creative resume

Just because we have the tools, doesn’t mean we are qualified to use them

Creative Resumes

Are you using a creative resume template? Have you incorporated color or design elements into your resume? Are you using an artistic design template found on the Internet? For 95% of candidates, including myself, I believe that we are hurting ourselves when we incorporate design elements into our resume. Most creative resumes that use multiple colors, fancy font’s, columns or text boxes are hurting the candidate.

I was just asked for my opinion on creative resumes templates and I found myself biting my lip. A creative resume might make a good initial impression, but in the end hurts the candidate. I thought about my answer for a few long sentences and provided a two-stage answer. I gave my disclaimer that I didn’t care for them. I then provided my reasoning and business logic behind my opinion. Attempts at aesthetic resumes fail for 95% of candidates and I see enough of these resumes that I figured it was worth a post.

As someone working in HR, I see a lot of resumes every week. My perspective on this topic is the forest view and not the individual tree. When candidates incorporate design into their creative resumes, they often have the perspective of only seeing the single tree.

The “Forest perspective” on creative resumes

Hiring managers see a lot of resumes so they absolutely know what looks good and what doesn’t. Outside of our personal documents, most of us have only seen a handful of resumes. Most recruiters and hiring managers have seen 100’s if not 1000’s of resumes, and consequently they know aesthetic, creative resumes when they seem them. The flip side of this is they know bad looking resumes and because of their exposure, it’s easy to spot a candidate that had good intentions, executed poorly.

If you are a designer working in digital, or a front-end developer, then by all means you should have a creative resume with beautiful aesthetics. I wouldn’t consider it a “requirement” but it should look cleaner and easier to read then the rest of the stack. Thoughtful design is the first step to user engagement and what better place to prove it than then your creative resume?

Most of us will not be hired for our design chops so artistic flair won’t be missed. I say that again, elements of design WILL NOT BE MISSED. No recruiter is judging your document with a check list where one of the boxes is titled “artistic talent”. If you fail when playing Pictionary, don’t go there. Traditional black and white resumes are safe and won’t get you in trouble. Hiring managers are not going to take a look our resume and say, “We can’t hire this person. They are perfectly qualified, but that resume is a User Experience nightmare”. I have no artistic talent. I suck at Adobe Illustrator, Smelly markers and the Etch-a-Sketch. I don’t worry about it because I am not going to be hired for my ability to design the Careers page on the company web site. My job is to smile and man the booth.

If you want to see a beautiful document, look at the resume of a designer or User Experience professional. These candidates are paid to make visuals that are not only easy to look at but engaging. These candidates not only studied their craft professionally, they usually have an innate and natural talent for making presentations “easy to look at”.

Just because we know how to change the color of a font or insert a text box, doesn’t mean we should. Emotionally, it is easy to think we are doing something special when we add a splash of color but if you are not able to create a compelling info graphic, then I recommend you stay away from the creative resume. The bar is just too high. Most of us have very little experience creating resumes, let alone adding aesthetics. Now is not the time to go for the Daily Double. Our attempts at flair not only pale in comparison to the design candidate’s resume, they can actually look pathetic. There is a reason you won’t catch me standing next to Brad Pitt or George Clooney in any setting. I don’t want to set myself up for failure by comparison. Reviewing resumes is nothing but comparisons.  

creative resume

Avoid cookie cutter templates for your creative resume

If you are thinking about using a cookie cutter template off the Web, think about this. Do you think the professional illustrator who created that template has a recruiting background and knows what to put into a resume? Those templates are designed to catch your attention as a candidate. They are not designed to engage and inform a hiring manager. These documents may look clean, but it is usually because they have an abundance of white space. This extra white space could have been used to list relevant accomplishments and I think I am relatively qualified to make this observation. Last I looked, resumes are for listing accomplishments, not omitting them. Although pretty, these templates are not the most efficient platform for listing accomplishments.  They can also be VERY complicated and difficult when it comes to making edits. 

If you do not have a design background, my advice is to just go with a standard black and white resume, and use a font that you are familiar with. Try to avoid the temptation to add color, columns or text boxes because as sexy as we think our document is, a great looking resume can be created in black and white. I would rather see a well-done resume with a simple format vs. a resume with well-intentioned but poorly executed aesthetics.

First impressions makes a big difference and they are not limited to how we answer the phone or when meet other in person for the first time. The resume and the cover letter are THE first impression the hiring manager sees and will make one of the following impressions:

Simple resume format done well:

  • Although the hiring manager may not be bowled over by the look of the document, candidates will not have a chance to lose points. The reader isn’t going to miss beautiful aesthetics if a simple format is executed well. Think, Frank Lloyd Wright. Think about the wholesome girl with little or no make up, very simple jewelry and an easy smile. Both will put you at ease.  

Simple resume format with an average look:

  • Even if the resume layout is mediocre, if the content matches the job description, I will call the candidate. If the accomplishments indicate they are qualified, that will be enough. Unless there is a complete lack of consistency in the formatting, (which indicates a lack of attention to detail) I won’t be insulted.

Beautifully aesthetic resume:

  • Always impressive, no question about it. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the document is, if the accomplishments don’t answer the job description, I won’t call. Think of the well dressed woman with no substance or the young teenagers car that is all show and no go. 

Poor attempt to incorporate aesthetics:

  • When we look at anything and it is out of balance, it is human nature for internal flags go off. The woman with too much make-up or the painting hung on the wall at a crooked angle. Both make us uncomfortable and this is NOT the state of mind we want a hiring manger to be in when they read our document.

I work in HR. I do not work in the design business. When I started thinking about a logo for this web site, I went to our web designer with a bottle of his favorite alcohol. He was doing graphics for the Indianapolis 500 before he was working with us and this guy’s got chops. By his very nature, he is creative 24 /7. When he is not creating web designs, he is composing electronic music. He took the intent of the blog into consideration and within 10 minutes had what I think is a brilliant idea and design.

  • I didn’t care for old school HR
  • I wanted to keep my personal identity out of the picture (so I would have no fear of telling the truth or ostracizing myself from the traditional HR community)

The result is the iconic Banksy painting, Flowers and Peace.  A masked rebel going against convention, throwing out the traditional time clock. As an HR guy, I would have never come up with something even close and this is why I am not in design. If you are thinking about adding creative elements, just remember that your resume will be sitting next to a professional designers. 

If you are thinking of trying to make your creative resume catch someone’s attention by adding flair, remember, the best way is to catch a hiring managers attention is by listing easy to read accomplishments, that match the job description. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Laptop etiquette

I know this may appear rude, but I want to get something out of this meeting!

Laptop Etiquette

What is the etiquette when it comes to typing on laptops in meetings? I have some personal ideas and practices that I will share below, but frankly, I don’t know what is right or wrong. I want to ask you, the reader what your thoughts are when it comes to laptops in meetings.

My questions are along the lines of the following:

  • Is it OK to pull out a laptop and start hammering out notes during a meeting?
  • Does other meeting members think I am working on email, surfing porn, or having a Skype chat?
  • Will I be a distraction?
  • Do I lose respect if I am in a room of senior managers because they suspect I may not be paying attention to the meeting at hand? (Just because I am writing this post during our 2015 planning, doesn’t mean I can’t multi task.)

I take a lot of notes on my laptop. I used personal funds to purchase my work machine so I could have the slimmest MacBook Air they make and literally take it everywhere I go. Mrs. Nasty doesn’t appreciate its portability because I end up taking it to the local diner on our Wednesday Date nights, where I am trying to wrap up the weekly blog post to be released on Thursday. She is trying to carry on a conversation as I type. I do take it everywhere!

Here is my laptop etiquette quandary:

When I meet with younger generations, taking notes on a laptop is standard procedure. This is a generation that attended high school and college where laptops are required. Taking notes on this platform is nothing new for this generation.

When I meet with peers a generation or two older than myself, I make it a habit to pull out a small Moleskin notebook and a pen because, well. . . . I literally want the listener to see me jotting down notes. I would take notes on a laptop but it seems to be more of a distraction than a tool of efficiency with this demographic.

Call me paranoid, but I get the feeling that this generation filled with senior managers looks down on my laptop.  Do they think I am surfing porn or chatting with my buddies about the weekend?  

I get it. With the screen portion of the laptop acting as a subconscious barrier, the other party has no idea of what I am doing. The stereotype of the cell phone user texting at inappropriate times is burned in everyones retina. Whether that means taking care of a Number 2 or church, 24/7 connectivity for some is a “must have”, not a “nice to have”. Tinder, FaceBook, Skype, Twitter and Ello are all part of the new mantra, “I gotta keep connected Yo!” (You can find me on Skype at HRNasty, Ello at HRNasty and Twitter at @HR_Nasty.)

I take notes because I want to remember what was discussed and more importantly, I want them to have confidence that I have will have my house in order at the end of our conversation. I want the speaker to see that I find value in what is being shared with me. Whether I am taking notes on a laptop or in a Moleskin, at the end of meetings I try to make it a point to read and confirm any follow-ups that I am responsible for. Yes, there is a bit of show here, but I not only want to remember what was said, I want the listener to walk away from the meeting thinking “My Boy Nasty got his shit in order”.

When I go to a meeting and I don’t see anyone taking notes, I get a nervous that some of the “follow ups” will become “forgotten let-me-downs”. When I work with clients to practice mock interviews, there are times where the person I am working with isn’t taking any notes. It’s not that what I have to say is so important, but I can’t help but wonder “Are they going to remember all this stuff?” As the consultant in these situations, even I am taking notes and I am the one with the so called knowledge. I wonder if they are going to remember what we are discussing and, I don’t want to leave anyone with that type of impression.      

A few weeks ago, I attended a round table with 14 other execs. The guest speaker was Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow and the main topic of discussion was Building a Great Workplace. Zillow is great company in anyone’s book, but here in Seattle where Zillow has over 240 job openings with no end in site, this guy walks on water. Spencer is a Harvard grad, smart, articulate and has left a number of successful exits in his wake. Zillow was a Gold Place Finisher in their category Best Workplaces in our local area and a topic I blogged about a few weeks back. Based on what he talked about, Zillow has some great things going on and I really appreciate his attitude towards company culture.

Here’s the thing. I brought my laptop fully intending to take notes. Not just take notes, but take a LOT OF NOTES. I wanted to leave that session with an Illiad’s worth of ideas on management, culture and then raise the game here at Acme Publishing. This roundtable was held in a swanky golf course club just down the street from Bill Gates estate and when I went to sit down, I saw a pen, pad of paper and pad of stickies with the golf course logo at every seat. My first thought was. . . ok, no laptops. Very clear message.  

I work in a tech start-up and most start up junkies look down on writing anything on paper. Writing notes on paper, only to be converted to email, Google Docs or Word to be shared later means extra steps and more importantly “TIME”. A priceless commodity when you are working with a company that is on a burn rate. Why not take the notes directly into email or Google Docs where outline format is a standard option? There are so many applications that enable documents to be shared with others or synced to your mobile and desktop devices that it really makes more sense to take notes electronically.

As I looked around, I was the only person with a laptop. Is it just me, or are we not listening to T-H-E Spencer Rascoff? There was one person with a iPad, but again, they are “writing stuff down” with an electronic stylus. Most of us can type 60 to 100 words a minute. I came here to learn and I want to get some shit down. There is no way I am not going to remember everything a Harvard grad running a billion dollar company has to say. I need to take notes at ludicrous speed and I don’t want to use the crappy golf course ballpoint pen. This pen was just one step up from the yellow stub of a no. 2 that they hand out on the put put golf course to keep your score.  

I literally felt at odds about pulling out my laptop and in the end I went for it.

I had the same experience when I went to my motorcycle endorsement class a year ago. I wasn’t just the only guy with a laptop, I was the only guy taking notes! (Last I checked, the topic of rider safety is worthy of some note taking!) I remember walking through the door and the guy behind me saying “Were we supposed to bring something to take notes with?” I literally brought a pad of paper, two pens and a laptop. I am proud to say I passed and the guy who was wondering about notes, he actually flunked out. I don’t know if there is a lesson there or not, but I am now commuting to work at 50 miles to the gallon and in the HOV lane in a city that makes the top 10 worst traffic list every year. BoooYahhhhh! 

I just went to a local HR conference and experienced the same thing. There were very few laptops. There were a lot of folks taking notes with pen and pad, but very few laptops. I don’t know if this trend is saying something about me, or it is saying something about the people I am hanging out with.

I understand that it may appear rude to be on a laptop in a meeting. But taking notes with a writing utensil and a pad of paper harkens back to the corporate life in the 1950’s when there was a note taker in the room who knew “shorthand”. 

So help me, what is your thought on taking notes on a laptop and being a possible distraction in a meeting, conference, or retreat? Leave our feedback in the comments below. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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