A Fancy Resume Has Never Gotten Me Hired

Of course you want to show off your design chops, but your resume is an exercise in restraint.

Alright kids, circle ‘round, it’s story time.

Once upon a time, there was a young, early-twentysomething designer, setting off on his long journey to becoming an art director and maybe someday, if he worked really hard and made some cool stuff, a creative director. He was excited about the world of design, and wanted to convey this enthusiasm in his resume. If the person reading it could feel that energy, well surely they’d hire him!

So he designed the ever-living FUCK out of that resume. Grid system, two columns, a nice information hierarchy with different shades of gray, and a spiffy serif font for his name up top. In a bright yet tasteful shade of orange.

It was glorious. It was a testament to his design prowess, even at that young age. The fonts matched well, the whole document flowed, and it even had a list of keywords and listed out his competencies, expressed on a sliding scale!

But it didn’t get him hired. He hardly got an interview with it.

It was a devistating experience for him on an emotional level. He was the kind of guy who put his heart and soul into his work and design was part of his identity. He had also recently gotten fired from his first sorta-legit design job and that still really stung.

So he went back to the drawing board and did a little soul-searching. What really made him unique among all the other designers? What made him special and…employable?

The process of making a resume and applying to jobs is a nightmare. It’s discouraging and soul-crushing in a way.

“Why should we hire you?”

Hell if I know! I need to pay rent and this is the intersection of my passion and what I’m willing to do for money?

“What makes you special? (300 characters or less)”

Let me just summarize my life and justify my existence for you in 300 characters or less.

Our self worth these days is tied to our economic output and we call it “The Dignity of Work,” so let me digress here to remind you that your worth as a human has nothing to do with your job. Our young hero was struggling with this himself.

Was he special? OF COURSE HE WAS! He could draw, he could code, he could design anything! He could even make little animated videos that explain things. But the question remained— how do you shove the essence of a whole human and their experience onto a 8.5×11” page with margins?

After some extensive thinking on the subject, he realized the secret to the resume: it’s an inherently boring document that reflects only one facet of the writer’s life.

Friends, don’t stylize your resumes. It doesn’t help. Sometimes sticking out isn’t the best strategy. Everything you make has a context and you need to know how to operate within it. So save the crazy concept stuff for your own website, put the nice font and cool new logo on your business cards.

In the end, our young hero made up a really boring black-and-white resume in Garamond. It was a complete snooze-fest, but it got him hired, and it still does to this day.

The resume is an inherently boring document, but there’s no need to try and re-invent it. They’re meant to be skimmed for information, and used as an accompaniment to your portfolio. Nothing more, nothing less.

Good luck out there, I know it can be brutal.