What Is a Creative Resume and When Do You Need One?

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Even when unemployment is low, the pool of candidates for many jobs remains large. If you’re trying to land a high-paying position or a job in a desirable industry, you may need to make your resume stand out from the competition.

The question is: should you create a “fun” resume to get the hiring manager’s attention? Some job seekers have started creating nontraditional resumes that go beyond the standard, one- or two-page typed sheet of paper. These resumes are typically online, creative, and catchy -- designed to showcase your skills and qualifications in a way that words on paper can't.

What does a nontraditional or creative resume look like? A few examples are infographics, video resumes, online portfolios, online and social resumes, and personal websites with a career focus.

Typically, these resumes make use of the applicants’ creative skills and thus are appropriate for their industry and for the job they’re seeking. For example, a graphic designer might create an infographic resume to display their design skills, while a TV/film editor might make a video resume.

There are also a number of free services online that will take your information and turn it into an infographic resume, online portfolio, or similar.

Pros of a Nontraditional Resume

Nontraditional resumes are not for everyone. However, they can be beneficial for certain types of job applicants.

Nontraditional resumes are ideal for job seekers in particularly creative industries, such as marketing and design.

More specifically, online resumes are helpful for applicants who want to post films, sound clips, photographs, or other pieces of work related to their industry.

Online resumes also allow those in web design and information technology to display their skills. Social resumes are useful for anyone looking for a job in social media. Nontraditional resumes can help highlight these skills and qualifications in a way that a standard resume can’t, showing what the applicant can do, instead of just asserting that they can do it.

Creative resumes are also helpful for people without an extensive work history. They allow candidates to emphasize skills rather than their chronological work history.

Cons of a Nontraditional Resume

While nontraditional resumes are becoming increasingly popular across a variety of industries, that does not mean you should immediately begin to draft one. For one thing, many companies still prefer a traditional, typed resume.

A number of larger companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to automatically screen resumes; these systems search for keywords that indicate whether or not a candidate has the desired skills and/or experience for the position. Because ATS requires text-based resumes, some companies using ATS will simply toss aside nontraditional resumes.

Other companies simply dislike nontraditional resumes, believing that graphics and other visuals are unnecessary additions to a resume. Therefore, it's important to consider your industry and the specific companies you are interested in when you consider creating a nontraditional resume.

Is a Creative Resume Right for You?

Do you need a creative resume if you're job searching? Not necessarily. However, depending on the type of job you are seeking, they can definitely help you get noticed by a prospective employer.

The important decision to make is whether it's worth the investment of your time, and possibly your money.

You will need to get hiring managers and networking contacts to view your resume, plus may have to pay to create or host it online.

Ask yourself the following questions before you opt for a creative resume:

Can I do this well? If you're going to get creative, your resume needs to be good – and professional. Otherwise, it can hurt your candidacy for a job rather than helping it. It needs to be appealing to the eye and provide the same essential information as a traditional resume.

Is a non-traditional resume appropriate for the industry? If you’re in banking, insurance, finance, etc., you definitely should not opt for a creative resume. In fact, any industry that still has a dress code is probably not a good choice for this kind of CV. Not sure whether your industry counts? Google your colleagues. If you don’t find a lot of portfolio sites/professional websites with a creative bent, etc., it’s a good bet that your industry is too conservative for a nontraditional resume – in which case, standing out won’t help you get hired.

Will I be applying online through a corporate portal or job search site? No matter how creative your industry, don’t opt for a nontraditional resume if you’ll be applying online. The resume robots will not be impressed with your ability to think outside the box. You might find your application booted by the ATS before it can even get in front of a human being.