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Creative Resume Design. 6 Great Ideas To Break Away From the Candidate Crowd

CV Boss Resume Palette

Question. When was the last time you updated your resume design? Nope. Not talking about updating the information and moving this block of text from here to there, I'm talking about tossing out that old black and white template and starting from scratch? As a personal rule, I do this once per year. Call me a keener, but I've always been one of those people who keep my resume updated and ready to go regardless if I'm looking for a job or not. Once per year, I take a good look at my resume and I throw it out.

Okay. You can pick your jaw up off the floor now. Call me crazy, but my philosophy is this: As people we are constantly evolving professionally and personally, so why shouldn't our resumes evolve with us? I used to carry over my resume design year after year until one day I was working on it and I realized it just wasn't me anymore. It was boring and the worst thing of all was it didn't excite me. That was the first time I tossed my resume in the trash. I proceeded to have a panic attack, but when I came to, I decided to do some research on resume design trends and I got inspired. I encourage you to do the same. If you feel bored and uninspired by how you are presenting yourself, how do you think a recruiter is going to feel? Start over. Your resume is an extension of yourself. It's you on a page. Get excited about you, get inspired. When you send out your next resume, I want you to feel proud!

You may be thinking, I'm not a graphic designer or I don't have a creative bone in my body. Relax. Creating a stylish resume doesn't mean you have to be an artist, all you need are the guts to be different and the ability to know when to edit yourself. Today, I want to walk you through how to plan your next stylized resume. I'm going to show you how you can step away from the candidate crowd. Don't be scared. This is gonna be fun! Before Your Start, Think!

Before you sit down in front of the computer and start playing around with different ideas, I want you to think about your personal brand. Branding isn't just for the big boys anymore. Anyone can do it, even you on your resume. Think of yourself as a corporation worth investing in. Just like a company, I want you to think about the emotional connection you want to make with hiring managers and recruiters. Give 360 Reach a try, you can get a personal branding assessment for free. Creating your own personal brand can take some time and you shouldn't rush it. To get started, get out a piece of paper and consider the following:

  • Your industry: This matters. Some industries are more conservative than others and you should consider this in the creative liberties you take

  • Your personality: Do what feels authentic to you. Don't create something that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you are a conservative person, than your resume should reflect that. There is nothing worse than trying to live up to something that feels fake

  • How far are you willing to go: Do you want to use color? A logo? Experiment with information placement. Know your limits. If you're not computer savvy and you don't think you can create a design that looks impressive, maybe you should seek help from a company like CV Boss. Cough. (Shameless plug. Sorry. Not sorry)

  • Using a storyboard: I know, very graphic design of me. I use story-boarding for everything I plan on creating, even these blogs. You don't need to be an artist. All you do is roughly sketch how you envision your resume. It's like a blueprint. It will keep you focused

Now that you gave some thought to how you want to present yourself, it's time to move on to the fun part! Getting creative. Below I put together 6 great ideas you can use to up the creative in your resume and distance yourself from the candidate crowd.

CV Boss Candidate Crowd

Create Your Own Logo

There is no better way to be unique than to create your own personal logo. There may be someone else in the candidate pool who is using your color palette or a similar layout, but there is no chance anyone in the pool is going to have your logo. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. One of my first logos was my initials. Logos have a huge impact and they don't have to be overly complicated, but they do take time to conceptualize to ensure it represents you properly. If you just don't feel confident on this one, leave it out. This is one tip that is better left off the resume then done half-assed. If you're interested in creating your own logo. I love GraphicSprings. Very user-friendly software and the cost is reasonable.

Don't Forget That Font Counts!

I've seen some crazy resumes like the candidate who tried to squeeze every ounce of information onto a page and used a font that needed a magnifying glass. Or my personal favorite was the candidate who used a font that looked like it belonged on a comic strip. Font is one area a lot of people don't consider as a design tool in their resume. Font counts as design. It needs to be professional, end of story. I highly recommend that you don't use it as an opportunity to get creative. It can dramatically change the look and feel of a resume. I err on the side of conservative because first and foremost your resume needs to be readable. Check out this article by Business News Daily on the best fonts to use on a resume.

Use Your Blank Space

The most predominant thing a recruiter should see on your resume is NOTHING. Blank space gives your resume what I like to call breathing room. Recruiters spend a large portion of their day scanning resumes. Giving your text some space increases its readability. Don't overcrowd your resume. Stay away from creating large paragraphs of text, use bullets and learn how to edit yourself. Remember my last blog entry? 1 Simple Exercise to Customize Your Resume? Read it. It gives some great tips on how to edit yourself so you don't end up crowding your resume with too much information.

Play With Color

Color or black and white? There is a lot of debate out there on this one. Some feel very strongly that the use of color is too risky. With scanning, faxing and printing it could get lost in translation or what if you come across a recruiter that strongly hates orange and you decided it's your personal branding color. I say, those who don't take big risks, don't get the big rewards. I love the use of color on a resume, it stands out, it says something about you and it's just downright impressive if done properly. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Stick to using no more than two colors and be sure they complement each other. Remember your resume needs to be readable. Using neon, bright yellow or pastels is probably not a good idea. My personal favorites; blues, beige and greens. Make sure the colors you use transfer well to black and white. If you stick with mellow, appropriate colors, you should be okay

  • Be consistent with it. If you use it on your resume, use it on your cover letter, reference list, thank you letter, website, infographic resume etc. You know where I am going with this. It's your personal brand. You need to commit to it everywhere

  • Just because it's your favorite color doesn't mean you should use it. Love electric blue? Hmmmm...maybe not a great idea to use it all over your resume. Just because you love doesn't mean you should use it

  • Edit. Edit. Edit. Again you need to edit yourself. I love using color, but I use it conservatively. A box here, your name in a different color there. Like I said in my first blog entry, this is not a place for you to channel your inner Picasso

Switch Up Your Information Placement

I have seen thousands of resumes and a large majority of them follow the same up and down flow on the page. Break out of the mold and place information in different areas on the page. Try listing your skills and competencies on the right border, or place your contact information on the left border instead of on the top. Doing this small step gives your resume a fresh look.

Use Graphics

When I say use graphics, I don't mean randomly sticking an emoji on your resume. Using graphics is a great way to display information about yourself while being creative. My favorite way to implement a graphic is taking skills that you'd usually display in bullet form and converting them into a colored graphic scale. It looks super sharp, takes up less space, and gets across important information that needs to be on your resume. For some examples take a look at the Modern Graphic Resume on my website.

So there you have it. 6 great ideas that will get you started in breaking away from the candidate crowd. I hope you have fun designing your new resume. It can be a fun process if you allow it be. Really think about who you are and the impression you want to leave on hiring managers and recruiters. The next resume you send out will knock 'em dead. (Shameless plug time: Check me out at

Now go on and show that resume who's boss!

Next Week: Creating a Quality Resume that Doesn't Break the Quantity Rule

Photo Credits: GDP and IggyOblomov

CV Boss JC Halfkenny

JC Halfkenny is CV Boss. With over 20 years of recruitment experience she has reviewed thousands of resumes and hired hundreds in various industries such as manufacturing, spa and wellness, finance, retail and aviation. As an experienced recruiter, she knows the secret of resume writing lies in knowing precisely what to put in, precisely what not to put in, and exactly what kind of a spin to put on a resume, to ensure it will stand out from the crowd.

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