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The word “resume” has been known to strike fear in the heart of many a creative (including yours truly), and while advice on best practices abound online, much of it is geared towards more traditional industries, outdated or both. So, where is a creative to turn? Earlier this month creative staffing agency The Creative Group released a survey providing a measure of guidance sure to help alleviate some of our collective resume writing angst. The survey showed that almost half (46 percent ) of marketing and advertising executives interviewed ranked resume look and feel as “very important” in evaluating potential hires. Another 43 percent ranked it “somewhat important.”

Greg Detter, Vice President, The Creative Group provided his thoughts on the survey results along with specific insights on how job seekers can strike the right balance between creative and professional. My first question for Greg was “Is there such a thing as ‘too creative’?” “Yes,” Detter replied “We kind of expect that [creative resume design] in the creative industry but I think definitely there is ‘too far’” and explained that designers should approach their resumes much like they do their portfolios and try to create a “nice looking, clean design.” Detter noted that one area designers “tended to stumble” or go too far is with verbiage, trying to use “cute language or clever word play” such as “Guitar Hero or Wii Bowling Expert.”

Hearing Detter’s use of the word “clean,” brought to mind questions of style. I asked him if he thought designers with a “sexier” style had a better chance of making the cut with hiring managers than those with a more subdued one. He responded to the contrary, explaining that designers with a “quiet style” might actually have an easier time achieving the right blend of creative and professional since that style lends itself to a more corporate look and feel. Whereas, designers with more of an “out-of-the-box” aesthetic may want to tone it down a bit and that images should be reserved for their portfolio.

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Which led us to the topic of resume best practices for creative industry resumes versus other industries and questions such as, whether or not to limit color use, the oft-repeated “one-page rule” still applied and how to best show diverse employment categories. Despite the days of faxing resumes being long gone, Detter still recommended keeping color to a minimum, especially since they usually end up being printed in black and white.

Regarding the question of ideal resume length Detter said that the one page concept had “kind of come and gone,” and that job seekers at all levels would be best served by “keeping it sharp” and “not being overly verbose” but, he stressed, not at the expense of important content, adding that staff level job seekers should still keep to the one page guideline. An important piece of advice Detter had for more experienced professionals was when evaluating what to leave on (or off) a resume to ask themselves, “is this topical?” and weigh the relevance of older experience against the position they’re trying to attain.

Targeting and relevance came up again in response to the question of how to best present different categories of experience. For example, solopreneurs may want to reconsider listing themselves as an “owner” or “principal,” which could be a turn off to potential employers looking for someone to be part of their team. Conversely, it could be completely appropriate if applying to an agency looking for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, but Detter advised, “If you do that, you should be able to show real accomplishments.”

On the technical side remember that resumes often get filtered through e-mail systems or hiring software so it’s important to have a plain text alternate for those instances. Detter suggested it might not be a bad idea to attach both the designed and plain text versions to applicant e-mails where appropriate.

If you’re still feeling daunted The Creative Group holds regular local presentations on resume writing/portfolios at local industry events, like AIGA Chapter events and at Design Schools and they’ll be hosting a Portfolio Review at the HOW 2012 Conference on Sunday, June 24th from 6:30–7:30 PM.

Attendees will be able to receive professional portfolio critique and get peer feedback as well as have a chance to make valuable contacts with potential clients or employers.

The event is free to all HOW or The Dieline Package Design Conference attendees, but if you want to showcase your portfolio, you must sign up in advance (just check the box on your registration form and make sure you register by May 31.)