Sunday, June 03, 2007

12 resume writing tips for designers

Looking for a job? Finding a new design position can be a very daunting and stressful experience, especially if you're a fresh-out-of-college designer applying for your first creative job.

In my recruiting experience I've found that most young designers in South America and Colombia would benefit from some guidance with regards to self-promotion.

So if you're fresh out of college, or a senior designer straight out of a long career, here are twelve top tips for designers' resumes that can help you land that all-important interview:

  1. Do some research
    Even if you think you know everything there is to know about designing a document, use your design know-how to effectively present your resume.

    There are tons of websites with information about designing a CV (Curriculum Vitae) like Rita Sue Siegel Resources, for example.

    Now, being a designer, most likely you're 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 throughout the whole document.

    So your flair for design is there only to enforce the information in your resume. Always remember: style over substance is a big no-no!

  2. Customize your resume to match the position
    Designers can work in different areas of design. I've seen this especially with graphic designers.

    If 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 (making sure those websites are still active!) 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.

  3. Make it a one-page resume
    Yes, all 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 to read at her leisure (i.e.: when she has the time.)

    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.

  4. Proofread your resume
    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.

    Set time side and get someone else to read your resume through for you. Maybe your mom, your dad, a friend maybe – anyone, so long as your resume is proofread.

  5. Highlight your name and contact information
    Your name and your contact details are the most important part of your resume!

    Make them 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 (cell included) 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 Adobe Photoshop.

    If you're applying for a job as an illustrator, this could be a good way to highlight your resume and maybe stand out from the rest.

  6. State your profile
    Include a brief paragraph expressing what your profile as a designer is, or what your major, or preferred 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.

    Additionally, try not to talk about the long-term in a way that sounds like you're just using your prospective employer as a stepping-stone in your design career.

  7. Add the professional experience information
    Include your work experience, listing jobs in reverse chronological order. For each job include:

    • The time period (the date when you started and when you finished) for that job, including year and month.

    • The responsibilities of your design position.

    • The achievements of the position, and how they translated into either an increase in sales or the reduction of costs for the firm. Add 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 updated information.

  8. Add the academic information
    Include the qualifications you have and filter them to be pertinent to the position you're applying to.

    Also list your qualifications in reverse chronological order, too.

    Be sure to include the year in which you graduated and the title you received.

  9. Make sure you send the right file
    When sending your resume file through email, take into consideration:

    • Check that your file is complete. Yes, I've received resumes that only list the jobs, with no name or contact info, because the person forgot to include the previous pages!

    • Here's another chance to stand out by naming your file with your name, e.g.: “carolina_ayerbe_CV.pdf”; make the work of the recruiter simpler and make your design resume easy to find among all the files she's downloaded that are called “CV.doc”, “resume.pdf” and every other file name that doesn't provide any information as to what it contains.

    • Include your name, title and the position you're applying for in the subject line of the email.

      It makes it easier to find you in the long list of emails the recruiter receives every day.

    • Write a short, warm and assertive email message to go with your attachment. This will effectively act as your covering letter.

    Don't just send the attachment alone; some people might take this gesture to be rude. Say hello, at least. Be polite!

    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 resume covering letter.

  10. 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 a designer who'd presented himself as a “brand creator”. Hmm, interesting, I thought.

    When I interviewed him and 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 as a designer. It's much more effective.

  11. 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 more complete portfolio from the designer.

    Don't send twelve pages, though. Still keep it short, two or three pages maximum.

  12. Be professional
    Most young designers aspire to rise to the level of a professional. Design is a business; it's not just about the perfect decoration in the pretty resume. I'll say it again: style over substance is a big no-no!

    It has to convey a message of professionalism, that you can actually do the job and that you know how to speak the design language inside a business setting.

I hope these tips help out a few designers out there.

For more resources visit:

I look forward to receiving some comments.

All the best!

This article is a revision on a first version I posted a while ago. Thanks to Wayne Smallman, technology blogger and fellow designer for revising the english version of the original article.


frank Carfora said...

thanks for these tips. i am in the process of re-evaluating my resume writing, and i have learned, through your blog and other sources, that i have done it TOTALLY WRONG. it's not a good felling, but i'd rather know now than later. one would think after 20 years in the business, i would know better!

Carolina Ayerbe said...

Thank you, Frank! It's never too late to learn and I hope these tips will help you out. Thanks for taking the time to comment and do let us know how it worked out for you!