Resume Writing for the Creative


by: Jason Watson in: Article 4 years ago

Is there anything more frustrating than writing a resume? How can you possibly cram the myriad experiences, successes and proficiencies of your life onto a single page? Could anything be more depressing than having your creative future condensed into a piece of paper that will be glanced at and thrown into the trash?

At the risk of being any more optimistic, (ha!) resume writing is a pain, especially for the creative. But it is nevertheless a crucial component of your career and the chances for new and exciting opportunities.

As daunting (and as boring) as the whole process is, it can be tackled with relative ease and a minimal amount of pain. The following are a few steps to writing a great resume for the creative field.

1. Do your research

Almost all businesses have websites, so this isn't all that hard to do. What you are wanting to find is what they are about, what kind of projects/clients they have, and how your position will fit into that.

You can use this knowledge to better tie in your education, experience and qualifications since you can directly relate them to the organization's goals and such. This will help the employer have a better idea of how you would be a good fit, or if it is even a good fit at all.

2. Keep it simple and professional

Being creative, you are no doubt tempted to make your resume into a work of art, something that will stand out from the crowd and push you name to the top.

And let's be honest- you could make a sweet looking resume. Clever section headings that tie into an overarching narrative, or perhaps a casual look into what makes you who you are and why you are so awesome at everything.

Admit it- this is what you want to do.

Well, don't do it.

In most organizations, the first person to see your resume is an HR person. This person is foremost looking to see if you are qualified- there might even be a checklist involved. At any rate, this person is almost never the one hiring you.

As such, you want your resume to clearly demonstrate your relevant education, qualifications and work experience. Within 15 seconds anyone should be able to determine what you know how to do and what you have done.

While a creative resume can turn heads, it can also turn them away. You are getting hired to be creative, but you also want to demonstrate that you are professional. Using a clean, organized and coherent resume communicates this and lets the prospective employer know that you can work within an organization and communicate clearly- things you will have to do once you get hired.

Now, your portfolio is where you should be creative. Let your portfolio be the place where those who are actually hiring you can see your creativity. Let your resume be the thing that gets you in the door.

One final note- Proofread! Read over it several times, and then several times again. Make sure everything is spelled correctly. Nothing screams unprofessional like misspellings.

3. Be Relevant

One common resume blunder is to list every job you've had or try to pad the resume with projects. It ends up being a litany of nonsense. The prospective employer does not care about every single thing you have done; rather, they want to see experience that most directly relates to the open position.

Make sure your work experience has relevance in this regard. You don't have to use a lot- just list the ones that have the most connection to the job. At the same time, not all experiences are equal. You may have some things you have done as personal projects that relate very well and paid positions that don't relate as well.

Use your best judgment to determine what you use, but keep in mind that the prospective employer also wants to know if someone else has paid you to do something similar since it can demonstrate qualification.

*Granted, creative fields are a little different since the portfolio is a key component. Nevertheless, most creative jobs are more than just being creative, so the prospective employer will want to know that you can work well within an organization.

4. Highlight your proficiencies

In any creative field your proficiencies are important. The prospective employer wants to know immediately whether you have the aptitude in the required fields.

As such, your resume needs to highlight these unmistakably. If you are applying for a job in graphic design, for example, your resume should show that you know Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. This is not a good time to try and pad the resume with things you are only barely competent with- if you have only a passing familiarity with After Effects, either don't put it on there or separate it.

Here is a good chance to do some research. Most creative openings will list the software/hardware requirements. Ensure that your resume has these and that it is obvious they are there!

5. Skip the Personal stuff

A lot of resumes tend to put in personal details. Some think this is a good idea since it can give a sense of who you are and what you are about.

However, as related in #2, the purpose of a resume is not to be about your entire life, but rather to demonstrate your qualification for the position. It bears repeating again that the HR person is not terribly interested in your personal life. By law there are certain things they cannot ask about in the hiring process anyway.

Whatever you do, do not send a photo of yourself, since this can identify your race. Employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, and thus a photo becomes a liability for them, which will probably mean your resume ends up automatically in the trash.

Keep to your education, relevant work experiences and other qualifications. Further along in the hiring process is where the employer gets to know you.

6. Keep it short

The economic downturn brings many more people into competition for the same job. This means that HR staff have relatively less time to sort through resumes. Because of this, make sure you are succinct and have your information organized so it is instantly accessible. Otherwise your resume may not even get a glance.

Your resume should not be more than 1-2 pages. If you can keep it to 1 page this is preferable.

7. Cover Letter

While your resume is not the place to go into detail about education or work experience, your cover letter is. The basic purpose of a cover letter is to briefly introduce yourself, announce your interest for the position and demonstrate how your qualifications and/or work experience relate to the job opening.

This is the place to bring your research to bear. Find key phrases, systems, projects, etc., to connect your experiences to. Show how your qualifications line up with the job description and the organization's goals. By the end what you say in the cover letter and the information in the resume should give the impression that you are not only qualified but a good fit both within the job itself and the organization overall.

The cover letter is also a great place to put a link to your portfolio.

8. Contact Info

We're finally at the end! I know you're just itching to do something creative with your resume, and so maybe you want to do that with the contact info.

Don't do it!

Like everything else, make sure your contact information is clear. You want an interview, right?


With these tips in mind, you should be able to craft a clean and professional resume that will help you when that next job opening comes along.

But just in case you need some visual help, I have a free resume template that you can grab. It's even available as an editable .psd if you are so inclined to go that direction. You can grab it here:


Resume layout design by my friend Chad Maag. Chad graciously allowed me to edit this and make it available. He is an awesome designer and you should check out his work here:

Special thanks to our mutual friend Sean Salter for direction and guidance. View his amazing work here:

Special thanks to my friend Janelle Gregory for HR guru level advice. She is a professional HR specialist and gave me some great advice and critique.


Jeff Simbro   Jeff Simbro 4 years ago
Great article! Thanks for the resources.
Jason Watson   Level 1Jason Watson 4 years ago
Jeff- no problem. :-)
Laura V   Level 1Laura V 4 years ago
interesting. All the jobs I've gotten in the field contacted me based on my creative resume. One even said "we don't normally hire people so young, but your resume was so creative it stood out!" 

(the piece I used was essentially a mini-portfolio/leave behind which included my resume within). 

In my experience (I don't equate it with someone who works in HR, but my limited experience) creating something unique and putting the extra effort in to get it printed and assembled got me the call. 
Jason Watson   Level 1Jason Watson 4 years ago
Laura- Thanks for your comments!

I'm happy to hear that that sort of approach has worked for you. I definitely think that being able to creatively sell oneself is a good thing, in whatever means that may take.

I guess my approach is that most of the conversations I've had with people about this topic within the church design world and without- both from people who do the hiring, those who are the gatekeepers of the hiring process, those who have needed to get a resume in order for a job opening, and those who have gotten hired- tend to lean towards keeping a resume short, clean and focused on things relevant to the desired position. I think there's some value in keeping the resume separate from the portfolio since it is much easier to craft the resume towards the position one is applying for.

No doubt there is a wide berth in the way different organizations hire, so there is probably no single one-size-fits-all method.

Anyway, thanks again!
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