don’t buy a professionally designed resume

A reader writes:

I was wondering what your thoughts are on super fancy resumes like the ones available from Loft Resumes and other outlets that offer professionally designed and custom typeset resumes. I had a friend on Facebook complaining about them, but he also said a lot of his friends think they are a great way to stand out (his friends are mainly recent college grads, so I guess take their opinions with a grain of salt). I’m of the thought that they are kind of gimmicky and if I were choosing between two candidates, I wouldn’t necessarily choose the fancy resume over a standard one. Unless I worked at a design firm?

Um, yeah. Be wary of advice on how to get hired from people who are new to the workforce.

In case anyone doesn’t know the resumes we’re talking about, there are now companies that you can hire to design your resume for you — with color, and custom typesetting, and fancy design elements. They’re beautiful — and they’re often a turn-off.

Here’s what I think when I see one of these I-hired-a-designer-to-make-this-for-me resumes:  Does this person think that their skills and achievements won’t speak for themselves? Do they not understand what employers are looking for? Do they put an inappropriate emphasis on appearances over substance?

At the same time, I’m sympathetic because I know that job-seekers have been inundated with (often bad) advice telling them that they need to “stand out” in the crowd. But this is not the way to do it. As I’ve said a hundred times now, the way to stand out is by being a highly qualified candidate and having a resume that shows a track record of achievement, writing a great cover letter, and being responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic.

“Standing out” isn’t about sending in an aesthetically gorgeous document — although the companies making money from that idea would like you to believe it is. “Standing out” is about the strength of your candidacy, which is something you can’t buy or fake or promote through even the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful font choice.

The only exception to the “don’t bother with a fancy resume design” rule is if you’re a designer or in a similar field, in which case your resume should show your design skills — but they should be yours, not the skills of someone you hired.

Now, I’m not going to say that there are no hiring managers, anywhere, who will respond to these. Some will. But they’re in the minority. And moreover, you don’t want to work for them, because employers who respond to gimmicks over merit in the hiring process do it with their employees too … so once you’re working there, you’ll end up complaining that the promotions and raises all go to the flashiest employees, instead of those with the best work. The hiring managers who you want to work for don’t need you to use gimmicks because they know how to identify the best candidate for the job all on their own.

(Plus, this happened.)

{ 128 comments… read them below }

  1. Victoria

    Sigh. But they’re so preeeeetty.

    (My resume is boring looking. As is everything I design. If I could have one unsuperhuman gift it would be to have a gorgeous design sense.)

  2. Anonymous

    What if you redesign your own resume? I’m trying to get into marketing, and recently made mine slightly “fancier,” involving a second (only slightly different) font and a few minor layout tweaks. The changes aren’t major enough to look like I bought it or hired someone to make it for me, but am I better off with just a normal resume? My thought process was that it would show off my desktop publishing proficiency while just being the teensiest bit eye-catching. The main addition was just a pair of lines on either side of the centered heading for each section, just to separate, say, Education from Work Experience.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That sounds completely fine! The problem is when it’s so outside the mainstream of typical resumes that it raises questions like the above or when the design actually detracts from the employer’s ability to scan it quickly.

    2. KayDay

      ^^yes, do this^^ When I screen resumes, the one’s I like the best ARE indeed aesthetically pleasing: well-formatted, about two or three different type styles to make headings and stuff stand out, and with appropriate amounts of white space. A line or two helps. At the same time, they don’t deviate too much from the norm. In the best designed resumes, the aesthetic features also make the resume easier to read.

      What you said is perfect: “show off my desktop publishing proficiency while just being the teensiest bit eye-catching” –this is (IMHO) what you should be aiming for.

      1. Ariancita

        Yep, exactly this. A neat and pleasing layout should also make it easier to read. I don’t over design my resume, but I do use my design skills to make it look nice, with appropriate fonts, good use of negative space, alignment (some of those designs on Loft are really not good…many things not aligned properly), balance, logical flow, etc. All these function to make it more readable, not more “design-y,” which is particularly important for resumes like mine that have seemingly disparate work experiences.

        I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my resume for my clean layout. But I do think the design-y ones are difficult for employers because one doesn’t know where to look for the information. The focus is more on design than logical, easy flow of information. They are the opposite of clean.

        But I wonder if these kinds are going to become more of the norm (the layouts remind me of blog templates).

        1. Natalie

          “The focus is more on design than logical, easy flow of information.”

          Which is really bad design, IMO. Design shouldn’t impede function.

          1. JT

            +1

            The core function of design is organizing information, through type, spacing, white space, to make information inviting and easy to understand.

            Design is not decoration, though in some contexts (not resumes) decoration can help design.

            1. Anonymous

              I’m a graphic designer, and I have seen many awful resumes from other designers. Over designed, too much “stuff”, trying too hard to deviate from the classic resume. When you have to review dozens or even hundreds of resumes like that, it gets frustrating.

              There’s no need to overthink and complicate the resume. Keep it simple, focus on the information. The website/portfolio is the place to show off!

    3. KellyK

      That sounds really good to me. I think what you’re describing is totally within the realm of a “normal” resume.

  3. AV

    As a frequent hiring manager, I agree with all of this. I went to the Loft Resume website and seeing resume like this would be a turn-off for me. Now I don’t hire for jobs where design is relevant. But if design *were* relevant to the job, the candidate’s use of someone else’s design would also be a turnoff. I’m curious to see what happens with this business because I don’t see a scenario in which this doesn’t make the candidate look bad. OR, even worse, selectively impress hiring managers with the wrong priorities…

    1. Melissa

      I just checked out that website. People are paying $99 for that stuff? Their “conservative industries” page is laughable because none of those designs are conservative.

  4. Anonymous

    It is interesting that this question has been posted. I have thought seriously about getting my resume done professionally. My resume look so plain vanilla and frankly sad. I am looking for entry-level, have very little recent experience and feel so discouraged at the moment. I have seen some friends resumes for help and their resume makes mine look pitiful. I don’t know the first thing to do to make it better. I have a beautiful home, know how to decorate it and can make a very good appearance, but I am stuck by this. I was told by a HR representative that reviewed mine that I had some very good skills. She said that I just didn’t know how to present them. I was told the same thing by a teacher I had. I wish I knew how to make this better.

      1. Victoria

        I don’t entirely agree. I think the basic resume templates that Microsoft offers (some of them, at least) help a resume look polished.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Polished, definitely. But the commenter sounded like she was focused on design, when it sounds like she needs to focus on presenting her qualifications.

          1. Catherine

            In this instance it’s good to ask friends who can write for help. I recently helped a friend rewrite his resume, and that included redesigning the layout and adding some polish. He is in tech support aiming for some higher level IT positions, and his skills were buried (not to mention he just typed it all up in Word and never changed anything from the default, so it looked like he didn’t put any thought into it). He hates writing so he came to me for help. We didn’t use any fancy layouts, graphics, or anything, but I simply reworked the structure so his skills stand out. That’s probably all you need.

            1. Anonymous

              Catherine, how do you go about doing something like this? My resume lacks so much.

              1. Catherine

                I structured his resume to have a skills summary at the top – like a listing of skills, not a prose statement – and then put the work experience below. He didn’t have many jobs – about 3 full time jobs I think – so after the technical skills summary, I included skills utilized in each job along with accomplishments and duties. He really wanted to highlight his technical abilities since he is going for tech jobs. We ditched the objective statement, so the first thing you see is his skills summary (thinks like programming languages, software proficiency, and technical certifications). His resume is only one page because he hasn’t held a lot of jobs, but his skills and accomplishments are highlighted, like how he was promoted to management at one job and put in charge of some big projects. I hope this helps!

        2. Anonymous

          I am sure you probably have a great deal more to offer than I do. I am now just going back to work (hopefully) and do not have any great accomplishments in the workforce to showcase. I have tweeted my resume a few times and frankly there is just so much you can do. I don’t know how to say what I want to say. One of my friends can make a simple task look like something fantastic on her resume. I feel stuck. They say to play up your accomplishments, but what if you don’t have any professional ones? You can’t make stuff up.

          1. Catherine

            Something else you might consider is your word choices. Active verbs, as opposed to passive ones, make a big difference. Even if you don’t have accomplishments to show off, you can still make mundane tasks sound more intense by using active voice and making good use of a thesaurus. Of course don’t use any weird sounding words – read it out loud to someone to make sure they can easily grasp what you are saying – but generally, active voice will catch someone’s eye when scanning the resume and help them get a clear picture of what you do, quickly.

          2. Frances

            You should find an organization you like and do some volunteering for them–take on the type of work you’d like to get paid for. That becomes “experience” on your resume. Don’t go overboard with fancy business words (it’s corny and will annoy a hiring manager), but sprinkling some of these in might help.

            1. Anonymous

              Thank you. I have volunteered some. I am really considering doing something like that again, if I can not find something soon. I appreciate your suggestion.

            2. Anonymous

              Also, what does branding yourself really mean? I mean does it mean what skills you have, what you are about as a person? Also, I am on Linkin but that is a mess too.

              1. Naama

                Don’t get too hung up on that phrase. Basically, you want to leave an impression in the hiring manager’s head — the impression you’re shooting for depends on who you are and what skills they want. It really comes down to this:
                – Know what they are looking for in a candidate.
                – Show how your background meets those needs.
                – Do so clearly, so they get it, and they remember it. Don’t bog it down with stuff that doesn’t matter to them.

                As for LinkedIn, look at other profiles to see how people use it. Don’t compare their experience to yours. Remember, there are loads of people reentering the workforce, like you, and they *are* getting hired. The fact that you read AAM gives you a leg up :)

                1. Anonymous

                  Thank you for explaining that. I feel like a fish out of water most of time lately.

          3. Nikki

            Have you asked your friend for assistance? She may be the one to give your resume a makeover (in a good way). Explore this website, it has a wealth of information.
            All the best in your job search.

            1. Anonymous

              Thank you. No, she had someone do hers for her. I don’t know the person she knew. Yes, I have gathered a lot of information on this website. I just wish I had read some of the things here sooner.

      2. JobSeeker

        Thank you for the suggestion of content, Alison. Mine may not be flashy but my content will be better.

  5. Anonymous

    “As I’ve said a hundred times now, the way to stand out is by being a highly qualified candidate and having a resume that shows a track record of achievement”

    In other words, don’t be young and fresh out of college. Otherwise unless you have multiple internships at Fortune 500 companies on your resume you just might be better off starting your own business. If they won’t give you a job, steal their customers.

    Face it, there just arent’ enough jobs out there for people who aren’t *already* the best in their field, and even for them they’re up against similar quality candidates who are perfectly qualified which makes it like winning the lottery.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Not true. I’ve hired a ton of recent grads and there are plenty who manage to show a track record of achievement — in school, in internships, in volunteer work, in summer jobs, and in hobbies. They are people who have a pattern of taking X and turning it into something greater than X. That’s what I want when I hire, at any level.

    2. TheAssistant

      I agree with AAM. When I graduated from college, I didn’t have a ton of experience outside of campus jobs (and one internship!). But I was able to word my cover letter in a way that pulled together seemingly random experiences into meaningful experience. I brought in my senior thesis to interviews to demonstrate important entry-level skills, like time management. I also spoke to my references about what kind of job I was looking for, why I was attracted to the specific job, and why I thought they’d be a great reference for that particular job. There are absolutely ways to present one’s self before becoming an experienced manager with many years of experience, but they require careful self-reflection.

  6. Janet

    I admit, I have a fancy designed resume. But I didn’t pay anything for it. I have a close friend who is a designer and has done it for free and has also created a matching web portfolio for me. In my field (public relations) I feel it’s helped me get noticed. The design isn’t as crazy as the Loft ones though. It’s actually moreso that my friend designed professional looking letterhead for me and figured out a way for me to keep everything to one page in an easy-to-read but visually appealing way. It still very much resembles an actual resume though – just with a little bit of pizzaz.

  7. Joey

    Not just stereotypical design jobs. There are a lot of jobs where the aesthetics of your memo/report/presentation are a big deal. An aesthetically pleasing resume is definitely relevant.

    But yes no amount of lipstick you put on your resume will change your qualifications.

  8. Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers

    I totally agree — these “graphic resumes” don’t enhance job seekers’ chances, and anyone who is applying for a “graphics” job should design his or her own resume to showcase those relevant skills.

    Since I do write resumes as part of my business, I thought it was worth pointing out there is a difference between having someone “design” your resume (for appearances) and having someone actually transform it (focusing on content).

    Professional resume writers understand how to help job seekers market themselves and their skills. They make sure to highlight candidates’ best strengths.

    Unfortunately, many job seekers apply for positions online and don’t understand how important it is to include keywords to get through applicant tracking systems and to be selected for interviews. They may be qualified, but without key resume writing skills and know-how, they miss opportunities.

    A good resume writer understands how the screening process works and can help job seekers highlight their most relevant accomplishments and skills so employers will want to hire them!

    1. Anonymous

      In your opinion, is a professional resume a great idea for someone that has little experience? I know that many companies use applicant tracking systems and to use keywords. Some companies online do not even ask for your resume. Maybe, I am just sunk.

      1. Wilton Businessman

        It’s not the format, it’s the content. It has to be readable, that’s it.

        1. Wilton Businessman

          …assuming you’re not in graphic design or other artsy-fartsy field.

          1. Long Time Admin

            Was it really necessary to add that snarky remark? You sound like Frank Barone.

      2. mh_76

        If you do opt to have a resume professionally written, just make sure that it says what you want it to say in a way that is better than you think you could say it yourself. My wonderful and well-meaning folks had my resume professionally re-written a few years ago and it would have been an awesome resume…if I had been interested in Event Planning Admin Assistant work instead of things that will (hopefully) be a path to Proj./Ops. Management…I would love to see them get a refund. I did, however, pull out one of the bullet-points from that resume and work it into my own.

        As for formatting, 3 recruiters have recently reformatted my resume (two did the work themselves, one sent me a sample and I did the conversion) into formats that they like and all 3 have put me in for very good positions…1 was filled by another candidate, 2 resulted in phone screens and of those 2, 1 might become a F2F interview. One of the recruiters even supplied a couple of great bullet-points that I’ve worked into my main working version (that I tweak depending on the listings). When I tweak my resume, I have to remember to have an updated version in each of those differing formats ready, though, in case one of those agencies calls me about another opportunity and I need to send them a copy of my res. with the updates.

        One thing that I’ve noticed is that all 3 of the agency-specific versions are 3 pages…one might be 4…there is some debate about length and longer is probably good for resume versions that will be fed into a computer system (more content = better SEO) but I still believe in keeping my main working version to 2 pages (# of pages was discussed in a relatively recent AAM post & comments so I won’t repeat any of that here).

        The main thing to remember with formatting is to keep it clean & tidy and don’t try to cram it onto 1 page if you have enough material to add another 1/4 page or so (it looks funny to have just a couple of lines on the last page). Also consider that the person reading it might have low (or no) vision and might use a screen-reader. And/or that that person might have read 100 resumes with tiny type, resumes that look more like a newspaper than a resume.

        It’s always great to get as much feedback from other people of all ages/professions as you can and remember that re: feedback and advice, you have the ultimate veto power and don’t have to listen to every tidbit but do thank people regardless of whether/not you take their feedback/advice.
        [ack, another long comment, sorry…hopefully my computer won’t disappear this one like it did one earlier today…]

      3. Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers

        A professionally written resume has the potential to help any candidate, as the goal is to help the job seeker identify and highlight his or her key skills as they relate to the targeted job. Keep in mind, your resume is about the connection between what you offer and what the employer wants. If you’re applying for the right jobs, your skills should match the keywords employers are seeking.

    2. Wilton Businessman

      I tend to agree with Miriam. When my wife wanted to go from being a technical person to a manager of technical people, her resume read like an Acronym Dictionary. After a couple months of not getting into the type of position she wanted (but got 2 offers as a technician), she contacted a professional resume writer/job coach. Personally, I thought it was going to be a waste of time and money.

      Lo and behold, the resume writer changed most of the content (but kept the format) and through several mock interviews coached her on how to answer questions like a manager. Next resume out the door yielded an interview that lead to a job managing people and project in the technology she used to be an expert in.

      I think for pivotal changes like changing career direction or re-entering the workforce, a professional can definitely help.

      1. Anonymous

        Maybe, I need to get a professional to show me how to change the content. I am not very good at knowing how to make mine get noticed. It is hard when you don’t have a lot of experience to highlight.

    3. Joey

      Please stop the nonsense. Systems, jobs and hiring managers vary so wildly that you’re just guessing at best.

      I actually think its a bit of a detriment when people have their resumes written for them. They dont own their resume as much and usually have some false belief that it’s some sort of an edge.

      And for the record keyword searches aren’t that common outside of resume mining which isn’t needed for most jobs.

      1. Jamie

        They can be common in IT, when the initial screens are going through HR before being vetted by a technical hiring manager.

        In my experience HR (and often their screening software) will rely on keywords when they aren’t familiar with the skills required.

  9. fposte

    Argh. Kill it before it spreads.

    I do not think job seekers need to have an expensive and largely pointless service to become standard for application. It does not *currently* give an advantage in most applications. But if enough people do this out of sheer anxiety and hope of its being helpful, it risks becoming a norm that then everybody has to do or else look out of touch. Just say no–for yourself, and for the job seekers of the future.

    Signed, a person happy to read conventional resumes.

  10. KayDay

    just looked at the loft resumes website and they are really, really, pretty. But a few things–many employers only read your resume on the computer, and some of the resumes (particularly the really info-graphic-y ones with your info all over the place) would mean that the reviewer would have to scroll up and down and up and down and up and down….they don’t want to do that. Secondly, if the reviewer does print them out (and some, like my boss, do) and they only have a b&w printer for normal printing (again, like my office), well, that nice yellow heading just isn’t going to show up.

    So go ahead and admire them–maybe even borrow a design element or two–and then send in a normal resume.

    1. Catherine

      “would mean that the reviewer would have to scroll up and down and up and down and up and down….they don’t want to do that. ”

      Yes yes yes! I hate going all over the place to find the info I need. I even have a really large monitor. But I’m also old and cranky. :)

  11. Wilton Businessman

    I am most interested in the content, but it’s got to be presented in a way that is easy for me to find what I want.

    And besides, the last time I got a printed resume was 1997.

    Did you see one of those Loft Resumes? 1/6 of the page on one of them was dedicated to the dreaded job objective…a whole freakin’ 1/6 of the resume…in COLOR!

    1. Ariancita

      They also had reference contact info right on the resume! And one, where the example was for an internet marketer, was done in an old time-y lemonade stand style! Needless to say, if one does go forward with this sort of thing, match the style to the type of job wanted at the very least!

  12. Ms Enthusiasm

    IMO I don’t see this going away. I think people aren’t seeing this as a gimmick so much as a way to “brand” themselves.

    1. OP

      This is what I was wondering about. There seems to be a movement into branding yourself and I think this is what Loft is trying to advertise its resumes as helping to do, but they come off gimmicky.

      1. Lexy

        Just like in industry, “branding” is about more than the weight of your business cards. Branding yourself means telling your story in a way that aligns with your goals and (hopefully) your target company. It doesn’t mean having a signature font or a professionally typeset resume.

        The VVVAAAAAAASSSSTTTTT majority of hiring managers (e.g. not people trying to sell you something) aren’t going to be impressed with fancy typsetting, they’re going to be annoyed that your resume took them three times as long to read as the next one.

        Using elements of design to create a readable and a little bit interesting resume is fine, but something you can totally do yourself with Word. There is exactly zero advantage from purchasing a resume like this. If you work in an “aesthetic” field where it might actually matter, design yourself fool.

        The only thing worse for me than getting one of these resumes would be getting two and realizing people BOUGHT the ugly thing.

        1. Lexy

          I didn’t mean you were a fool… that was more of a glib and general foo’ than a direct comment to you OP! I don’t think you’re a fool, I think you’re trying hard to get yourself noticed, that’s not foolish.

          1. OP

            Haha no worries! I completely understand the context. Honestly, getting a resume like that isn’t something I’ve ever considered, but it is something I’m seeing more people my age (only a couple of years out of college) do and was interested in seeing what kind of discussion AAM could produce about it.

    2. Anonymous

      I have heard a lot about branding yourself too. I don’t know what that exactly means. How do you brand yourself? I think I am a hard-worker, loyal, love to learn new things, dependable, appreciate others and want to get along. I think I am friendly, always for the underdog, support causes, good character, accepting. How do you brand that?

      1. Ms Enthusiasm

        I think it is more about creating an image for yourself. You want people to perceive you in a certain way – don’t wait for others to do it, create it for yourself. We had a speaker at work at couple of years ago. She was very well received. She has written several books on branding. Her name is Catherine Kaputa. In case you are interested…

        http://www.selfbrand.com/index.html

      2. Anon1973

        “I think I am friendly, always for the underdog, support causes, good character, accepting. How do you brand that?”

        You brand it by demonstrating it. Join professional associations, write (professional) blogs, give presentations, network, mentor. Get your name out there and demonstrate to others that you have those qualities.

      3. Jamie

        “I have heard a lot about branding yourself too. I don’t know what that exactly means.”

        To be honest, I don’t either.

        I don’t have a personal brand and I’ve done okay without one.

        Unless cranky and sarcastic keyboard monkey is a brand – in which case all I need is a logo.

  13. OP

    Wow! I was wondering what people’s thoughts would be on these types of resumes. It’s definitely a service I’m seeing more and more. Thanks for posting, AAM and all the discussion. It’s interesting to get everyone’s takes.

    I personally didn’t like the resumes Loft provided either, although they are admittedly kind of pretty to look at, but missing on the actual function of a resume.

    1. OP

      Ugh. Sometimes I am not so good at saying what I mean to say (especially after writing several cover letters, things get all jumbly). So basically, I’ve seen a lot of people my age (recentish college grads) using services like Loft. I thought it’d be interesting for AAM to address it in her blog, since the resumes are actually pretty (and therefor may suck some people in), but not very functional. Also, this whole branding yourself thing is kind of interesting too.

      1. Anonymouse

        I don’t have the gut reaction on this one. I simply think it’s not necessary to be that fancy. It would be a waste of your money and effort.

  14. Kelly O

    You know, I’m actually struggling right now with my own resume – I wonder if I’m really saying what I need to say. (I actually enjoy Miriam’s blog and appreciate her advice, although right now I’m doing it on my own, without professional help.)

    What I wonder about, after looking at those Loft resumes, is what happens when you apply through a third-party recruiter, and they want to send you off with a resume featuring their logos too. Because I know mine gets a little jacked sometimes with the formatting, and I currently have one font and only two font sizes. I can’t imagine the headache trying to deal with all those graphics is.

    Although I do have to admit, after submitting application after application, resume after resume, and not hearing anything back except “no, thank you” and “we’re no longer filling this position” it’s tempting sometimes. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a budget to blow on that sort of thing.

    1. Wilton Businessman

      As a receiver of many of those resumes, I can tell you that most recruiters strip your contact information out and slap their logo on the top not caring about your format. That’s another reason I don’t pay too much attention to the format.

      1. Anonymouse

        Yeah, and one tip – make sure you have them (recruiters) run anything they’ve altered past you first. At lot of times they slap their logo on it, and botch the spacing and formatting. You can come off as looking like you didn’t proof your resume, when it’s nothing to do with you at all. Or they may add information that’s not quite accurate, or how you wish to portray yourself. Word to the wise.

  15. Cara Carroll

    Would I like to see a creative resume with a little bit of color and a different layout, sure. Would I remember a standout resume, yes because I rarely see it. Would it make me want to call you, sure IF you are qualified. Having a fancy resume alone will not make me pick up the phone and call you. Content is king.

  16. Mary

    I have a fancier resume. I am also a publications person, specializing in publications design, so I feel it’s expected for my field.

    During my job search, I encountered many online applications that allowed me to upload a PDF of my pretty resume, but then scanned it and turned it into plain text. I ended up creating a plain text version to copy and paste, since the scanning often got messed up by three vertical columns at the bottom for recent experience.

    I can’t help but wonder what happened during those times when I could not see the results of uploading the PDF.

    1. Camellia

      THIS! Online job apps that I have encountered may allow a PDF but frequently only allow a text document, so you really need a clean design since even bullet points don’t usually survive the text translation!

  17. kristinyc

    I wonder how many hits to its site Loft Resumes has gotten because of this post. I know I definitely googled it and looked at them!

    They’re pretty, but like everyone else has said – it’s the content and experience, and how they’re presented that makes a difference.

    A turd with a bow on it is still a turd. (Sorry, that was gross).

    1. EngineerGirl

      But pretty accurate. I’ve seen beautiful resumes that went into the trash bin because there was no useful work experience there. That said, one of the worst resumes I’ve seen was for a guy that worked for me. Horrible. But he never needed a resume. His work was so good that 5 people were fighting for him as soon as it was known that he was available.

      And that is the point – if you have the content, your resume can look pretty awful. Oh, not spelling errors or things like that. But most of us care about content over format.

  18. mh_76

    These resumes could easily be mistaken for the cover of a medical or scientific journal…or for a flier for a professional development course to be posted on a bulletin board. Hard to decipher and not my cup of tea.

  19. Laura

    Wow..they are pretty!

    On the issue of standing out–I agree that impressive credentials and skill should be why a candidate stands out BUT what if their resume is not even read? On LinkedIn (if you apply for a job through their portal), it will tell you how many applications were submitted. For example, one job I applied for had 700+ submissions. Many were similar in those numbers. Honestly, there is no way my resume will get read. That pile is too big!

    BUT if the hiring manager imports all those resumes, and prints, them, maybe the fancy colors will at least catch her eye and have her read mine. I just want it to be read!

    Honestly, I should just attach a loud buzzing alarm, but that would probably annoy him/her :)

    1. Lexy

      Hiring managers that don’t suck DO read (or look at) every resume. Even if there’s 500+ (I know hiring folks who receive that many).

      This is where the pretty resume can hurt you though, IMO.

      If you are a hiring manager scanning a giant stack of resumes, you are expecting them to be in a relatively standard format. Being eyecatching because they’re unusual in layout will give the manager a vaguely negative feeling as they struggle to find the experience/education/whatever. That vaguely negative feling means the resume they look at would be more likely to be put in the no pile than if they were in their routine of “scan, yes; scan, no; scan, yes”

      IF you really want to do something a little more interesting (don’t? don’t.) at least stick to something that is still in the usual format (HEADER, contact info, summary, experience, education, other. Or whatever is standard in your field). Putting education in a box on the upper right and experience in callouts along the side is more likely to piss off than impress.

      Again, exceptions for fields where creativity in your application materials is relevant to the position.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        This. Also, if I managed someone who I discovered wasn’t looking at every single resume they received, I would take that person’s head off.

  20. Laura

    I apologize for my typos. I do proof better when I sent in job applications! :) Wouldn’t want to stand out because of typos!

  21. Bake-a-cake

    I’ve gotten jobs thanks to my beautiful resume and cover letter, but I designed them myself to showcase my design abilities and I work in a creative field. I’m not sure an architect would get a job because he designed his portfolio and resume to look like a newspaper (I did. And printed it on newspaper paper so it felt like the real deal back in the day when printed applications were much more common).

    I had a co-worker in marketing who once got a job at a lottery corporation by designing his resume to be a gigantic scratch-and-win card. The fun part was you could actually scratch a portion of the thing!

  22. Emily

    I audited a Computer Art class a couple of years ago, and one of the projects was to redesign your own resume, either in a strictly practical or in an over-the-top, highly stylized way, all using only elements of type. The goal of the assignment was to practice typesetting and selection, and the resume context was just to avoid overloading on “lorem ipsum,” while also giving students who wanted it the opportunity to fine tune their resume’s type aesthetic. Even the students who got silly with it and chose ridiculous fonts (a resume that got a western rodeo type treatment comes to mind) had a finished product that could have easily been toned down into a presentable resume with more traditional fonts.

    We had another assignment to design a menu for an imaginary restaurant, using type, color, and graphic elements to express the fake eateries’ je ne sais quoi, and those projects came out looking more like Loft Resumes’ offerings. I also think wedding invitations when I look at their site.

  23. Anonymous

    Wow! I have never seen anything like that. I got married last year and the designs remind me very much of the more trendy wedding invitation and wedding web site designs (see minted.com). So, maybe if you are going into event planning it could work?

  24. Charles

    A lot of interesting and useful resume advice here; I’ll add my own two cents worth, just two words actually:

    White Space!

    Be sure to include white space and not cram everything onto one page with 8 point font as us “older” folks cannot read it without a magnifying glass

  25. anon

    Am I the only one that actually kind of digs the “Samuel Davis” resume at Loft? The rest of them look gimmicky or like it’s hard to identify key info but that one I might actually be impressed by. Relatively easy to follow but still “different.”

    I don’t know. I don’t hate it.

  26. NonProfiter

    Hmm. I think we need a tumblr or WordPress for resume examples of the kind we are talking about — readable, nicely designed, enough white space. There is already an opencoverletters.com (library-specific), which is cover letters that got the job. Why not AAM presents “resumes that got the job?”

    I have found in doing my resume (and lending the format to friends) that if you don’t have design software like Adobe, tables in Word or OpenOffice are your best friend for keeping everything neatly aligned in your resume. Also: PDF it, please! I know many people prefer .doc, but this is 2012. Don’t send me a .doc or .docx. Let’s keep it universal.

    I’ll let any HR types chime in, but for the hiring I’ve done, I’ve honestly never seen a decently put together resume, even from the people I ended up hiring. Typical resume has too much crammed into too little space, an unreadable font, no breaks between sections, etc.

    As qualified as I like to think I am :) I’m pretty sure my resume has gotten me into the yes pile just because it is readable and attractive.

    1. KayDay

      Also responding to Charles with this–it’s unfortunate that the one page things has been so drilled into people’s heads. If people just understood that it is okay if their resume is 2 pages, I think resumes would become much more readable.

  27. Long Time Admin

    The people who do the hiring at my company are impressed by bright shiny objects. I’m sure a fancy, pretty resume would get a lot of points with them. They might even break one of their stupid rules, and interview the person who sent that resume in.

    They’re not real professional here.

  28. Ariancita

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think they’re pretty? And that they aren’t well designed? I think they look busy, like old Blogger or Live Journal templates, and lack any true sophisticated design sense. Many elements don’t line up (Swiss grid system is your friend), lots of the design elements are dated and not well executed, the typography is atrocious, and their doesn’t seem to be any thought about making style fit content, that is, they’re very generic. I laugh at how they use “internet marketer” for many of their examples, yet most of those styles do not convey the attributes of internet marketing. Design elements are not there for the sake of design elements. They should be meaningful and appropriate and ultimately help convey the information you want to convey.

    Every time I see “Oh those are pretty!” Even if you are a firm that appreciates design, you would not appreciate these designs, I would think.

  29. E

    This reminds me greatly of the old grade school trick of putting your report on Alaska/ladybugs/Thomas Jefferson/etc in a clear plastic protector to try to make it look nicer and disguise the fact that you wrote it all the night before using only your parent’s encyclopedia (or today, wikipedia)

  30. Anth

    Oh good lord. Those are TERRIBLE. Someone would pay $100 for the resume template? Also, please see the objective “To be rewarded the opportunity to contribute my interpersonal, motivational, and leadership skills while learning & developing hands-on experience to benefit the team goals and corporate mission.”

    What a great way to make money though.

    1. Ariancita

      I dislike the templates too, but they actually don’t produce the content. That objective would have come from the client.

  31. JPT

    I agree that sometimes really fancy resumes are overkill, but as someone who looks at them I am totally turned off by the 10 in a row that are all in the same pre-formatted Word template. But, having a resume you designed yourself is not just specific to designers… it can come in handy in other fields like marketing, technology, etc. It really depends on the person looking at it whether or not they’ll hate it. I designed a custom logo for my husband’s and his boss said she kind of thought it was too much… but then again, it stood out and she hired him…

  32. Tina Nicolai

    As a professional resume writer, 23+ year HR leader, recruiter, and career expert, I my viewpoint may differ from the old school, “play it safe with words only mindset.” Guess what? The world has evolved and so has the process for gaining attention in the world of healthy competition.

    The best approach to an effective resume is one that meets the requirements for the coveted position, the industry, the targeted company, and personal branding.

    To state that a “design” is not appropriate for a resume is irresponsible. Designer resumes are in fact as important as the industry and profession demand.

    Please do not misunderstand, having a heavily designed, graphic resume for an accounting position may not be a good idea. But, having a heavily designed graphic resume for on-air talent, wedding planner, chef, retail management, cruise industry, or any field dealing with people services and marketing require a degree of unique design elements and formats.

    For the record, all resumes in my professional opinion must be a balance of strong and relevant key rich content with a balanced design, layout, and personal branding. Do not confuse the word “design” as begin a bad thing. Design may also refer to format, balance, exceptional use of white space with a bold color.

    Think of it this way, you spend money on your interview attire, fresh heels, polished nails (even if clear), and you show up with a resume that looks like it is from 1990. Your resume is an extension of your personal brand. Your resume must speak to your audience long before you show up and speak for you long after you leave.

    I am not saying that you need all of the bells and whistles, but you do need to demonstrate that you have a personality to support your words on paper.

    As a seasoned career professional, with real world experience and current industry leading contacts in Fortune 500 companies, I can tell you that content and design (format) are a must.

    If you are interested in learning more, sustaining a current perspective on this topic, please reach out.

    I love hearing from people, new clients, and making new friends who share similar interests in careers, resumes, recruiting, marketing tools for talent, hr, job related issues, and more!

    Great content when balanced with artful designs and formats equal the most covetable candidates on the market today!

    Warmly,

    Tina

    1. Anonymous

      Hello Tina, Thank you for this information. My resume is so plain vanilla. I really do not know how to go about improving it. I am trying to take a lot of helpful suggestions from this site. I really have very little recent experience and I am doing so many things the wrong way. Do you have a website?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I actually don’t allow salesy stuff on here so I’d appreciate Tina not promoting her site here (and don’t really appreciate the salesiness that she’s already done, which unfortunately calls the credibility of her message into question), but there are a lot of businesses that do this kind of thing and it it’s something that interests you, I’d definitely check out the many available. (You should turn up a ton with a quick Google search. Miriam above also offers similar services.) My advice would be to look very carefully at before/after samples of their work, and to ask to talk to a few past clients before you make a decision.

        1. Tina Nicolai

          I’m not trying to sell anything. I am just trying to give people honest information.

          Sorry if you see this as a sales pitch. It’s just the real deal.

          You might want to be open to perspectives of other professionals. By saying designs are a bad idea, you are potentially leading others down a slippery slope.

          A blog post is a place to share, be open and learn. Sorry if you are offended. I just believe in helping people get hired.

          All the best!

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Actually, since I just had to reject an additional comment of yours providing your website and phone number after I explicitly asked you not to market your services here, I think that you might be the one who needs to respect other people’s perspectives. There’s a reason that out of 95 comments on this post, including many from hiring managers, the only one advocating heavily designed resumes is someone who is trying to make money off of doing it.

            1. Anonymous

              The reason why 95 comments are all similar is because this “manager” probably filters them. Statistically, in any given situation, there are going to be differing opinions, so it seems a little odd that there are 95 comments that all agree with the mindset of the blogger.

              This being said, if this comment even makes it to the feed, I’ll be happy to be the only other comment to agree with Tina.

              I believe there’s two types of people in this world: those who reject change, and those who embrace it and grow with it.

              Whether we like it or not, technology is transforming the workforce. Resumés can be submitted via e-mail. Interviews can happen over Skype. Things are so different now than they were even just a decade ago. We rely on computers to help us complete most of our work, and to obtain information, which is why most of you ended up on this blog in the first place–you wanted to gather intel on how to portray yourself to potential employees.

              While I am semi-against hiring someone to design and format a resumé for you (it’s not that hard to figure out on your own), I am all for designing your resumé to reflect your personality. Design is blatantly obvious in my resumé. It is off-the-wall and completely different than most I have seen, yet still includes all necessary information. It was a tedious process that took me about five hours, but it was one of the most indirectly prosperous five hours I have ever spent.

              I am an recent communications graduate from the University of California, San Diego. This resumé helped me land several productive internships and an entry level position at a fortune-500 company. All of those who interviewed me had nothing but good things to say about the design element of my resumé.

              I really hope that if someone like myself makes it all the way down to this comment, they can take one thing away from it: do not let the nay-sayers on this page discourage you. If your heart is set on designing yourself a badass and aesthetically-pleasing resumé, DO IT. Never let someone else tell you how to be who you are.

              Even if you’re interested in paying for a designed resumé to get a leg-up, go for it, if that’s what your heart desires. There’s a reason why Tina Nicolai’s website was voted “Top 75 Websites For Your Career” by Forbes, and this one was not.

            2. Anonymous

              I agree with Tina’s point of view. I also agree that a lot of Loft’s resumes are flamboyant and suffer from readability issue. However, those of you who are saying resumes with design flares are bad are being laggards. If the world was filled with people like you there would be no iPhones. I mean it’s just a phone, right? As long as proper usability practices have been exercised there is nothing wrong with having resumes that are different and stand out of a pile of paper with black and white text. Remember, the hiring managers first have to NOTICE your resume to see your god-like qualifications.
              And, Ask a Manager, is that coffee that you’re drinking? Maybe you need to ease up a bit.

        2. Anonymous

          Thank you Alison. I am just trying very hard to get my act together. I am definitely a fish out of water . I am really wanting to do all I can to get a job. I am trying to figure this all out.

      2. Karey

        I googled Tina’s name and looked at her site. I would not recommend using that particular service. On just the few pages I looked at, I saw writing errors, punctuation errors and some questionable premises. This underscores the importance of making sure you really know who you’re buying this service from.

    2. Wilton Businessman

      No offense intended, but I hire mostly technical people. Not a lot, maybe half a dozen a year. If I have to spend too much time looking for the information I am looking for, I will move on. I would rather read a well-organized plain text resume than one with five different fonts, bolding, underlining, colors, and a weird format. Most of my contemporaries have similar viewpoints.

      If I want a flyer or brochure to market me as a service, that’s a different story. In that case you want some glitz.

      Even for “creative types” (I don’t want to get yelled at by LTA again), show me a neat, polished resume and include examples of your work with your application or on a separate page of your resume PDF.

      That’s just how it looks from the front line. As I said before, certainly there are good resume writers out there that focus on content and not-so-great resume writers that focus on format. Choose wisely.

      1. JPT

        I kind of don’t like some of the language used here… like “heavily designed” etc. You can have a really simple-looking resume that took a lot of “design” effort, deciding how to best organize the information for effectiveness. That’s what “design” is. Some of you are confusing that word with “stuff that someone thinks looks cool but actually is terrible for a resume.”

        Wilton above just said it best: “If I have to spend too much time looking for the information I am looking for, I will move on.” If you have to spend too much time looking for the info, it is a BAD design. If you’re designing a resume, it shouldn’t use a layout that is effective for another type of medium, it should use design strategies that are most effective for the audience, which is someone picking out bits of information from several of them quickly. There’s a difference between putting thought into a design and considering the viewer and throwing a bunch of graphics, colors and fonts together so it “looks cool” to a layperson with no design experience and using it to make money.

        (This is my non-Tina perspective, considering I’ve designed resumes for myself and several friends, but don’t do it for money or for people I’m not close to!)

        1. Alisha

          Thank you! I do work in a profession requiring lots of creativity, and I’m tired of hearing about how I need to turn my resume into a video game screen or CandyLand or a replica of a diner menu or whatever. (I don’t work in game design, FWIW.) I spent several hours composing and laying out my resume, first in InDesign for the PDF version, and then in HTML/CSS for the web version. I spent an equal amount of time on the content and the design elements, taking into account choice of typeface, spacing (including whitespace), when to use bolding, header elements, etc.

          The resume format I used has worked astonishingly well for all of my peers. Every one has gotten a job they wanted with it. Alas, the only person it seems to not be working for is me – the person who came up with the design in the first place. I’ve done hiring before and I know that someone at my level cannot hope to cram a decade of work experience into a cutesy design, but at the same time, I have a sinking feeling I may have lost my “mojo,” and should think about finding another line of work. Oh well…

          1. Anonymous

            Alisha, I really wish I had your knowledge and skill about resume format. I have decided I am going to just have to go with one not so fancy. It does have content and whitespace and I am really concentrating on a good cover letter. I am applying for a job today that sounds promising. I just don’t have the 3 years experience, I only have one year and half. I am going to address this in my cover letter. I realize a lot of people have a lot of things more than I do. I am however, reliable, have a willingness to go the extra mile and a determination if hired to do the best job. I don’t know how to play this game of finding a job in 2012. I am not a seasoned professional, but I am keeping my fingers crossed. Finding a job is not for the faint of heart.

    3. fposte

      I actually think candidates can be just as viable with unpolished nails and stale heels–or even flats. And no, artful designs and formats do not make anybody more “covetable” to me or any other hiring manager I know, and I do work in fields that involve “people services and marketing.” Honestly, this kind of thing is frosting, which is highly field-dependent, and by no means predominant; it’s much more common for hirers to want nothing in the way of the cake.

      1. mh_76

        LIKE! I haven’t painted my nails in years and only wear heels occasionally (with chunky heels…no stilettos for me).

        1. Alisha

          Amen. Back before this recession and layoff nonsense, I did well for myself in a simple black dress suit, light makeup, plain black heels, no nail polish, and no jewelry save for my ear piercings. If a company is going to ding me for being too unfeminine because I don’t have manicured nails, I will probably fit in there about as well as a toddler would play for the NBA, so no loss anyway.

          (p.s. LINSANITY!)

  33. JT

    There’s a lot of bitterness in the comments here about how privileged the OP is in being able to not work for pay.

    Certainly he is very fortunate, but I think y’all shouldn’t hate the player. Hate the game.

      1. TMM04

        Tons of great advice on here, thanks to the OP for the interesting post. I’ve never heard of Loft but am not gonna bother looking them up – why drive up their SEO stats?

        As a recruiter & a hiring manager, I am attracted to those which have a clean lay-out which I can quickly and easily scan for content. When receiving hundreds of resumes, I don’t have time nor the inclination to bother searching for info on a *pretty* resume. And forget scrolling up and down, side to side! That’s just not happening.

        Basically, I quickly look for content which tells me there’s a fit between this applicant and the job vacancy. If so, then I will read more.

        A few tips:
        – 2 pages is fine for most jobs, more for exec, technical or academic jobs
        – Use white space to make it legible
        – Include key words matching the job posting to get through the e-recruit system filters (but only if they apply to you!)
        – Don’t use too many different fonts, italics, bold, etc. as it ends up detracting from your content. Plus the e-recruit system (ATS) just strips it out anyway.
        – I hate objectives, usually it’s just a bunch of buzz words and wastes precious real estate on your resume. Give me content!
        – use active words, not passive (i.e. Created monthly KPI reports)
        – show me results (i.e. implemented new benefit provider, saving $115,000 USD annually)
        – a Skills section is great if I’m looking for a technical person. To me, I don’t need a skills section for transferable stuff like project management, negotiation, communication skills, etc. I should be able to figure that out from your listed experience. lol

        Use your cover letter to pull together all the elements to tell me why you’re a good fit for the job. Also let me know if there’s anything pertinent I need to know – like you’re moving to my city in the near future so that’s why you’re applying from out-of-state.

        Naturally, each recruiter and hiring manager is a bit different so what I prefer isn’t true for everyone. But I would say content and being easy to read are the 2 key factors.

        I have never hired for creative jobs so can’t comment on that.

        And best of luck to the OP!

  34. Anon

    All the talk about designs on resumes and designs being too hard to read made me think of Brazen Careerist’s Infographic resumes with the information culled from LinkedIn.

    Has anyone seen these? Thoughts?

    1. Alisha

      I find most anything coming from Brazen Careerist to be highly suspect, given that its founder posts pornographic photos of her bruises from domestic abuse and lies about having Asperger’s to generate traffic.

      Avoid.

  35. Dan M.

    I am sometimes asked to screen resumes and assist in the hiring process at work. As i’m flipping through them, I don’t scan for snazzy designs, buzz words or anything except content relevant to the position being filled. I want something simple and straightforward that is professionally presented and easy to read.

    If something in the resume grabs me, I will read it thoroughly. If not, I go on to the next candidate. Remember that a resume is a business document. It should always be professional in nature, and you should always just lay out your experience and review your accomplishments with a minimum of fluff and doubletalk. When I see a resume like that, it makes me think that the candidate is honest and ethical. If the hiring decision comes down to that person and someone else not so forthright, guess who’s going to get the job?

  36. Emory

    Hi, I’m the creative director and one of the co-founders of Loft Resumes. Thank you all for your opinions and comments on our service. As a designer, if I were applying for a new job, it would be beneficial for me to create my own resume. Designers are not who we are trying to target with this service. We want to help others who have an appreciation for good design, but do not have the capabilities to create a resume like one of ours.

    Design is very different from style and I think there may be some confusion between the two. A well designed resume has a clear hierarchy of scale, easy to read headers and important information called to attention. Design utilizes color, shape and different fonts to achieve this. We strive to create well designed resumes regardless of the style.

    We are also aware that this service is not for everyone in all industries. It is not our intent to advertise it as such, but we feel that it does offer a benefit to certain clients. And we’re very happy to have seen those results from client testimonials.

    We agree that content is king and this is not meant to be a service that compensates for lack of ability. It is meant to make you look the best you can.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hi Emory, thanks for weighing in. You didn’t actually respond to the most substantive criticism of your service, though — that most employers say that it actually hurts job-searchers rather than helping them (as you’ve seen reflected in the comments here by people who do hiring).

  37. Christina

    I have found that, as a technical writer and editor, a well-designed, styled, and logical resume is the difference between getting an interview and getting passed over. I have gotten lots of feedback that my resume (which you can see on my website: Portfolio page) stands out so that people want to know more about. I also design resumes for friends and family and am happy to offer free resume evaluation for AAM readers :)

  38. John

    The company that I work for posted an opening online recently. We received over 800 resumes. Probably around 75% of them went in the trash without reading more than a few sentences. I believe the goal of the loft style resume is to get the peron hiring to actually READ your resume. If your qualification don’t match the position your not going to get hired. I believe getting someone to spend more than 2 seconds looking at your resume is the goal. I can assure you that if any of the colorful typset resumes came through our office we would have looked at them more closely if nothing more than to break the monotony of Word template resumes. To be seen when you’re treading water in the middle of the ocean, you want to wear red and not blue.

    Note: I work for a manufacturing company that has nothing to do with design. The opening we had was for a sales position.

  39. Mat

    Sorry but based on this logic I should never wear a nice suit to an interview.

    As an employer, NOT a recruiter, who has hired 109 people in the last 14 months, I enjoy getting these kinds of CVs.

    There’s three types of employees:
    – those who don’t get the job done
    – those who get the job done
    – those who go the extra mile

    A professionally designed resume is an indicator – not a guarantee, an indicator – of the third category.

    If your recruiter or manger is a mid level bureaucrat, follow the advice in this article.

    If they’re legit, get yourself the best resume you can.

    1. Sam

      Totally agree Mat. This is 2013… do we want average people working for us or do we want those who go that extra mile? I’m happy to read resumes that have some element of good design, it tells me a lot about the applicant. For the rest of you, go on, submit an average resume and I’ll give you an average response… “…unfortunately this time you have been unsuccessful…”.

  40. Anonymous

    Content is the most important part of a resume, especially because some companies use SEO programs to scan through them. However, a resume needs to stand out and show creativity. The resumes on Loft are not overboard compared to some of the other “Creative” and hard to read styles that exist.

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