Creating a resume is an art form all itself. You must highlight your strengths, put your weaknesses in a positive light and figure out what information employers care about. A good resume can make or break you as you seek a position as a graphic designer. While a graphic design resume won’t get you the job, it very well might land you the interview.
The government estimates there are 266,300 graphic designers in the U.S., making around $50,370 annually. However, the job outlook is growing at a mere 4%. That may mean you’ll be up against a lot of competition. If you intend to use your graphic design resume to gain freelance contracts, you’ll want to stand out from the competition.
Here are 23 tips and tricks to make your graphic design resume grab the attention of recruiters and help get your foot in the door.
1. Know Where You’re Applying
Ideally, the graphic design resume you send to each employer is specifically geared to that company and the specific position for which you apply. The general information on your resume isn’t as likely to change, so you don’t need to worry as much about that. However, making tweaks to your objective shows potential employers you took the time to research their company and the position and are truly interested in becoming part of their team.
2. Highlight Specific Wins
When listing your accomplishments for a position, don’t just say you created an ad campaign — include what the results were for the client. Be as specific as possible, such as stating they saw a 50% increase in sales after running the online marketing campaign you created for them. While it’s OK to also list some general responsibilities, strive to include a couple of particular wins for each job you’ve held. This shows a pattern of success.
The Sofia Flores sample on Indeed is of a graphic designer who has about three years of experience in the industry. Note how she highlights where she cut costs for clients and boosted sales for another client by 35% in a short period of time. This graphic design resume highlights her skills perfectly.
3. Add Icons for Interest
Draw attention to the features of your graphic design resume that are most impressive. Remember the average recruiter or manager likely looks at dozens of resumes each day. Anything you can do to make yours easy to scan gives you an edge. Did you know the average recruiter spends around three minutes looking at a resume but makes up their mind about the candidate in about one second? Use icons to your advantage and to easily organize different areas of your resume.
4. Check for Grammar and Spelling Errors
Small mistakes can cost you big when it comes to your graphic design resume. A simple typo may be seen as the candidate lacking attention to detail, and the resume may be tossed in the no pile automatically. Don’t spend hours perfecting the layout and information on your resume only to lose your chance because you didn’t do a spell check.
5. Nix the Cliches
Around 50% of managers reject a candidate for overuse of cliches in their resume. If you continuously write phrases such as “on fire” or “best in the biz,” employees may see you as unoriginal. Instead, simplify the language and try to think of unique ways to say the same thing without getting too wordy. You may want a second set of eyes on your resume to look specifically for cliches. Ask an English teacher or family friend who is excellent with language.
6. Get Creative
Graphic design is creative work. Are you a product designer? Show off your capabilities with a resume that looks like one. Include a T-shirt with your printed resume that has your logo on it or something special you’ve designed just for the recruiter. Think about the packaging of your resume and how you can include portfolio elements along with your information.
Samuel Profeta includes a sample of his resume on his website that is inspiring to anyone who works on product packaging. He takes an empty beverage carton and uses the sides to highlight his experience, education and skills. The resume itself becomes an example of his capabilities. This is the type of thing that makes employers sit up and take notice, but don’t overuse it. Save this level of resume for your dream position or after your first interview.
7. Stick With Standard Fonts
As a graphic designer, you likely love typography. You know that fonts can set a mood and really make a project stand out. Unfortunately, your resume isn’t the place for fancy fonts, scripts or hand-lettering. Instead, stick with the basics, such as Helvetica. You can always highlight your skill with type in the portfolio you take along to the interview. For now, keep things simple and only differentiate with a type hierarchy for headings versus body text.
8. Offer Complete Contact Information
A graphic design resume is one place you don’t want to be mysterious. Share your full contact information so potential employes have multiple ways of getting in touch. Include your mailing address, email, phone number and LinkedIn profile if you have one.
9. Use a Resume Template
It might be tempting to design your own resume, but if you’re in the beginning stages of the job hunt, you may want to grab a free template from Hloom or Microsoft Word. Aim for something that looks clean and crisp. If your skills meet what the employer needs, you’ll have an opportunity to show them your work through your portfolio.
10. Add Pizzazz to Your Layout
A unique layout makes your resume stand out. Add some dividers to separate the different sections of your resume, and use icons to highlight your skills or show where your contact information, such as telephone number and email, are located.
Teesha Masson’s resume uses a blend of traditional and creative design elements. Note the way the education and experience are laid out like a timeline. This is quite different than most resumes, which stack these elements one on top of the other.
11. Print on High-Quality Paper
In this digital age, you may be tempted to save your resume as a PDF and not print it. However, most employers print out the stack of submitted resumes anyway and place them in a pile to go through. If you mail your resume in and it’s on a heavier weight paper that is slightly off-white, it’s going to immediately stand out.
12. Check Your Readability Score
On the surface, it might seem smart to use big words in your resume. However, if the user has to look up the word to understand what you mean, it won’t make the impression you’d like. Use the free Readability Formula Test before submitting it.
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13. Create a Graphic Resume
Since many employers now say to send them a link to your resume or portfolio, creating a visual resume for online use is a smart tactic. Visualize.me offers a free tool so you can convert your resume into a page resembling an infographic. If you speak two languages, you can add language maps. If you want to create an experience timeline, you can do so and add pops of color. You can also download the finished product in PDF for printing.
14. Use Bullet Points
We talked earlier about the way recruiters spend about three minutes on a resume. This means they tend to skim down the page for fast information. One way of making sure your resume is more skimmable is with bullet points. Breaking your skills up makes them more digestible.
The sample resume for a graphic designer named Aaron Manor does a good job of breaking skills into specific bullet points. Note how he has two types and places them in side-by-side columns. Under each bold heading is the skills in that column, such as website design and mobile app design.
15. Save Time With a Resume Builder
A resume builder saves time and effort. Look at sites such as Resume.com, which features dozens of different templates and makes creating a resume fast and simple. They provide tips for what to put in different sections and offer samples for inspiration. They also sync up with Indeed, so you can create your resume and upload it with a single click. You can also download and print it out.
16. Choose Prewritten Phrases
Even though you’ll want to tweak any phrases to suit your personality, a tool such as Resume Companion helps figure out what to say. For example, it has a database of more than 50,000 prewritten job responsibilities. You can also have experts review your resume and tell you how to improve it.
17. Make a Matching Cover Letter
You’ll often send a cover letter along with your resume. Matching the appearance and style of the two shows employers you are consistent. Also, imagine a scenario where a huge stack of resumes gets knocked over. They will easily be able to match the resume with the cover letter.
18. Include Social Media
Today, more people connect on social media than ever before. Include your Twitter handle or Facebook username on your resume. A word of caution here, though: Make sure your social media pages are something you want potential employers to see. Delete anything controversial and refrain from posting things that might offend.
Millie Maxwell is an interior designer, but her resume highlights how you can include social media in your resume. She puts it near the bottom of the sidebar, rather than giving the information a prominent location, but she still includes where she has a presence online.
19. Get a Professional Email Address
List your email on your resume, but make sure it has a professional look to it. For example, you can use Gmail, but use your name or first initial and last name. Don’t try to get cute or use something too personal. It may turn off companies.
20. Double-Check Contact Info
Make sure there aren’t any errors in your contact info. What if your dream job calls and you had the wrong phone number down? Your contact info should be current and free of any typos or transposed numbers.
21. Use the Right Font Size
The best font size for resumes is one you can read in print without having to squint. Imagine you’re a busy executive reading dozens of resumes. You need to be able to absorb information at a glance without picking up the paper and holding it to your nose.
22. Only Bold Headers
Don’t bold everything on the page. Bold draws attention to headings and subheadings or a word here and there, but when you use too, it loses its effectiveness. Save it for the places you want the reader to look at first.
23. Stay With This Decade
If you have more than 10 years of job experience, condense your resume to the most recent or pertinent jobs. You can always add a note that other employment history is available upon request. You want to highlight that you have current skills, so throwing in that you worked as an intern in 1988 at a printing house setting type isn’t a very useful thing to list on a graphic design resume.
Change Your Resume as Needed
If you aren’t getting the response you’d like from your resume, make tweaks and try again. A simple change of order or wording may be all it takes to get employers to sit up and take notice. If you don’t land your dream job quickly, keep making changes.