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Job Q&A: How Creative Can You Get With Your Resume?

Q: I have read articles on how important it is to get creative with you resume in order to avoid it from going into the infamous “black hole inbox,” but it seems like there is a lot of advice that conflicts, are there any ‘best practices’ I should keep in mind?




Without getting too specific about what font size or typeface you should use, I think it is important to remember a few things about resumes in general:

♦ statistics show that hiring managers will spend 10 seconds with your resume before deciding if you are a good fit or not for the role,
♦ the purpose of a resume is to get a meeting (phone or in person), not tell the hiring manager everything about you and your experience, and
♦ different versions of your resume will likely be necessary (at least one for humans and one for bots).

Getting “creative” with your resume might work for some professions (art directors or copywriters, for example), but it could very well work against you if you are a financial analyst. Regardless of the profession you are in, you should not take your resume lightly. Triple-check it for typos, read it out loud and make sure the info is accurate and the formatting consistent. Typos on a resume are the easiest excuse for a hiring manager to discard your resume followed by bad grammar and punctuation.

Despite the importance of the document, I always discourage people from using a resume writing service: Why would you outsource the one professional document that is meant to represent your accomplishments/career. Take the time to do it yourself.

Because you will only get 10 seconds of attention with a hiring manager, keep the content of your resume focused on the accomplishments of your career, avoid listing responsibilities or anything that looks like it belongs on a job description. You want to pique the interest of the hiring manager so that she spends more time considering you and your experience.

The more you can quantify your experience/achievements, the better. Numbers have a tendency to jump out on resumes so use them where you can. If you are a sales person, use sales numbers. If you are a lawyer, use the number of agreements drafted or cases won. Percentages are also useful when numbers are not available or are confidential.

For the resume that will be posted online, you need to consider the bots that will be analyzing job boards and applications. Be sure to use keywords that are common to your industry; a good way to find some of these are to use terms from job descriptions/requirements for roles you are interested in.

Finally, it can seem like there is a “black box” where resumes go in but never come out, but remember that hiring managers and human resources professionals are busy people and technology is not perfect. It is important to follow the protocol of the company, if they require online submission you should certainly do that. Here are some ideas of what you can do next:

♦ call or email the human resources department of the company directly to confirm they received your submission,
♦ find out who the hiring manager is and if you are connected to them (LinkedIn can be great for this), and if you know someone in common who can vouch for you and make an introduction, get it, and
♦ write an email to the hiring manager directly, confirming your application but, more importantly, demonstrating your knowledge of their business and what you can do to help grow their business.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series from Jeff Lundwall, a founder and managing partner of Mercury Group LLC, a retained executive search firm focused on the media, marketing and advertising industry. In this series, Lundwall will answer your questions — big and small — pertaining to getting the most out of a job and career. Please send questions to

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