When a creative person wants to land a job, they often want a creative resume. The amazing thing about simple resume formats is that you can trust them. They are simple for a reason. Their simpleness allows you to be creative in how you tell the story in your resume.

Resume formats are not simple to make writing them easier, you use a simple resume format to make reading it easier for the recruiter or hiring person.

I have worked with clients, mainly creatives, who would initially prefer a more creative looking resume.

The first issue with using a creative resume format

The first issue with a creative resume, especially when you’re applying to a larger organization, is that the resume will not be ATS (applicant tracking system) compliant. Larger organizations, and some recruiters, use computer software to scan your resume for certain words and phrases. The software has one big problem — any weird looking resumes are not scannable.

The other issue with using a creative resume format

The second issue is that unusual looking resumes are hard for the reader to read it. They first have figure out what the layout is and then they have to read. While you may think this is a good thing, it usually annoys hiring people more than it delights. It makes their job harder.  The #1 goal of writing a resume is to get the person to call you for an interview.


resume format how to write a resume

A conversation about creative resumes with a creative client

Client: “I can’t be creative with a typical resume format. I’m too interesting and creative.”

Me: “What’s one of the most creative ways to tell a story. One that people love and will pay to see?”

Client: “TV and movies.”

Me: “Right, now do you know what a film looks like before it gets made?”

Client: “A script.”

Me: ‘Exactly. Before a movie gets made, it needs to be written. A film script won’t be read unless it’s in the proper format. Do all movies sound or look the same. Nope. But they look the same on paper going by on horseback.”

Where you can be creative in your resume

The place you can be creative in your resume is the content itself. You can share interesting and captivating stories that help you get called for a job interview.

You want the recruiter reading it and getting sucked into your interesting stores instead, you want to write your resume like a play. 

You want to share stories that move them to call you. Every line adds more detail and moves the reader along. Most of my clients who are head of creative or designers have simple resumes. They trust the words. They trust the stories.

I did have one design client make a hybrid-design resume. He used a combination of a visual resume on the first page and a more traditional style on the second page. His search strategy was just through networking, so he was not concerned with ATS. He was also looking to work at a smaller design firm, where there were fewer applications. He knew that he planned to apply to a larger firm, he would need to lose the first page. He landed a job at a small design firm.

The question to ask before you make a creative looking resume is “who am I sending this to?” and “how can I make it easy for them to see my skills and value?’

Show your design skills at the interview

You can always bring a second prettier resume to the interview, along with your portfolio, if you really want to highlight your design chops.

Great designers know which conventions aren’t meant to be broken. Simple & specific works. It’s not a format issue. It’s a story clarity issue.

How to Know Which Stories to Use In Your Resume

If you’re sticking with a simple resume format, which I advise, the place to show your mark is the stories. If you’re not sure what stories to use, do the free 7-day Career Stories Challenge to find those irresistible stories (and learn about yourself in the process).