We recently received an often expressed comment and an often-asked question from Nina Burkley, a recent graduate at one of our local vocational schools. Ready to graduate, Nina wants to stand up above her fellow competition (a smart thing to do) and make sure the hiring manager takes a second look at her qualifications.
Crossing the line between standing up and sitting down is a matter of common sense, industry standards, and the ability to think like an employer. Here’s what Nina had to say…
“Everyone says I need to make my resume stand out, and I’ve seen some pretty cool examples online where people use photos, graphics, and colors to give their document some pizzaz. What are your thoughts on doing this?”
Thanks for the question, Nina. Using photos and colors will definitely make your resume stand out, but not always in the way you might like. Although there is no global best-practice “official” list of requirements for a resume, the top career management associations do make some rather strong suggestions which I, too, recommend as you consider document development.
Listening to experts in the field makes a great deal of sense when it comes to your career. Put in another way, taking the lazy research way and trusting online recommendations may not be in your best interest as anyone can (and do) jot misguided gibberish. Fortunately, you know better than the follow blindly!
Let’s round up a few best-practice suggestions from the top career management associations:
1) Limit the use of color. Here’s an idea: Use any color you want as long as it is black and white. Naturally there is room for brief moments of shade but, as a general rule, colors are not the way to go.
2) With limited color choices, pictures lose impact so you may want to reconsider using images. Think of it this way: Slipping in cheap clip-art does not say many positives about your creative abilities.
3) If you are a graphic artist (or in another creative industry—accounting not included in this bunch), use common sense when it comes to image branding. Think like an employer when it comes to pictures as what you intend to show may not be what is perceived or recognized, leading the way to confusion and possible insults.
4) With Internet transparency, many folks are going with the flow by placing personal photos on their resume… Here’s the scoop: Throughout the United States, personal photos on resumes is not recommended… unless you happen to be applying to be a swimsuit model. True enough, in some European countries, placing personal photos is fairly common… but we are not in England.
5) Pizzaz does not get you hired… your knowledge, skills, and abilities (along with your soft skills) get you inside the door; getting your foot in the door should be your number one priority.
6) Think like an employer: Hiring managers often receive hundreds of resumes/applications for one job position. Hiring executives are not in the mood to waste time on clip art, fluff, unrecognizable images, or irrelevant clatter. In other words, state as professionally the value you bring and how you will positively affect the bottom line… nothing else really matters.
With the above in mind, if you must, use moderation and common sense when it comes to artistic flare.
Note: If the job you’re applying for doesn’t require any work to be submitted with it, then you should leave colors and graphics out of your resume. There is no need for it.
If the job position requires supplemental material such as a portfolio displaying work accomplishments, you have a creative license to introduce color, graphics, and blue prints. It is recommended that all applicants create a professional portfolio as “showing” your talents is always more effective than simply “telling” what think you can do. Distinct portfolios have the power to lift you above the competition quickly and impressively as long as it is relevant to the job/industry.
To detail a bit further: A portfolio is a hard copy or digital folder containing past work as it relates to the current position you’re applying for. In the graphic design example, the job seeker would use his or her resume to highlight work experience and skills while using the portfolio to actually demonstrate it.
Time to wrap Nina’s comment/question into a branding statement for all to take advantage of:
It is always better to make your resume stand up due to layout of information; overuse or misaligned graphics, color, or pictures often prove to be detrimental to career success.
If you would like our career experts to address specific questions or issues related to your career development and success, reach out by using the comment box.
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Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
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