced to wait as long as she did – we’re better off for having her. Your next employer will feel the same way about you.

Changing careers and changing cities…what to do, what to do?

Today’s post comes in the form of a question and answer session (and a huge thank you to the reader!):

For the past few days I’ve been working on my resume because now that Teach For America is almost finished, I am trying to apply for jobs in a different city. So far I’ve gotten some great advice, but there’s one glaring problem: If I wanted a job as a teacher, my resume is great. But that isn’t what I’m applying for. I got the suggestion to add my year as a leader in a university student organization so I could add my fundraising skills, something necessary for all of the jobs I want.

So my thought was how about instead of a chronological resume, do a functional one? It would allow me to show how my teaching experience can be applicable and I will be able to include things like my student organizations.

So far I have my experience broken down into:

Management and supervisory skills
Fundraising/development skills
Event management skills
Political organization skills

However, I know that you are the person to talk to when it comes to resumes. I took a look at your blog and I know that you are planning a resume dos and donts soon, but do you have any thoughts on functional resumes? I’ve never really seen one used before.

Honestly, I’m not in love with functional resumes. Having come across a bunch of them, the people that can pull them off well are the people that have TOO much experience to break it down by date. In my mind, the purpose of a functional resume is to show off that you have a breadth of demonstrated skills that span a plethora of jobs or, more effectively, a job that you’ve held for many years.

The honest truth of it is that you’re basically just out of school and you’re looking for an entry-level position because you did an awesome thing by participating in Teach For America. That’s where you’ve got to start. You can do everything you want to fill in the holes, but that’s what’s going to come out of your resume.

The worst thing you can do is try to hide it or try and blend it in with other things. What you instead want to do is show it off and demonstrate that you’re proud of the choices you made. Yes, you are a teacher. But how does being a teacher inform the jobs that you’re looking for now? In your bullet points, putting things down like “taught subtraction to middle-school students” (I know that’s now what you’re doing) obviously isn’t going to get you anywhere. But being a leader/supervisor is something that applies. Teaching and mentoring others is an important skill that you will carry over. It’s things like that that you want to highlight. Adding the student organization stuff is definitely a good idea – I totally support that.

You’ll also want to write a cover letter that explains A) why you chose to do TFA, B) how you intend to transition your skills over and C) how this job you’re applying for makes excellent use of your TFA experience and sets you on your desired career path.

I’m sure this has already entered your thoughts, but try and network through TFA to find openings or people to talk to about jobs. That’s going to be a good resource for you. Some TFA person (staffer, alumni, etc.) is sure to be connected with someone who can help you out.

Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!

Anyone else have some wisdom to share for this reader?

Say hello to 2010

Welcome to the first business day of 2010!

Good riddance to 2009. It was a miserable year for a lot of people. If you weren’t directly affected, you knew a whole slew of people who were. It’s time for a fresh start. And I don’t mean in the “It’s a new decade!!1!” kind of way because that’s already getting on my nerves and we’re only 3 days in. Instead, use the “New Year” as an excuse (even if it’s a lame one) to take a closer look at your working life.

Here are 10 things to consider:

  1. No matter what your job situation is, how’s your resume looking? When’s the last time you revisited it? Something is sure to have happened over the last year that would make it worth your while to update, add and purge. Did you include your volunteer somewhere? Did you get a promotion? Did you move? Is your contact info up to date? Getting away from the boring design you had when you graduated college and adding a little creative touch wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I’m gonna work on a list of resume “Do’s and Don’ts” – so be on the look out for that if you need some help.
  2. Along the same lines, think about all of the materials you’ll be submitting to potential employers. If you have portfolios, work samples, writing pieces or the dreaded cover letter (again, something on that in 2010 from me), take a look at all of your templates and make sure you’re still happy with what you might send to employers – or get yourself to a point where you are again.
  3. Has anyone given feedback on what you’ve put together? Once you’ve done something about your resume and the rest of your materials, give them to someone else to look at. A second pair of eyes will catch what the first pair didn’t.
  4. When’s the last time you checked in with your network? Everyone uses their network when they don’t have a job (and if you’re not, why aren’t you?). And keep it up – employee recommendations are the best resource for new hires. But keeping up with those people to find out how they’re doing when you DON’T need anything will make them more likely to help out when you do have a favor to ask. Use “Happy New Year” as a good place to start. Remember your social networks online as well as offline.
  5. If you’re unemployed, how can you change your job search for 2010? What can you use that you aren’t already? Social media is becoming a better resource for jobs than ever before. Try doing a search on Twitter using #jobs for example. Job boards are a way of the past, but there may still be something on there and it can’t hurt to look. Craig’s List is becoming more and more reputable for job postings. And there may be a niche site out there related to your skill set that you could look at.
  6. If you are employed, do you know what else is out there? The grass may actually be greener somewhere else. It can’t hurt to keep looking. And if you’re paying attention, it means that you might stumble upon something to help out one of your unemployed friends. You never know – passing along that job ad to someone could be just the thing they need to get themselves going again.
  7. Have you thought about an informational interview? If you want to get more information about a certain field/career path/position/company/etc., it could be beneficial. But don’t use the informational interview as a “backdoor” into getting a job. As Ask A Manager will tell you, it’s a bad idea.
  8. What certifications/registrations can you add this year? While education may be more expensive than you can handle, a registration may be more affordable and can enhance your resume for something imminent or for your application down the road.
  9. What are your 2010 goals? Sure, think big – you definitely want to “find a job” this year! But think small and more easily attainable at the same time. You can aim to learn a new software program or enhance your typing skills. If you think about it now, you’ll have to time to schedule it in.
  10. And finally, excuse my cheesiness, but remember that you have a whole new year in front of you. 2009 sucked, I already said that. But you’ve got to suck it up and keep going. Get an attitude readjustment, and try thinking about what will happen, not about what happened last year. The beginning of 2010 will suck too, don’t worry. But at least you’ve got a whole new year to make something of. So, like Zac Efron would say, get your head in the game!

Ugh, as if top 10 lists weren’t overused enough. Expect to see them EVERYWHERE in ’10 since they correspond with the year. Glad I could contribute to the fad.

Anything you’d add to the list as we head into the new decade?

Should my resume be one page or two?

I got this e-mail from a friend of mine who is also an avid reader:

I had a question to pose to you based on your unique expertise. Do you think, at this stage in my life, that I should limit my resume to 1 page? If I include everything I’ve done including all my internships, it’s more like 2 pages, but I also have a condensed version that fits 1 page, and since it’s not like I’ve been in the workforce for decades, should I use that one primarily? Any thoughts?

First, a sidebar. Let me professionally express my excitement about getting my first piece of fanmail/advice mail: woohoo! Thanks to this reader for thinking of me!

But moving on to the crux of the issue, I have to say that it’s a judgment call. I think about my personal journey, which includes working in something that I could make a career out of, and feel like there’s really not enough experience there to merit a second page. If you can fill that second page with concrete things and not fluff (and there’s SO much fluff on the resumes I read), then I’d buy it. But if you’re stretching it for the purpose of stretching it, then cut it, it’s just not necessary.

When I look at resumes, I’m interested in seeing the key points laid out ready for me to look at. If you have them scattered and hidden amongst the filler, you have not only done yourself an injustice by poorly showcasing your writing abilities, but your actual skills just aren’t going to be noticed. You’re trying to have a conversation, not play hide and seek.

Your resume is who you are on paper. Hopefully, you’re much more than that, and the “much more” will come through in your interview. But to get yourself there, you’ve got to do your best to paint a picture of someone worth meeting. Here’s a list of possible content-related questions to ask yourself as you’re building your resume: Do you want to include all of your jobs/internships or are you just including them because you’ve had them? Do you need each and every bullet point on there? Does each bullet point actually lend itself to what you’re hoping to do? In other words, is everything you have on your resume relevant to your job search? Did you use action verbs to start each bulleted item? Did you vary the action verbs or did you find yourself using “Coordinated” at the beginning of every line?

If the answer to every single question isn’t yes, go back and change something until it is. Everything on your resume should be something you’ve actively selected to be there. Remember, these are just content-related things. For style…well, there’s a lot I could say, but it’s a lot harder to be objective when you’re talking about style. The only thing I will say is to be consistent – if you use circle bullets at the start, don’t use dashes or squares later on. Stick with one thing the whole way through and you’ll be fine.

Anyone have any additional advice for my reader?

Applying for Jobs 101

I went to lunch with some friends, all recent college grads. I listened to them talk about their job searches and one of them mentioned that her sister had recommended that she do a “Skill-based resume” instead of a “Time-based resume”. Apparently her sister said that this would highlight her skills instead of her (lack of) experience. She then expressed extreme frustration that the university career center had never taught them what that meant.

Now, I don’t really think that career centers are all that useful (and since I worked there and got almost no on-the-job training to do so, I can say that with minor authority), but I do think that the fact that they don’t tell you to do this is actually a good thing.

Skill-based resumes, or Functional resumes, are for people that have well-rounded experience, either in the same field or different fields, continuous or not. In contrast, chronological resumes are your traditional documents that list your accomplishments at each place you’ve worked, typically starting with your current employment and going backwards. A functional resume groups skill sets to make it easier for the reader (i.e. me) to grasp what someone is good at instead of making them wade through all of the crap items you put down at each individual job. Sounds good, right? Why wouldn’t everyone use that?

Good question! Now riddle me this, Batman: how do you put together a skill-based resume if you don’t have any skills? OK, that is a little harsh, I’ll admit it. But consider the fact that we’re talking about someone who just graduated and hasn’t actually done anything beyond one or two entry-level internships.

Add in the fact that any HR professional can read (yes, literacy is generally a required skill) and will almost immediately zoom in on the graduation year. If it’s the current year or the previous year, we can put 2 and 2 together and figure out that you don’t have years and years of experience, even if you’ve exaggerated some of your skills (not that any of you would ever do that).

I mentioned this to the HR Pro (Editor’s Note: from now on, my boss, the HR Manager, will be referred to as “The HR Pro” – I’m going on a theme here) today and she counteracted my sweeping, overly-dramatic criticism with balanced logic (as usual) and pointed out that people graduating from school have absolutely no experience applying for jobs, so it’s not necessarily fair to hold them liable for their ignorance.

And this raises the question, why isn’t someone teaching students these simple, yet incredibly valuable skills? It’s hard enough out there to find a job in good economic conditions when you went to school to be an engineer/accountant/etc. But for someone who graduated with a degree in “American Studies” (yes, that’s right, someone who majored in essentially nothing) this past May and has no idea what they want to do – they’re totally screwed! They don’t know basic principals like how to write a cover letter, what to say in their resume, how to follow up with someone, how to follow the directions that the HR person listed, etc.?

So let me ask you about this. How did you get these skills (assuming you have them)? If you went back to high school/college, would you think a class or seminar on general career skills would be useful? What would be good to talk about in these sessions? Share the love, we’re all dying to know. Or at least I am.

Get that paper out of here.

I’ve started paying closer attention to what comes in my mailbox. It’s generally crap. Minimal crap, but crap. Yesterday, I came home to find only a Victoria’s Secret catalogue addressed to me. Dear Victoria’s Secret, as a gay male, I am disinterested in your catalogue on multiple levels, but thank you for thinking of me.

Today, I checked my mail and there was nothing. Not a single piece of mail. Am I really that surprised? Of course not. Everyone that I correspond with sends me e-mail. It’s way faster and it’s much more convenient. But it’s that new fangled contraption that’s responsible for essentially killing our mail system. And if things don’t change, it’s going to get worse as mail volume continues to decrease.

And this got me thinking about people that apply for jobs.  In the past month, we’ve received over 200 resumes from candidates (perspective time: we got about 1500 resumes per year, so we expect about 100-150…that extra 50-100% is certainly due to the economy, but it’s still pretty crazy). Of those 200, about 10-15% were mailed.

Really? In this day and age there are that many people applying by mail?

Most companies have a least some kind of automated process whereby they can take whatever is submitted and put it directly to an Applicant Tracking System of sorts. We don’t have anything that fancy, but we do have some kind of database set up. While there’s nothing wrong with applying by mail or in person (though I tend to agree with Ask a Manager’s response to this), it tends to create extra work for HR and is, in all honesty, a pain. Because of the system we’ve set up and the fact that I don’t want print resumes just lying around, I’ve taken to scanning every single one so I can input it into the database. Let me repeat that. I’ve taken to scanning every single print resume so I can manually input it. Annoying.

Does it get you an advantage? No. If the excuse is that you really don’t have access to the Internet, I’ll buy that. But the percentage of people that that applies to, at least for our purposes, is next to nil. That said, without a legit reason to do otherwise, just follow the instructions companies give you on the website, be it applying via a web-based system or just sending an e-mail. If you’re great, you’re great, that won’t change based on your submittal method.

If you think you know best and continue being antiquated by getting high quality paper that you can send to give yourself a personal touch, you’re probably headed the way of my Victoria’s Secret catalogue.