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Resume Tips for Creative Professionals

Resume Tips for Creative Professionals

When it comes to resumes for creative professionals, resume presentation is paramount, says Adrienne Burke, a senior recruiter who has placed creative talent for the past five years. Burke's employer, Artisan, matches Web/print/multimedia designers, creative/art directors and broadcasting/copywriting talent with the staffing needs of major employers, including Accenture, the NBA, United Airlines and Sony.

"A beautiful, well-written resume is a must if you want to stand out as a creative professional,” says Burke. “Even if you're a writer and not involved in the visual arts, make sure your resume is professionally designed.”

Agrees Marti Stites, "A well-designed, nicely laid-out resume in PDF format is always an asset." Stites is owner of ArtLinks, a recruitment and placement agency specializing in creative talent.

Creative Resume Design Dos and Don'ts

Burke says your resume should generate interest in you. "In the creative field, you have to serve as your own publicist, and your resume should serve as an example of your talent and reflect your personality."

Burke likes to see resumes use a distinctive type style that stands out yet is easy to read. Both she and Stites are impressed by resumes with elegant design and well-organized content. Cutesy graphics, unclear illustrations, cartoonish fonts, lots of colors and slanted type are all signs of an overdesigned resume -- definite resume don'ts.

Content Is Important, Too

Although design is a key factor, it's equally important to avoid falling into the "flash over substance" trap when writing your creative resume, say both recruiting professionals.

"Creative pros have to include quality content in their resumes as well," says Burke. "It can't be just about the design." (See a resume sample for a graphic designer.)

Also, avoid gimmicks. Yes, you're in a creative field, but rolling your resume up inside a balloon or stuffing your presentation envelope with confetti are not the right ways to showcase your talent.

What to Include in Your Resume

  • A Career Chronology: Show the names of employers/key accounts and dates of employment. "Not including dates or places where they've worked is one of the most commonly made mistakes by creatives," Stites says. She adds that freelancers often forget to include the names of a few clients.

    "The resume ‘wow' factor for me comes with work experience," says Stites, who wants to see where candidates have worked so she can evaluate the relevance of their experience to her jobs and clients.

    Burke concurs, explaining that when she conducts the initial screening of the average 100 or so resumes she receives each month, "where you've worked is more important to me than what you've worked on." In addition, she advises freelancers to differentiate freelance work from full-time employment to avoid the misperception of job-hopping.

  •  A List of Your Publications and/or Awards: Stites says she is continually surprised by how often creative professionals fail to include these.

  • Your Education: "A degree in graphic design or anything relevant to your creative field should certainly be highlighted, and this is even more important if you are a recent graduate," says Stites.

  • Computer Skills: "If these aren't listed, I'm going to assume you don't have these skills versus the other way around," Stites says. "It's also important to include whether your background is Macintosh, PC or both."

Your Portfolio

Although it's OK to include brief project and accomplishment highlights on the resume, Burke and Stites agree that in creative fields, the proof is in the portfolio.

"This is where you prove your value," says Burke. "Portfolios that impress me most are well-organized and well-thought out. A portfolio should tell a story as opposed to being just a random sampling of pieces. You can also design your portfolio as a case study, and this is where you can include your accomplishments, such as outcomes/results of campaigns you've worked on, if known."

Portfolios are so important that Stites advises recent graduates to concentrate first on building their book versus focusing on salary. "Do volunteer or nonprofit work at first to build your portfolio,” she recommends. “Create some real-world samples of your work." Class work or projects completed during internships are also good ways to build an initial portfolio.

Learn more about creative design careers.

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