As a creative director, a ton of resumes fly across my desk, some are awesome and some are OK, but then there is the vast majority that are straight up bad. If you are applying for a design job, your resume is your foot in the door. This thing needs to have fireworks and horns playing as the person opens it. Now, I don’t mean you need to go all crazy like the business card dude on YouTube, but do keep in mind that this is the decisive moment between getting and not getting the interview.
Your resume needs to not only make sense, but it needs to be designed for good legibility. The goal here is to have the reader go through the whole thing, or at least be able to skim the major points.
The following are a few tips to take into consideration when designing your resume. I will not go into detail as far as the content of your resume, but I do know that it has to make sense, and it needs to be succinct and relevant to the interviewer. For example, don’t put a Telemarketing Phone Attendant position if you are applying for a Graphic Design position.
No more than 3 Typefaces.
Don’t go nuts and add every single typeface in your library. Stick with 3 typefaces that make sense together. You want to go for contrast. Keep in mind hierarchy of messaging when choosing type.
Kern, Kern, Kern.
Martin Solomon, one of my typography professors in school, used to tell me that he would markup an interviewees whole resume as he was interviewing them, and would hire based on the amount of markup the resume had. I’m not saying you have to kern the whole resume (if you do, good for you) but at the least, you need to kern the headlines and your name.
Pay special attention to the delicate balance between line length and font height. Do not make your smaller font bodies of text too long, to prevent the readers focus to float around and have to keep finding his place in the text. The basic rule says that your line length (in picas) should be 1.5 to 3 times the height of your type. So for 10pt type, your line length should be between 15 and 30 picas. Which leads me to the next point…
Make sure your line breaks are not producing widows or orphans. When breaking a line, try to avoid hyphenating and make sure it reads correctly. Use conjunctions or prepositions as opportunities to break up text, and follow a natural rhythm. A good suggestion is to read it out loud. If it sounds bad to you, it will sound worse to your interviewer.
Hierarchy in messaging.
This is extremely important for clear legibility. Determine what your hierarchy is going to be and stick to it. A good rule of thumb is to use the pre-set sizes in your design program (10, 12, 14, 18, 24, etc.). Those are there because they were the sizes at which lead type was available for typesetters to use. Using them can give your design a classic feel to it. Or not. Either way, it’s geeky and cool. The point is to make sure that your hierarchy of messaging makes sense, and that you are not using too many different sizes, and possibly distract or confuse the reader. Stick to three sizes and guide them through what you want them to read, and in which order.
Make your body copy the right size.
So what is the right size? For years I have been setting type at 10/13 (size/leading). For some typefaces, 10 may be too large or too small, so I adjust accordingly. Always keep a 3 point difference between the size of the font and the amount of leading. The size is totally up to you. The only suggestion I can make is to never make it larger than 12 point, or smaller than 9 point.
Add a personal touch.
Don’t be afraid to design it. Remember that your resume is an extension of your portfolio. It needs to look good to you, and you need to like it. Don’t stop working on it until you are 100% happy with it. It can also help to show it around to your friends and get some constructive criticism.
Keep it fax-able.
OK, this is an old rule, which may not apply in all instances, but it could be a good idea to create a plain black and white version of your resume that is fax-able. The last thing you want is for your resume to be illegible once sent over fax, and lose that big opportunity for something so small. If you don’t feel that you need to make one, at least remember to change it if someone asks to fax your resume in. Also, don’t forget that gray-scales or halftones do not show up well in fax.
Sometimes you don’t even need a resume.
The other day I received an awesome self-promotion piece from someone who will remain anonymous. It was a very creative and interactive mailer that was engaging. The most noticeable thing about this mailer was that, although filled with information on how to contact this person, not once did feel like they were soliciting a job, or even trying to sell me anything. It was in fact, very memorable, and I would not think twice in hiring this person.
Keep in mind that these are my suggestions and that no rules are set in stone. You are, however, applying for a design position. Your resume is the first impression you’re making on your future employer. Make it a good one.