Dear Matt: I am a creative professional wondering what recruiters look for on résumés. Do I focus on my work history, clients or projects? And what's more important -- a good résumé or a good portfolio?
Matt says: The résumé will get you noticed, the portfolio will help set you apart.
"One of the most important elements of a résumé is that it needs to capture a hiring manager's attention -- and this is even more critical for those in creative fields," said Zak Brown, Division Director of The Creative Group in Minneapolis.
According to a recent survey by The Creative Group nearly half (46%) of advertising and marketing executives interviewed said for those pursuing creative roles, how a résumé looks matters as much as what it contains. While it's okay to include some personal branding into your résumé, too many fonts and colors can be distracting.
Rob Johnson, Creative Director for Twin Cities-based Greenspring Media, agrees. "I think the most common mistake I see on résumés for creative positions is over-designing the résumé itself," he said. "This seems to be especially true of less experienced professionals or those coming right out of school. You want to grab the attention of the decision maker, but not at the expense of showcasing your achievements, capabilities and work history."
Using some kind of personal branding/logo and subtle design flair is fine and even encouraged to help you stand out, but wait to show your true creative mojo in your samples or portfolio review.
Today's professionals have access to various tools for building online profiles that showcase their strengths and career accomplishments. Tools such as Zerply, Re.vu, Vizualize.me, Behance.net, about.me, Carbonmade, Coroflot and Krop can help you create additional resources to show your true creative side, letting the résumé show your accomplishments, technical skills, work history and how you fit for each specific job. A link to these sites on the résumé can quickly show your creative side.
Many creative professionals struggle with how to separate their full-time work from any project/freelance work. Brown says it's okay to separate them out into different sections. But don't just list the client; list the client and the project when including project work.
"Ideally, job seekers should detail their specific contribution to a project and how it impacted the client and/or bottom line," said Brown. "This will help the employer understand the scope of the work. It certainly helps to list clients, especially if they are well known."