Creative Resume Do's and Dont's

Creative Resumes Do's, Don'ts and Successful Examples

Applying for a job means pitting yourself against everyone else who applies for the position, and with statistics showing that the average listing has around 118 applicants, you have to stand out. Even more importantly, most recruiters spend an average of just 6 seconds initially scanning resumes before picking candidates to invite in to an interview.  Standing out requires that you show creativity, catch the recruiters eye in that very short window, and make a good impression. Unfortunately, creativity can backfire, so you have to create a balance between professionalism and originality. 

Your resume is something of a written picture that lays out your career, skill, ambitions, and drive. When done correctly, it should have some (but not all), of your personality, and should showcase your skills in the best way possible. 

The Dos of a Creative Resume 

Showcase Your Skills - A great creative resume is creative around your work skills. This is important because no one really cares if you can draw or do graphic design if your job is business management. You want to present your resume in a way that makes sense for your industry. A great example is Giselle Henne's use of graphic design to showcase her achievements in graphic design and art direction. You can see it here. 

Use Keywords – Many of the companies you might submit to will actually use software to check your resume to see if you are qualified for the position. Like a 6 second resume scan, this software just looks for certain keywords and then shunts your resume into a keep or trash pile. Use keywords, and do so creatively, to stand out to the eye, and to machines. Emily Bain of A Brave New Sky does so admirably. 

Quantify Your Accomplishments – Recruiters like to see information directly relating to your accomplishments. Whether those accomplishments are "improved sales by 500,000 units in the first 3 months of the campaign" or "Chaired committee of 26 and presented lectures to an audience of 45 board members weekly" you should quantify your achievements on your resume. Don’t just say what you have done, put direct facts, numbers, and data behind it. You can use range, project scope, audience, impact, scale, or frequency in your numbers as well as earnings or sales. Here's a great example from Hagan Blount. 

Tell A Story – Your resume tells your story, but too many people take it as an opportunity to only list boring facts, forget to put them in order, and as a result, don't really let the recruiter get to know them. Here's an example of resume storytelling. 

The Don'ts of a Creative Resume

Don't Copy Word for Word – While copying language from the job posting (if there is one) will increase company interest in your resume, it's important not to copy anything word for word. If you can scan through a job posting or a company website and adopt some of their terminology and phrasing, you may be able to stand out more to a recruiter, but you should never copy entire sentences or phrases. Make everything your own. 

Don't Share Too Much – Many people get creative by putting personal information or other data that they shouldn't be sharing on their resume. Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google says that one of the most frequent mistakes that people make on their resumes is sharing confidential information or information from their work that they shouldn’t share. Don't make the same mistake. 

Don't Share Your Life History – No matter how creative your resume, you still shouldn't have more than 1 page per about 10 years of experience. That's short for most industries, but it's important. Leave out all but the most relevant jobs, don't include non-relevant skills, don't include obvious skills (like Microsoft Word), and assume that if they want your references, they will ask. 

Don't Use Different Fonts and Colors - For the most part, unless you are a graphic designer or artist, you should focus on being creative with words and presentation, and not different fonts, colors, and boxes of text. Keep it simple, make it legible, and make sure it's easy to read on every browser. 

Being creative on your resume means taking some time to decide how to present yourself in a way that expresses your skills, your job experience, and some of your personality. Your resume should be dynamic, creative, simple, and easy to read. Once you achieve that, you can and will draw more attention when you submit your resume. 

About the author:

Mike Hanski specializes in writing resumes and academic papers and currently blogs at  Find him on google plus for a random writing tip or just to say hi.