10 Tips for Writing A Remarkable Resume in Today’s Creative World

Mar 21

Most people think the purpose of a resume is to get you a job. Wrong. The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. Similarly, most people think the purpose of an interview is to get you the job. Wrong again.

The purpose of an interview is to connect with a human being (i.e. the interviewer) on a personal level and leave a remarkable impression on them (as in – worth making a remark about).

Personal connection and remarkable impression will get you the job, not the interview.

With that in mind, here are my
By Assaf Avni (c) 2009


1. Brand Yourself – read Seth Godin’s little blurb about superpowers or Purple Cow and  tell me what’s your superpower?

@edwardboches wrote: “Come up with that one amazing idea that will make you unforgettable. It’s hard not to hire a someone if you can’t get them off your mind“.

The first thing on your resume should be your name – (dash) your brand. BIG. BOLD. Job titles can be sort of a branding statement (e.g. John Doe – Copywriter) but a smarter branding statement would be to actually brand the essence of who you are (in regards to what I need from you, of course). Think values and skills rather than job titles. Art Director is a title – Visual Thinker is a skill. Account Planner is a title – Cultural Curious or Cultural Maven is a value.

People are more likely to hire you for your skills and values, rather than for your title.

Plus, you’re communicating that you are creative, unique, and passionate about these values/skills.

Additional Resources:

FastCompany: The Brand Called You
FastCompany: Brand You – Survival Kit
BusinessWeek: Creating Brand You


2. Don’t tell me what’s your objectives or aspirations, tell me who you are. I often see people (especially students) add an ‘objective’ paragraph to their resume (e.g. ‘OBJECTIVE: to find a job as a Jr. Art Director’). Some take it to the next level and use the word ‘aspiring’ (e.g. ‘John Doe – Aspiring Art Director’).

I don’t want to hire someone who’s objective or aspiration is to become something they are not.

I want to hire someone who has the confidence to see themselves as their brand, even if they don’t have 20 years of experience in that profession. When I’ll read your resume, I’m likely to see that you don’t have the 20 years experience, but I’ll also perceive you as a passionate person who knows where you’re going. I’ll know you are determined and focused and that’s the kind of person I want to hire.

The metaphor I like to use comes from the world of personal relationships. It’s Friday night, you go out and meet an interesting guy/gal. What would you think of them, if they came to you and said: ‘yeah, um, I think I’m ok in relationships’ or ‘well… I kinda’ wanna be great in relationships’… rather than them presenting themselves as someone who’s great in ‘relating’ to other people? You might not know them yet, you’re definitely not in a relationship with them yet, but you’re more likely to go out with them if you’d get the sense that their most important value/skill is their ability to ‘relate’ to people.


3. HR people might tell you ‘objectives’ are important on a resume but that’s only because their job is to file your resume in the right box or put it on the right desk. What if you find a way for your resume to reach the right desk without HR?

HR is not your target audience, avoid them as much as possible. If you want to be an art director or a copywriter, the creative director or the creative recruiter are your target audience. If you want to be an account planner, the group account planner is your target audience.

Find out who’s making the final hiring decision, not who’s in charge of filtering, and target your resume to them.

With that said, the cover letter is a great place to clarify what position you’re applying for. If your resume starts with the headline “John Doe – Cultural Geek,” make sure your cover letter clearly states that you’re interested in that Jr. Account Planning position.


4. You might want to say a lot of things about yourself on your resume (e.g. you’re creative, you’re trustworthy, you’re goal oriented, etc) and you should, but the most important aspect on your resume should be your brand.

If you’re a copywriter – copywrite every aspect of your resume.

Ask a designer or an art director buddy to help you with the layout, visuals, typography, etc. Unless you’re a designer or an art director, I might not expect you to master these, but in the business of communications, I do expect you to care. Very much so.

If you’re an art director – art direct your resume.

Much like any other brand, your resume can either increase or decrease the value of brand YOU with every word, comma, line or color you add. Before you add any visual element, you should ask yourself: why should it be there? Is there a reason? Does it make a remarkable point? Does it make me remarkable? Am I/can I/should I communicating some of my skills/values visually rather than using words?

Check out these 20 beautiful resume designs:

Unless you’re an art director or a designer, I wouldn’t expect most resume to be as ‘art directed’ as these, but there’s something to be learned about how, visually, they all tell a story about the person behind the resume.


5. The more information you have on your resume, the more likely you are to decrease the value of brand YOU (by saying something I don’t want to hear, something I don’t care about, in a way I don’t like, etc). If you include very little information about you, on the other hand, I might not get the essence of brand YOU. Solution:

Your resume should have the least amount of information that will make you a star.

The same goes for a Portfolio, by the way. If I see three amazing campaigns in your portfolio, I’ll think you’re a star. If I see three amazing campaign, two ok ones and one bad one, I’d think you’re just ok.

6. Online sources claim employers spend an average of 10 seconds on each resume they read. I don’t know if this is based on an actual study, but from my experience, if you get 30 seconds, consider yourself lucky. I’m pretty sure they spend more time reviewing your resume in details before you come to the interview, but at the filtering process, 10-30 seconds sounds about right to me.

I would go further and say most don’t even ‘read’ your resume. ‘Skimming through’ would be more like it. Now, what do you do when you skim through a text book? You read the headlines, the bullet points, right? Well, what if your resume had only headlines and bullet points? Boom boom boom, straight to the point, easy to read, creative, quick, etc.

If you make your resume skimmable, it doesn’t have to be readable.

Make it easy for them to get all the information by skimming through your resume. One-liners are best. Think twitter – every new bit of information is 140 character or less.

7. Don’t tell me your previous job titles. I can’t learn anything about you or your skills from your job titles. Identify and quantify your past accomplishments instead of listing past job descriptions.

Tell me what you did for them, that you can do for me.

Leave me curious and wanting to know more about those skills and how you achieved them.

Instead of writing:

Server, Amy’s Ice Cream


Made 50 people smile daily @ Amy’s Ice Cream

Instead of writing:

Sales Manager, McDonald’s


Increased sales by 20% @ McDonald’s

These can lead to a great conversation during your interview.

8. Tell me something about how you see the world, about who you are as a human being, not just as an employee. 99% of resumes don’t tell much about the person’s attitude, quickness, humor, curiosity, personal manner, what makes them tick, and a few dozen other traits that are really important. Most people assume these will be revealed at the interview but the truth is, I am more likely to call you for an interview if I perceive you as the human being I want to connect with (see ‘Life’ section below).

9. Structure – keeping in mind, that you want to have the least amount of information that will make you shine, the structure of your resume should be super simple and skimmable. I’d recommend having only four main categories: Education, Experience, Skills, and Life.

The most important element of your resume (that make you shine brighter) should go first (creating a remarkable first impression). The second most important element should go last (leaving the reader impressed, curious and wanting to know more). Anything else should go anywhere in between.

People are more likely to remember the first thing and the last things they hear/read about you.

If your ‘education’ section is more impressive than your ‘experience’ section, put it first, and vice versa. In the creative sector (any job focused on generating new ideas), awards are sometimes more important than education. If you won impressive awards, honors or other forms of recognitions, which are directly related to the position you’re applying for, I’d add an ‘Awards’ section before education or experience. If the awards are not directly related to the position, but are worth mentioning, I’d put them under the ‘Life’ section.

– GPA below 3.5 doesn’t make you a star (hint: don’t put it on your resume). Instead, if your ‘GPA in Major’ is 3.5 or above, put that one.
– If you have (or getting) a BA/BS from a university, don’t list past associate degree or community college education (unless they make you shine brighter than your university education).
– Instead of listing ‘relevant coursework’ under education, list the skills you gained via these courses under the ‘Skills’ sections. I’m not interested in knowing you took a typography class; I want to know you master typography.

– Life experiences are great, even if you didn’t get paid for them. If you volunteered for a summer camp, for example, you might be great at multi-tasking, solving problems, dealing with demanding customers (kids in this example, but still customers). All of these are great skills I would love to know about.
– For each experience listed, add one, two, or max three things you did for them that you can do for me. Bullet point style, one line for each. If you list three, put the most impressive one first, the second most impressive last, and the least impressive in the middle.

– Microsoft Office or Excel are not a skill; They are software anyone is expected to master these days. Personally, I’d be embarrassed to list them unless I’m applying for a secretarial position.
– More advanced software (if relevant to the position you’re applying for) should be listed, but again, they are not a skill. You mastering them, is a skill.
– I only want to know about the skills that make you a star. If you feel you know InDesign well enough to talk about it during an interview, tell me you master it. Telling me you’re a beginner doesn’t make you a star.

This is the one section of your resume, where you don’t want to use bullet-points-one-liners. Located at the bottom of the page, this section is your opportunity to leave a remarkable last impression. Remember what we said at the beginning of this guide? Personal connection and remarkable impression will get you the job, not the interview. This section should be one or two paragraphs, in the format of story-telling. People connect with good stories and this is your chance to show you’re a human being and not just another paper resume.

You can talk about your hobbies, countries you’ve visited, languages you speak (though if relevant to the position, these can also go under skills), anything really, but once again – be remarkable.

If you tell me you beat anyone you know in Guitar Hero, I might conclude from this that you are passionate, goal oriented, enjoy challenges, etc. If you tell me you perform at poetry slam open mic gigs every third Tuesday of the month, I may conclude that you are a great communicator, a story teller, can present in front of a large audience, risk taker, not afraid of failure, etc.

While this section ends your resume, it should provide a great conversation-starter for your interviewer. Remember: your goal is to make it easier for them to connect with you on a personal level.

10. Design, layout, white space and anything in between:

Learn Typography | Know the difference between Serif and Sans Serif | Don’t ever use Times New Roman or Comic Sans | Don’t use font-size 12. Most printed materials (books, newspapers) use font-size 9-11 (depending on the font) | Instead, add more space between the lines | Own a professional-looking email address. Yahoo or Hotmail don’t make you shine | Read and Use:

Really Ugly Resumes:

The Seven Deadly Sins of Resume Design:

The Periodic Table of Typefaces

Give Your Resume a Face-Lift

If your resume goes online, read – Ten Principles for Readable Web Typography:

Ten Things that Define a Killer Resume:

Ten Resume Do’s

Ten Resume Sins:

Six Words That Make Your Resume Suck:

Six Word That Make Your Resume Rock:

How To Create A Great Web Design CV and Resume

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