You’ve just graduated and you’re on the hunt for that first design job. Or, you’re more experienced and you’re looking for that next jump to advance your career. You’re either working on a getting that resume out, or dusting off your old one. No matter if you’re a recent graduate or updating your resume this article outlines ways to give a little extra “dazzle” and help you stand out.
Throughout my career, I’ve had to go through the interview process a few times. I understand how daunting the job hunt can be. Submitting your resume day after day only to hear crickets. I’ve more recently been on the other side of having hired designers and being on the other side of those interviews.
So join me in this three part series where I’ll share my tips and professional insights on how to:
- Design a graphic design resume that separates you from other designers
- Creative ways to approach the design job search
- Position yourself for success in the first design interview
The Essentials of a Design Resume
The first step in landing your dream graphic designer or UI/UX position is landing the first interview. Submitting your resume and portfolio builds a bridge of trust and validates you as a designer to whoever is reviewing it. If it doesn’t have the right info, stand out, and/or doesn’t fit what they are looking for it’s likely going to end in the trash bin.
Resumes haven’t changed too much over they years, however, they are still important. While I strongly believe you don’t need a resume to land interviews or a job for the matter, if you’re getting started in your career or looking for the next level up having a solid one will help.
So what makes a great resume?
During the last 3 years of hiring designers, there’s a pattern I’ve seen when reviewing resumes that have been submitted.
They. Mostly. All. Look. The. Same.
The majority of resumes look the same. Some are designed well, some are not designed at all, but what they share in common is they include some of the most basic information that is scanned and digested within seconds. On average, employers only spend six seconds reading a resume. So how do you grab someone's attention within those six seconds? Start by designing it intentionally with your personality.
Design your Resume Thoughtfully
It may sound obvious but designing your resume matters. I’ve seen many resumes that have not been well designed or designed at all. This is a real thing. A UI/UX, or graphic designer submitting a resume that hasn’t been designed.
Having a creatively designed resume that reflects your personality and concisely tells the story of who you are is a critical part of having a successful resume. This applies to even experienced designers. If at first glance it has a poor layout, typography, and design it won’t be as strong as others.
Hiring managers and companies are looking for a reason to reject your resume because they receive so many. Any slight design errors including misalignment, poor color usage, or even sloppy typographic hierarchy can raise red flags.
There are three key traits of a well-designed resume.
A resume with beautiful typography is as good, and usually even better than a resume with more design flair. Typography is the gold standard of resumes. Use proper type hierarchy, weights, and color sparingly to call attention to important details. Your alignment and spacing also matter. It should always be tidy and neat. No mis-alignments, nor odd spacing issues. A great rule of thumb here is the 4px, or 8px grid. And lastly, one typeface is enough. Two is pushing it. Three is absolutely crazy.
2. Get Creative
If you’ve mastered type, take it to the next level by getting more creative with your resume. Show your personality with color and visual elements that represent your brand without making it too distracting. Have fun with it, but don’t take it too far where it’s hard to read. Your resume should match the creative of your portfolio too. This in-consistency will get noticed if they are mis-matched.
Having an open, airy, and clean resume makes it easier to read and scan. If you're wondering if you have enough “white space” then you probably didn’t add enough. There’s no such thing as too much white space.
Include your Contact Info
Your contact info should be at the top and easily accessible. Hyperlink your portfolio link, along with your email so you send it in PDF form it’s clearly a visible link that can be clicked.
You should always include at a minimum:
- Your Website Hyperlinked
- Email Hyperlinked with Mailto
If you have the space, it’s a bonus to add:
- LinkedIn Profile
When you export your PDF having those clickable links make it a smoother experience to simply click and open up your portfolio.Avoid adding any non-essential information including your Instagram and Twitter.
A great spot for for your contact info is at the top where it is easy to find, but smaller so it’s not taken away from the core content that is the most important. Smaller text sizes is always advisable here.
Make Your Employee History Compelling to Read
Design is only one part of landing the first interview. While the design might catch someone's attention, your work history and experience are the bread and butter of your resume. Decent resumes include your work history and a couple of descriptions of what you did, but spectacular resumes put all of that work into context.
With your work history, it’s not only about the experience you have. What’s important here is what impact you had while you were at each company. Good designers solve problems and great designers are critical thinkers. The description is where you can show those traits. This can be in paragraph form or bullet points, as long as it clearly communicates the value you can bring to the company you’re applying for.
Did a design you worked on increase landing page conversions? Did a website you refreshed with better design and SEO increase site traffic? The more data and value you can add, the better. And if you can correlate that data with information that is listed in the job description you’ve struck gold.
This can be a difficult task if you’re looking for your first design job and have limited experience, but re-writing what you did in previous roles even if it’s not relevant can show how you think and how you work.
When listing your employment always list your history from most recent down and only include the most relevant jobs. If you worked in retail before or waited tables before graduating, try not to include that type of work on your resume. It’s irrelevant to the position you’re likely looking for. If you’re extremely limited on options, you might have to list it as last resort. In this case, being creative on those written descriptions will go a long way.
What to Include
For each employer it’s standard practice to include the following:
- Company Name
- Dates employed
- Location (If necessary)
- Description of what you accomplished while employed
Writing Powerful Work History Descriptions
Unclear work history description example
Created and Maintained the company Design Library
This is just one example, but there is no value-added. What impact did maintaining the design library have? Why did it matter?
Created, maintained, and organized a design library of over 200+ components and styles that improved designer productivity and established visual consistency for the brand and increased speed of asset creation.
The second one has more value add than the first because it explains not only what you did but why it mattered and what the value add was. It also conveys the scale of the library. Design libraries are meant to help you be efficient, organized and eliminate inconsistencies in the design handoff to engineers or allow other members of the team create assets with ease.
Skills & Tools
What are you good at and what is your tool stack? Are you proficient in Figma and Sketch? What about Webflow? Any coding experience? There is an opportunity in this section to adjust your skills and design stack to each job you apply for by putting top tools or skills on the top that might be more applicable for a job.
If a job specifically seeks a designer who has experience with design systems it’s important to list that skill first, rather than in the middle or even worse, last. Always tailor your skills to each job that you’re going to apply for based on what they are asking for in the job description. Putting those keywords first will grab the attention of whoever is reading it quickly as they are likely to read top-down.
When designing out your skills section you can take it a step further by creating “categories” of skills that can be grouped together with titles like this:
This helps break it up into smaller bites rather than having one long list. When in doubt, break it out.
Avoid adding in numeric values that explain the level of your expertise in each software. This might look like a bar chart or proficiency percentage. Doing this can immediately make you look “unexperienced” by showing a bar that is only 70% full for a particular software like Figma. If you have experience in something, add it. Use the interview to talk to your strengths and weaknesses in more detail if it’s brought up.
As James Clear puts so eloquently puts it...
Competence over Credentials
Your education is important and to you it could mean a lot. I don’t believe that education is necessary. If you’ve got a few years of experience under your belt it’s even less important in my opinion. If you’re a new designer who just graduated, it’s standard to include but any company that “only hires” anyone with a degree isn’t a company worth working for. Take that with a grain of salt. To each is their own.
It’s a risky and personal choice to not include your education. If it’s something you decide to include, it should be short, concise, and take up as little space as possible.
Awards and Achievements
This is where you blast your own horn of what you’ve accomplished. This section should be short and concise, taking up as little space as possible while communicating clearly what you achieved.
Have you won any awards?
Have you been published or featured on any high-profile design blogs?
What successes have you had in the design field?
Don’t be shy, shout it off the rooftops.
Resumes are a User Experience
Just like any design you encounter or any product you use, your resume is an experience. The experience you give to your readers can make the difference between landing that first interview or not. If you design your resume well, include the right content that is tailored to each job you apply for you are on the path to your next design job you boost your chances of success.
But above all things, never lose focus on the fact that job hunting is a process. There will be ups and downs. You’ll get rejected and it will hurt. You’ll get rejected even when you’re qualified. I’ve been there. Hundreds of other designers have been there. Always stay focused. Always stay positive. And never under-estimate the power of asking for feedback when you can from anybody that is willing to help.
Don’t forget to spellcheck using a tool like Grammarly. And lastly for everyone’s sake, please, design your resume.
Having Struggles with your Job Hunt?
Struggling to land that next design job? Looking for feedback on your resume? Hit me up on IG at @nolandesignco or shoot me an email here. My inbox is open.