Speaking to creative students about creating a resume usually incites audible groans of frustration.
I get it. The standard of a resume seems incredibly outdated, especially in industries where you (rightly) believe the focus should be on your skills, ability to deliver work and their personal character. The idea of a resume drums up images of dealing with suited managers and HR personnel, lengthy online applications, and stressful interviews.
Luckily, as a creative, you’re right to assume that your portfolio will be more important than this one side of 8.5 x 11” paper that lays your professional life out bare. However, that doesn’t mean you can forget about having a resume just yet.
Why do I need a resume as a creative?
Many jobs you’ll score—freelance or otherwise—will be secured through traditional recruitment means. And that means emailing companies, applying online, and sending a resume.
You’ll need a strong portfolio to go along with this, but as I tell students, your resume is almost like a road sign to your portfolio. You’re prepping the reader for what you can do and getting them intrigued enough to click on that portfolio link (or the other links that lead them from the project description to the tangible evidence of your work).
In addition, a lot of the work you’ll secure will be across different industries, and people are creatures of habit. If a restaurant needs a graphic designer on board and the only way they typically hire staff is through a resume, you can bet they’ll expect the same of you, too.
In short, your resume still serves a purpose. It can be a great way to get a prospective employer excited about meeting with you and help you land you those important interviews.
What should be in my resume?
What should or shouldn’t be in your resume varies depending on who you ask—everyone has a slightly nuanced idea of what makes a resume “good”. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few general tips and rules to follow.
As a creative, you want to demonstrate some of what you have to offer. Graphic designers might want to use modern fonts and a stylized layout to show off their design skills. On the other hand, gamers and writers might want to keep it a bit more straightforward, aiming for clear and well-written, rather than getting bogged down in little font or color details.
My advice: if in doubt, just keep it simple, clear, and well-structured. The more you use your resume and get feedback—or more crucially, don’t get feedback—the more you’ll be able to make tweaks and additions to create something that really helps you get the roles you want.
A few other tips:
- Steer clear of clichés—Listing skills such as “works well in a team” and “good communication skills” won’t go over well. They’re generic, dull, and usually ignored. Keep your skills specific and relate them to the job requirements as closely as you can.
- Don’t provide your life story—A creative resume’s biggest job is to lead people to your portfolio—so you want to keep it light and intriguing, with strong directions towards the polished and professional collection of work on your site. Try and keep everything to one page and only include the most relevant information for the job you’re applying to.
- Highlight the essentials—Research has shown that most recruiters spend as little as six seconds weighing your CV—they’re looking for a few specific things to see whether it’s worth paying you more attention. Use a very clear layout, bold the key words and job titles that match the job description, and make sure you have a tight pitch that really sells you in a few seconds.
Is my resume really that important?
In a word, yes. However, keep in mind that your resume is only one component of landing gigs. Your portfolio, communication skills, and professionalism will all help you stand out from the pack. That said, learning how to sell yourself well is one of the biggest keys to business success—and to do that, you need a good resume.