Monday, January 15, 2007

Designers beware: 10 tips on designer resumes.

Looking for a job? Yes, a very daunting and stressful experience, especially if you’re a fresh-out-of-college designer applying for your first job.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview many designers for in-house positions and I’ve found that most designers would benefit from some guidance on how to promote themselves. This is particularly relevant to designers in South America and Colombia where design is a relatively new profession.

The times, they are a’ changing, and designers need to rise to the level of most professionals. Design is a business. It’s not just about the perfect decoration in the pretty resume. It has to convey a message of professionalism, a message that you can actually do the job. Even if you’re a designer with experience, here are ten tips for designers writing their resume:

Tip 1: Do some research.
Even if you think you know everything there is to know about designing a document, find out about effective ways to present a resume. There are tons of websites with information about it like Rita Sue Siegel Resources and even this here article may help you. Now, being a designer, you are expected to show your creative side in your resume (At least I expect that). Nevertheless, this is a document for you to show that you’re a professional and therefore, all the right information must be included, even if it means sacrificing that beautiful symbol you want displayed in the whole page.

Tip 2: Customize your resume to match the position.
Designers work in different areas of design. I’ve seen this especially with graphic designers. So when the position calls for an illustrator, make your resume reflect that in the jobs or projects you want to show. If the position calls for a web designer, then include all web work you’ve done with links. If you think something else will add to your value proposition, include it. However, don’t try to squeeze all your work experience in just one page if some of it has no relevance to the position.

Tip 3: A one page resume.
Yes, all the necessary information can fit in one page, as weird as it sounds. You have to think that the person receiving your resume is receiving a lot more and she probably is printing them out. Make her job easier by including all pertinent information in a single page, you will earn some extra points for that.

Now, you’re a designer, play with typography, space, color… it’s also very important to make sure the information is presented in an organized, clear, easy to read way and have some fun! Make your personality and style show through. Don’t forget to double, better yet, make that “triple” check your document for typos and grammar errors. Nothing says “unprofessional” like a sloppy resume. Here's an example of a one page resume. Granted, this was a fresh-out-of-college designer and didn't have a lot of information to include, but you get the idea.

Tip 4: Your name and contact information are the most important thing.
Follow what you learned in school and make your name and contact information stand out by placing them where they will be easier to read for the recruiter: most likely the right top corner of the page, or top centered. Do include all your contact information, telephone numbers where you can be reached for sure.

If your email is something like “” it’s better to get a new one, just your name and last name, something that identifies who you are. I personally think that it’s not necessary to include your photo, though I’ve seen some pretty cool ways to add a picture of yourself as an illustration or an unusual treatment in Photoshop. If you’re applying for a job as an illustrator, this could be a good highlight for your resume.

Tip 5: Your profile.
Include a brief paragraph expressing what your profile as a designer is, or what your major areas of expertise are and what short term goals you have. This helps the recruiter see quickly if your profile matches what they’re looking for.

Tip 6: Now for the work information.
Include your work experience, listing jobs in reverse chronological order. For each job include:

a. The time period you had that job, including year and month.
b. The responsibilities of the position.
c. The achievements of the position, and how they translated into either an increase in sales or the reduction of costs for the firm. Include some numeric information, when possible.

If you’ve worked as a web designer, or have links to your work on the internet, make sure they work properly and contain all current information.

Tip 7: Academic information.
Include the qualifications you have and filter them to be pertinent to the position you’re applying to. List them in reverse chronological order too. Be sure to include the year in which you graduated and the title you received.

Tip 8: Is it the right file?
When sending your resume file through email, take into consideration:

a. Check that your file is complete. Yes, I have received resumes of one page, where it only lists the jobs, with no name or contact info, because they forgot to include the previous pages.

b. Name your file with your name. i.e. carolina_ayerbe_CV.pdf; make the work of the recruiter easier, and make your resume easy to find among all the files she’s downloaded that are called “CV.doc”, “resume.pdf”, “current_resume.doc” and every other combination that doesn’t provide any information as to what the file contains.

c. Include your name, title and the position you’re applying to in the subject line of the email. It makes it easier to find you in the long list of emails the recruiter received every day.

d. Open some doors by writing a short, warm and assertive email message to go with your attachment. Don’t just send the attachment alone; some people might take this gesture to be rude. Say hello, at least. Don’t underestimate the value of a well crafted message selling the benefits the company will get by hiring you. If necessary, go back to the Tip 1 and do some research on how to write a proper cover letter.

Tip 9: Don’t lie.
Most recruiters can see through a liar. Show your work in a dignified way, talk about your accomplishments, but don’t try to sell things as more than they really are. I once received a CV from this designer that presented himself as a “brand creator”. Hmm, interesting, I thought.

When I interviewed him I asked him how he went about creating a brand; it became obvious the guy had no idea what he was talking about. We both wasted our time. Be honest about what you’ve achieved. It’s much more effective.

Tip 10: Combine your resume with your portfolio.
I really like it when the resume includes some examples of the work the designer has done. All contact, work and academic information should be in the first page.

From the second page on, it’s a good idea to include three or four examples of your best work. This will be the entrée for the recruiter to ask for a complete portfolio. Don’t send twelve pages, though. Still keep it short, two or three pages maximum.

I hope these tips help out a few designers out there.
I look forward to receiving some comments!

All the best, Carolina Ayerbe.


David said...

Here you can find additional information on how to write a perfect resume:

Carolina Ayerbe said...

Hey, David! Thanks for your comment. Do you have a blog of your own? All the best, Carolina.

Kamal Bhakuni said...

Hi Carolina,

I bookmarked it, i found your blog from your Ecademy profile. I will certainly use these tips while i will update my resume, I might seek your assistance.