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Creative vs. Traditional Résumés

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Posted At: February 13, 2013 5:30 P.M.
by Caroline Murray

Once upon a time, not too long ago, young people went to college, chose a major they enjoyed and entered the workforce. Those were simpler times, in a magical economy, where an undergraduate degree left you with very good chances of finding a job right out of college. Then, the evil recession hit, and those simpler times ended.

In today’s unkind job market, people are revamping their résumés to stand out. Applicants are changing their résumés from Times New Roman, black-and-white pieces of paper to full-color, fantastical journeys that you happen to be able to print. But, is this creative and bold approach a smart one?

Rick Mundon, founder and operator of The Whole Orange, thinks so. His small creative agency was founded on the premise of the nontraditional résumé, and it still receives most of its profits by selling out-of-the-box résumé templates and designing custom résumés.

“The job market is competitive now. It’s a little different than it used to be,” Mundon said. “Getting a degree might not be enough. You’re competing against other graduates with the same education and experience. A creative résumé is a unique way to add some personality to an otherwise, typical, resume.”

Elliot Hasse, art director for Factory Design Labs in Denver, Colo., also reaped the benefits of this new trend. Hasse created his infographic-like résumé for a class project, but when it was posted on blog after blog, a plethora of professional doors were opened.

“I may have gotten the job with my traditional résumé, but the infographic definitely gave me a lot to choose from and got my foot in the door at some of my jobs starting off,” Hasse said.

Anita Bruzzese, syndicated columnist for USA Today and writer of two career books, is more wary of these nontraditional résumés. She warns applicants against getting too fancy or complicated when presenting their résumés to busy hiring managers.

“I’ve seen studies that tracked hiring managers’ eyes as they went over résumés, and infographics have not done extremely well,” Bruzzese said. “If you make it the least bit difficult for them, it immediately goes into the elimination pile.”

Bruzzese said it is crucial to keep the audience of your résumé in mind: Does a nontraditional résumé fit within the culture of the company in which you are applying? How conservative is the industry in which you are applying? Is the creation of this nontraditional résumé a representation of a skill needed to perform the job well?

Kerry Dugan is a university recruiter for Hewlett-Packard. Though she typically recruits for more traditional IT positions, she, like recruiters in any industry, sees hundreds of résumés during busy recruiting seasons.

“What’s most important to me is relevant experience and education,” Dugan said. “The simpler and more organized the résumé, the better for me. Make it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to glean what they need from the résumé quickly!”

Bruzzese agrees that making a good impression quickly is crucial to the ultimate success of a résumé.

“Seriously you have about three to five seconds to get your message across. Making them work to read an infographic is taking a real chance,” Bruzzese said. “Unless you’re applying for a graphic artist position where infographics are important to the job, you’re taking a big risk.”

Mundon disagrees. He said that while each résumé needs to be tailored to the individual receiving it, there is room for creativity in every industry.

“In some medical professions, you need to be taken seriously and an overly creative résumé might be a little unprofessional,” Mundon said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything creative. Do something with the header, something with typography. I just wouldn’t put a picture of a scalpel.”

For Hasse, the rewards outweigh the risks. He said, however, that the risk can be eliminated: Always include a traditional résumé with your infographic one.

“You show your design skills. If you are applying for creative jobs, I feel that is how creatives take in information. They won’t forget who you are,” Hasse said. “I don’t think there is any disadvantage [to an infographic résumé] as long as you have a traditional résumé to bring with you as well.”

Mundon said when designing a nontraditional résumé, it is important to remember its primary purpose.

“Make it clear, then worry about creativity. A résumé is function over form,” Mundon said.

Dugan said fancy fonts and pretty colors won’t get an applicant the job: only qualifications will.

“Taking it too far is using unnecessary graphics, multiple types of fonts, far-out borders, etc. to try to get attention,” Dugan said. “If you’ve done the work in school and are active and put the time to capture the really relevant information, that will shine through on the résumé.”

Bruzzese agrees there is no replacement for being a qualified fit for a position.

“Nothing is ever going to take away from a résumé that shows what a good fit you would be,” Bruzzese said. “You can’t show that through balloons.”

Mundon thinks this trend may very well be just that — a trend. But there is one thing he does know.

“Standing out will never go out of style,” Mundon said.

Bruzzese said one way to make yourself stand out, regardless of which style résumé you choose to use, is to rethink the objective statement.

“Use a branding statement instead of an objective statement, similar to what you would put on your LinkedIn profile,” Bruzzese said. “This kind of statement shows you’re capable of doing this kind of work, your skills and your abilities.”

While there might not be a consensus on using a nontraditional résumé, Mundon said that in the end it is about what the individual applicant is looking for in a career.

“People have asked me, ‘Does it turn employers off?’ You know, maybe,” Mundon said. “But at the same time, do you want to work somewhere where they are turned off by this? Or do you want to work somewhere that says, ‘Hey, this is cool. Let’s do more of it.’”

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