So you’re not a graphic designer or a marketing guru but you want your resume to say “yes, hire me!” in a matter of seconds. That’s a difficult ask… or is it?
With the modern use of photo sharing apps like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, we’ve been trained (whether we like it or not) to make snap judgements based on aesthetics. If you see a beautiful picture on Instagram, you are more likely to give it a couple extra seconds of your attention. Resumes aren’t much different.
If your resume is boring and outdated, it is more likely to be glossed over. If you present a visually appealing resume with graphics, you will attract more attention. To prove this, a 2017 study(1) found that visuals are known to improve learning and retention by 400%. That means that the information you present graphically on your resume will be retained at a rate of 400% greater than the information that is delivered in content alone. According to this same study, infographics have the biggest impact on learning and retention.
Content is still extremely important for a resume - it is what will demonstrate your skills and unique experience. However, knowing what information is best written out versus what information is best represented with a graphic is an excellent way to separate your resume from the others.
Justin Beegel, the CEO of Infographic World, told Forbes “...visual storytelling helps businesses, marketers and communications professionals reach their target audience in more meaningful ways than virtually any other type of medium."(2) By combining verbal, written, and visual storytelling in your job search strategy, you are ensuring that your story will not only be heard, but also remembered.
How can you make this happen on your resume?
1. Focus on Metrics
A numerical result is the easiest form of information to represent in a graphic. Highlighting that you improved sales by 30% year over year can be done in a simple graph that, when done right, can create a wow-factor that words simply cannot. Visually seeing that increase every year will be memorable and impressive. Everyone loves to see a line graph that moves up and to the right. It is the universal symbol for “more money!”
2. Rank your skills
You can add a long laundry list of skills on your resume but does that really get anyone's attention? If a hiring manager spends less than 30 seconds reviewing your resume, you don’t want half of that time spent on reading a list of words. Instead, rank your top 5 to 7 skills from beginner through expert-level. This helps you not only identify your core strengths but can also help to include skills that are relevant to the job but that you may not have expert-level experience in yet.
For example, if a job description calls out “basic graphic design” but you only have limited experience with Adobe Creative Suite, you can list those skill and rank them at an intermediate-level skill set. This will help the reader know you do have the experience but you won’t be putting yourself at risk by listing it as a core skill and making the reader think you will be an expert designer on day one.
3. Professional Experience Timelines
Including a visual timeline of your career will ensure that the reader can quickly follow your career progression without having to spend time looking at dates and trying to put the pieces together. Chronological timelines are routinely represented through visuals to teach history and tell stories. The same applies here. If you can save time by adding a visual element to your resume, that is more time a reader can spend on the core of your content and experience.
4. Include logos for professional highlights
If you want to ensure that the reader knows where you went to college (even though your education is listed on the bottom of the resume), you can do so by including the school’s logo next to your degree information. The same goes with prominent organizations or nonprofits that you have been a member of or certifications that you have received. By including a logo, you are ensuring that key information will be noticed and retained without requiring too much time away from the important content.
While we now know how important it is to utilize graphics and visually appealing resume formats, we also know that it is important to not overdo the design elements on the resume. Including all of these graphic elements on one page may be too much, so use them strategically and only when appropriate. Make sure you have enough white space on your document that the content is still easy to read and the visuals aren’t overwhelming. The graphics are meant to help the reader retain information more quickly without being a distraction. All of these design elements can help you to stand out from the stack of word documents with plain text and will be sure to align yourself with companies that need your unique story, skills, and achievements.