I was recently asked by Indian newspaper "The Hindu" to share my thoughts on how candidates applying for creative roles should go about getting noticed by companies and recruiters. The resulting article was called "Creativity Unplugged" and is available here. Here are some additional thoughts on what you can do if you're considering taking a creative approach with your job search.
Should people make their resumes more creative?
If someone knows how to use design elements well and can put together a resume which is succinct and aesthetically pleasing this can definitely enhance their chances of being progressed by a recruiter if they are applying for a role which specifically requires creative skills (for example positions in design). If they are applying for a role at a company which doesn't take itself too seriously, like a small startup, this approach may also work well. These types of companies often pride themselves on their innovative culture, and chances are they want you to do your job "a little bit differently," and will appreciate your efforts to stand out with a resume which is out of the box.
Submitting a creative resume definitely gives you the chance to stand out, showcase your skills and increases the likelihood of a recruiter clicking through to check out your portfolio. If done badly, design elements can actually detract from your application, so I'd recommend people think twice before taking this approach, and if you're not a trained designer perhaps have a creative friend take a look before you hit 'send' to make sure it looks top-notch from their perspective. It's also worth remembering recruiters are different - and some will be more creative than others. Chances are they weren't hired for their design skills, so you can't be sure they will see your resume the way you expect them to when they open it. This is a risk you take when submitting a creative resume...and one which can pay off.
What do recruiters think when they see a creative resume?
I absolutely love seeing a good creative resume. They showcase the candidates' design skills and certainly get my attention. Creatively designed resumes would not necessarily resonate as well in an extremely corporate environment, or if you're applying for non-design related positions - academic roles or medicine for example. Remember, just because your design skills are excellent and your resume looks great, if there are spelling and grammatical errors or your experience isn't aligned to the job requirements, your application likely won't progress regardless.
Are there any decent resume templates out there?
Some of the online templates these days are really good. Microsoft Office teamed up with Moo in 2016 and created a great range of templates I really like the look of. If you're starting from scratch, a template is a good idea as it will give you some structure to build from. You don't have to stick with the template, you can start with it then change elements as you go to make it feel more personal for both you and the recruiter who will eventually review it. It's ok to add a individual touch to your resume - but be considerate of your audience and how they may perceive this before you choose your template. If in doubt, be conservative and have someone (ideally with experience being an internal recruiter at a company in a similar industry to the one you're applying to) read it over for you before you hit 'send'.
What does my resume actually look like when you receive it?
Remember when using a creative resume to consider how it will look when the person reviewing it opens it at the other end. Your priority should be making their job as easy as possible, and it's important you submit something the person reviewing can read properly. If you're applying to a large company chances are they have an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) in place, which will display your resume in a certain way, and not all file types will even be accepted or show up the way you imagine they will.
If in doubt, stick to a simple black and white template in an easy to read file type and include links to a portfolio in your resume so the recruiter can click through to see your creative work. If you're emailing your resume directly to an internal recruiter using their email address this gives you a bit more scope to send something a little different as they won't be opening your resume via an ATS and will likely have access to a wider variety of file types on their computer.
What are some creative application approaches which stand out?
There are several creative approaches by candidates which I still recall clearly today - meaning they certainly did a good job of standing out.
Video resume: A candidate in New York applying for a video-focused sales role once emailed me an application containing their resume, plus a link to their video resume, which was set to the Baywatch theme song, produced incredibly well, and to be honest - absolutely hilarious. This approach demonstrated their passion for video (our company's core focus), their ability to creatively package something which resonated with a target audience (which is a great sales attribute) and the likelihood they could work in a fast-paced startup where people liked to work hard and have fun. It got my attention, was highly relevant, and this in addition to their strong skills and industry sales experience helped them get an interview and get the job. For those who know the song, you can be assured this person definitely wasn't afraid to "step into the light".
Creative mail: An entry level candidate in London once sent me a paper resume application accompanied by a small plastic zip lock bag full of glitter, with a little card inside saying: "Something to make your day sparkle". This was very original, and I ended up keeping that little bag of glitter on my desk for many months afterwards as it made me smile. Unfortunately the candidate wasn't suitable for any of the role types we had available, but I made a point of writing her a personal email thanking her for the post with the bag of glitter and praising her creativity. I'm sure she's doing something great (and hopefully creative) today.
Life sized cardboard cut-out: One of the more unusual approaches was taken by someone who decided to implement a guerrilla marketing campaign to document their application process with one of the world's largest technology brands when I worked there. This person built a website about their goal of being employed by this tech giant, started a large social media campaign in which they regularly posted videos (in which they would appear in a costume) documenting every interaction they were having with different employees at the company, and memorably Fedex-ed a life-sized cardboard cut out of themselves to our Silicon Valley headquarters. This person applied for a role I was managing, but by this time the campaign had attracted media attention in the USA, and so the VP of HR at the time ended up interviewing the candidate. Unfortunately they weren't hired, but they apparently received over 50 job offers as a result of this experience.
Of these three examples, just one was offered the role they applied for. This ultimately came down to this person not only taking a very unique approach when it came to their job application, but also having the skills and experience to back that approach up. When it comes to your job search, these days more and more companies are embracing innovative, outside the box thinking - but it's very important you make sure you're qualified for the role, and know your audience before you consider getting creative.
Sian Havard is Founder at Milkshake Group, a Brisbane, Australia based consultancy which coaches people around the world looking for awesome careers, and partners with startups looking to create world-class talent strategies.
Find her at www.milkshakegroup.com.