Ask the Pros: How Can I Make My Résumé Stand Out?

Ask the Pros: How Can I Make My Résumé Stand Out? To help prepare you for the real world, our Ask the Pros series is here to help answer some of your most common questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication and media art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work.

And if you're a working professional yourself, we'd love to hear your opinion too ... don't hesitate to add it in our comments or email us to be on one of our panels.

Today's panel of pros give you their take on résumés...

 How can I make my résumé stand out?

PRO: John Walker - Art Director for Mobile, Popular Mechanics
I'm not big on overly-personalized résumés myself. Very simply done with great attention to detail (no Times New Roman) and one perfect design flourish. I tend to hate infographic-style résumés (impossibly to quickly scan, chances are I won't take more than 2 seconds trying to understand it). Though if you have no real work experience to communicate and you keep it short and funny it might be ok (and I mean understandable in five seconds or less!).

PRO: Jesse Southerland - Design Director, Philadelphia
I set pretty a low bar for simple résumés. But if the résumé is super-designed, then it better be great. Regardless of either approach, I look for a strong sense of order with simple typography and a hierarchy that is consistent and easy to navigate, much like a TOC page. If the résumé isn't well designed or thought out, I can't help but to be less interested in the portfolio. Typesetting is the biggest weakness I see in most designers' work, and if the résumé doesn't master this, then I have less reason to believe their portfolio will be any different. I would err on the side of simple with a subtle amount of personality, that allows me to quickly move on to the portfolio. And personality doesn't mean your initials as a logo. :) 
Disclaimer: If it makes me laugh, I don't care how it looks. 

PRO: Cass Spencer - Design Director, Prevention
Keep it simple and to one page; and please don't put that you worked as a check-out girl for K-Mart or delivery boy at Frank's Pizza Parlor to pad it out, it looks amateurish. I recently saw a résumé treated as an infographic timeline that caught my attention, but overall, the less frills and more clarity, the better. I just want to read it with ease.

PRO: Julia Knetzer - freelance designer and art director
Your résumé is really the first piece in your portfolio - many employers will look at your résumé before they decide wether to bother to look at your portfolio. And as publication designers, it is an opportunity for us to showcase how we can organize and communicate information in a clear and beautiful way. But the key here is not to over-design it. The best résumés I've seen have actually been black-and-white with simple, structured layouts. 

PRO: Ryan Haigh - Designer, Complex
If you're using Microsoft Word for a résumé and you're applying for a job in the design industry, you're going about it all wrong. Seeing the file extension .doc on a design résumé is a terrible first impression. 
    I typically look for a nice, well organized résumé that's been thoughtfully designed. I think the résumés that clearly separate themselves from the rest of the pack are the ones that showcase consistent personal branding with a student's portfolio, business cards, etc. 

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question of your own.
  • Great advice everyone. John makes an excellent point: your resume has to communicate fast. The reader wants to know what you can do for them, what your experience is, and how to contact you, and they'll only take a few seconds of their time to find that out.

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