Designers have an extra challenge when crafting a graphic designer resume: It has to not only include compelling content, but also look great.
While technology has changed the way graphic designers approach portfolios and job interviews, one thing has remained the same: the need for a standout resume. You might be surprised that a formal resume is still a requirement when applying for jobs, but it is in most cases.
"Most designers have a resume-like section in their digital portfolios, but they still need a strong standalone resume that they can quickly email to employers,” says Eric DiChiara, senior vice president of The Creative Group in Boston.
Why? According to DiChiara, most hiring managers are just more comfortable with a resume that they can easily open, print and make notes on. “It’s hard to break old habits and it’s a comfort level people have with traditional resumes that can be printed,” he says.
Whether you’re revising your resume or writing one from scratch, there are still basic rules — some old and some new — that will help your document rise to the top. The following tips will help your graphic designer resume stand out for all the right reasons.
Skip the objective
Objectives have become passé, and hiring managers tend to gloss over them. Instead, consider writing a professional summary. In a sentence or two, describe who you are and what you do best. Your summary should highlight your most relevant qualifications for the role and convincingly answer the question “Why should we hire you?”
One page is usually enough unless you have a significant amount of highly relevant experience. If your resume is bleeding onto a second page and you’re reluctant to cut content, ask an editor or copywriter friend if there are phrases you can tighten to buy more space on the page. Add more information and context in your cover letter.
Customize your content
Your graphic designer resume should be tailored for each job you seek. Keep a master version that includes all of your work history and accomplishments, and pick and choose those that are most pertinent each time you apply for a new position. For example, for one job you might play up your mastery of specialized software; while for another you spotlight your stellar client communication abilities.
Don't list what you do; show how you do it. Think about the skills you leveraged in past positions and include power verbs to explain how you used those talents to benefit your employer or clients.
Focus on numbers
It can be difficult for creatives to shift from thinking conceptually to zeroing in on hard data. But hiring managers want to see the results of your work, and the more measurable the better. Sales statistics, response rates, fundraising figures and other quantifiable information will grab attention and show that you’re a results-oriented employee.
Spotlight your soft skills
While job-related skills are important, today’s hiring managers are becoming more attuned to non-technical skills like problem solving, flexibility and time management. Include examples that illustrate how you put these types of skills into action.
Cut the clichés
While it’s fine to talk about your accomplishments in terms that other creatives will understand, avoid using empty clichés and buzzwords. Your application may have to first go through the human resources department, so a non-designer should be able to easily understand it.
Often, it’s hard to spot mistakes in content that you’ve worked with over and over. But one typo could cost you an interview, especially for a competitive position. Before you submit your resume, read it again on screen and on paper. If possible, ask two friends to read it, too: a designer and someone who is an expert at copy editing.
Dare to design
While resume templates may be fine for other lines of work, creative directors, art directors and in-house managers are looking for a sneak peek at your design and layout skills. They’ll be paying close attention to how you use typography, visual elements and white space.
Show off your brand
Your graphic designer resume is a key marketing vehicle and it needs to convey your unique personal brand or style. In fact, your cover letter, resume and portfolio should work as a package to communicate the image you want to project. In short, cohesive branding matters.
Whether you’ve designed your resume in a traditional format or as an infographic, readability should be a top priority. If your resume lacks flow or if a trusted friend finds it confusing, you may need to simplify your design.
Take care with color
If you choose to use color on your graphic designer resume, make sure it enhances the content rather than getting in the way of it.
Consider stock options
When submitting a paper resume, choose a quality paper stock that’s appropriate for your design.
Check your file size
When submitting PDFs, the file should be high-res enough to look sharp if the hiring manager chooses to print your resume.
Create a second version
Initially, you may need to submit a text-based version of your resume, so create a second document that’s clean but devoid of design elements. Then, if you’re asked to submit your portfolio or you’re called in for an interview, provide a copy of the designed and branded version.
Think in terms of SEO. It’s crucial to integrate exact keywords from the job listing into your resume to show that your experience is a good match with the job description. Some companies use scanning software to flag resumes that do not contain terms from the listing.
Ultimately, the goal of the resume is to leave the employer wanting more: Wanting to review your portfolio. Wanting to read your whole cover letter. Wanting to interview you. And, hopefully, wanting to hire you. With this in mind, give your graphic designer resume the time and attention it needs to do its job so that you can land yours.
Graphic designers are in demand across the United States. Check out a sampling of open graphic design positions in these hot cities: