Resume hacks

We often get asked the same questions over and over again at conferences or workshops or our boot camps. So we decided for 2020 onwards we would put together our ultimate guides for your career.

1. First things first; please use a grid.

As a Graphic Designer and someone who’s job it is to organise type on a page, this is a no brainer. I’m always amazed at the number of people applying for graphic design jobs without a grid on the resume. Don’t throw your type at the page guys! Your resume is the most important piece of paper to get a job. Yes, your portfolio needs to be epic too, but a world of Behance, Pinterest and too much online inspiration, having a really strong resume will get you across the line for that interview. The grid doesn’t have to be complicated; a simple four-column grid that you can take across to your portfolio pages as well is an easy way to tie your resume and portfolio together.

2. Make it landscape

This is very much my personal opinion but I think your resume should be landscape. Most studios who will be viewing your resume will be sitting at their desk, working on a desktop computer. It makes sense to use the whole size of the screen to show off your resume, rather than a portrait resume that loses all that beautiful space either side. I also believe it should be done Indesign and designed properly like a beautiful piece of graphic design work, not a Word document done in Times New Roman.

3. Don't over-design your resume

The worst resume I ever saw had a bunch of horse silhouettes in the background, making the type eligible because the designer liked horse riding and felt that was a very important thing to get across. My second least favourite resume graphic is a hibiscus flower. Third, paint splatters. I’ve seen them all! You do not need to over-design your resume. Beautiful type treatment, good use of hierarchy and a simple grid with well-designed information is the perfect resume. Please refrain from being “creative” by adding surplus graphics to a piece of design work that should be informative. This doesn’t mean it needs to be boring, it just needs to be simple and beautiful. Don’t overdo it!

4. Pick the right typeface.

If you’re relying on a typeface to do this job, you need to pick the right typeface. It should be easy to read, come in multiple weights and make you look good. Designers are your target market, so if you can find an awesome typeface that makes designers go “ohhhhhh” then you’ve hit the jackpot. While we are talking about typefaces, we should talk about type hierarchy. The same rules apply as an editorial design project as your resume – one step difference of hierarchy between a heading and a subheading, subheading and your body copy. Your headings should not be 84 pt and your body copy 9 pt, your eyes can’t deal with that jump. Don’t over complicate things or be too tricky – keep it simple. The point of the resume is to establish a professional voice that makes you look good and makes the content easy to digest. As a graphic designer, you should feel confident using typography professionally, but if typography is not your thing, you’re probably more of an illustrator and that’s fine! In that case, a good thing to do is to ask a friend to help with your resume. This isn’t about cheating, this is about putting your best foot forward. The same goes for digital design and using digital templates if you’re a graphic designer; you’re not expected to know how to code websites!

5. Include your contact details

You would be amazed at the number of people that put together a resume with no contact details!! If you are attaching your resume to an online form and not sending via email, they have NO WAY of contacting you and you will miss out on that job. Please include your full name (how you would like to be introduced), your email, your phone number and the city/country you live in. If you are including social media, it’s important to think strategically about how it makes you look. If your Instagram looks more like Facebook with pictures of you partying, I wouldn’t include it. If you have a separate Instagram that looks more like your Behance profile then I would include it! Your resume should only include things that make you look good to a prospective employer.

6. Things I wouldn't include

1) A big image of yourself! We don’t need to see your face that close up and personal. If you want to include a photo of yourself, make it small and make it design-y. I’ve seen one where the photo takes up half the page! 2) Including your date of birth is a bad idea – you don’t want to give an HR person any reason to discriminate against you. If you’re younger and starting out in your career earlier, having a younger DOB might affect your hiring capabilities as they might think you’re not capable of doing the job. Your age should not matter; your experience and your portfolio is everything so don’t give them an excuse not to hire you. 3) The third thing I wouldn’t include is one of those little graphs where you show how good you are at Illustrator/Photoshop/InDesign/After Effects etc. All it does is show the things you’re weaker at. Also, I’m always amazed at how people can calculate that they are 56% good at InDesign!!? It’s made up anyway, so if you want to include it, do a list. Type is beautiful!

7. Possible headings to include

References, Employment history, Education, Awards & competitions, Languages you speak, Press and Other industry-related activities (for example volunteering at a conference or a design event). You can also include a short bio that should be concise and explain who you are with a little humour. Quotes from people are fun too if you still have space to use up. I have three quotes on my resume from people I’ve worked with that are funny and informative. I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which might not come across in the information alone.

8. Your resume should be one giant game of name dropping!

Mentioning famous universities, big-name designers you did an internship for, industry organisations that you entered their awards or famous conferences you volunteered at. The saying goes you’re only as good as your last job, and so your future employer is looking for names and brands they recognise. The good news is even if in your employment history doesn’t have much going for it, you can enter AIGA awards, volunteer for TDK, attend OFFF or win an Adobe award which will help your credibility massively.

9. Spell check!

This is very boring, but please do a spell check, and check for double spaces. As a graphic designer, you know when you go to a cafe for breakfast the first thing you see before the eggs benedict is that awkward double space in the middle of the text. Do not make this a reason for them not to hire you. Make sure you do a separate manual spell check for names of companies/people and the way they refer to themselves (is it lower case, is there no space in between the words or is their name spelled slightly differently to normal?). It’s really important to get this correct. Imagine your favourite band name spelled wrong by your mum. Its similar ouchies for industry people.

10. No more than 2 pages

As for the length of your resume, I would say no more than 2 pages. This is not a corporate Word document with 7 pages and multi bullets for each task breakdown. You can summarise each job in a couple of paragraphs; most designers are predominantly visual people, you need to impress them with the design and the key information and not bore them to death. Good luck!

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