Resume Tips for Designers
Now in the envious position of hiring two more designers for my team, I am inundated with resumes, portfolios, cold calls and blind inquiries from the rank and file of unemployed graphic artists. Collecting this material has offered me some insight into the whole job seeking process, and I wanted to share some resume and portfolio tips with you.
As I mentioned at the end of October, I have moved into the Creative Director position at my company, and my very first task as the big cheese is to hire two new designers to fill some looming vacancies (if interested, it’s not too late). The two design positions — one web, one print — have been advertised for about two weeks on various websites. The resumes have been hitting my inbox at a fairly rapid clip, and I’ve now accumulated close to 40 applications for each job.
Awhile ago, I wrote about hiring a junior designer, and I briefly touched on resumes. When scouring the market for young talent, it’s impossible to predict what you’re going to get because almost every applicant is still in “art school” mode and producing highly experimental, conceptual work.
But I expect refined work and a polished resume when shopping for an experienced applicant. Unfortunately, the general grade has arrived below my expectations. In fact, I’ve received such a vast range of quality that I felt I had to sit down and offer some tips to those who might be in the market for a position.
1. Apply for the Right Job
Call me insane, but I’m thinking you should read the job description before applying. Just a hunch. A little tip. I have print designers applying for the web position, web designers applying for the print position, freelancers and agency owners all over the country fishing for work and “IT” companies in India and Iran hawking their discounted rates. Approximately half of all resumes I’ve received are misfiled.
What really is pissing me off is that total lack of couth from the agencies and freelancers sending me e-mails to consider outsourcing the work. If I wanted a lecherous, desperate and mediocre designer on the other side of the country, I would have written my job description as follows:
Hi, I’m the Creative Director of a $35 million software company looking to offload a half-million dollar budget to the first insipid slob who solicits for the precise opposite of what I’m asking for. If you have barely passable design skills and the lifeless, impotent portfolio to match, call me!
2. Design Your Resume
This was a minor debate in my other post, but I feel it’s important for designers (including web designers) to design their resume. A generic Word template is exactly that — generic. It says everything about you and nothing about you at the same time.
I’ll be the first one to agree that designing for yourself is difficult (it took me three years to settle on the current design of my own site), which makes a resume and portfolio design all the more important for me to see. It demonstrates you have the initiative to brand yourself, to make yourself stand apart, to create a design that has no parameters, guidelines or specs.
3. If It’s Longer Than Two Pages, Cut it
I don’t need to know your life story. I don’t want to know your life story. I want to see your work experience from the past three relevant jobs, not every menial job going back to the six-month stint at White Castle in your freshman year. I also don’t give a crap about what high school you went to, reference letters from your neighbor or your pet cat.
Your resume should be short and sweet. Two pages of good, substantial experience and education. I dare say you might try to keep it to one page.
4. Stop Piling on the Action Words
Ten years ago, filling your resume with “action words” was a great way to drum up excitement from the recruiter. Today, it barely passes as cliche. At the end of the day, I want to know what you did, not what you utilized, implemented, solidified, generated, optimized, drafted or energized. Please don’t write over your head; it impresses no one.
5. Remember the Holy Trifecta: Brevity, Clarity and Accuracy
Keep your text brief and to the point, keep the design conservative and ultra-readable and keep the information FBI-background-check accurate. And for the love of all things holy, use your spell check. Please.
6. Make Sure Your Material is Printable
While it’s easy to create a fancy resume or portfolio, it must print well. If it’s a PDF resume and portfolio, it has to work on letter-size (or A4 for those in the UK) paper; if it’s online, be sure to use printer style sheets and test in every browser imaginable.
7. If It’s Online, Make It Clickable
If there are links in your PDF, make sure they’re linked to the e-mail or website they advertise. Similarly, if you have an online portfolio showing screenshots, make sure you link to the actual sites as well.
8. Don’t Dangle Your Portfolio Like a Carrot
This is different for ever job posting, but please send your portfolio when the company requests it. It’s very annoying to receive a dynamite resume, and at the end have it say, “Portfolio available upon request.” It means you didn’t read the entire job posting, and if you did, it means you don’t like to follow simple direction. Either way, it’s points against you.
9. If You’re Misrepresenting Work in Your Portfolio, Eat Shit and Die
If you’re the sort of person who likes to punch babies before stealing their lollipops, or the sort of person who microwaves small animals for fun, or the sort of person who burns down your parent’s house because they didn’t buy you the right kind of Barbie doll, you might be the kind of person who steals other designers’ work and presents it as your own. In that case, I sincerely wish upon you a full-blown case of Ebola and a happy two weeks shitting your way to hell.