Every now and then, I come across a job seeker who is certain that creativity is the key to getting her resume noticed. Today I saw two of them in quick succession.
The first had created a PowerPoint presentation in lieu of a normal resume. The second had created a brochure using some kind of design program. Both looked very nice, but both had been unsuccessful in generating a response. Which doesn't surprise me at all.
It's tempting to think that doing something innovative with your resume will get you noticed. Especially if you've been sending resume after resume and not getting the response you want. Surely if they see how original I am, you think, they will want to talk to me?
Not true. Not usually anyway.
The problem is that the people reviewing your resume - whether they are HR execs, recruiters or line managers - are very busy. They have only a limited time to review all the resumes that are clogging their email inbox, or sitting in a folder on their desk. And they have some clear criteria in mind for the person they want to hire. So when they start reviewing, they don't want to have to try to figure out your resume. Nor do they want anything cutesy or clever-clever.
No, they have a problem - which is why they are looking at resumes - and they want to know if you will solve it. The problem could be "I need to find 10 good resumes" (a recruiter) or "I need to clear up this backlog of work" (the manager) or "I need to find a sales VP who can open up new markets (the CEO). But as varied as the problems are, one or more always exists and is the context for the review of your resume.
This means that the secret to success is usually NOT to create the most unusual resume, or to devise an innovative way to grab attention. The secret to success is simply to show employers why you can solve their problem. And to do it in the quickest, cleanest and most concise way possible.
So instead of spending time trying to design something unique or colorful or creative, focus on the words. Understand the needs of your target audience, and create a resume that shows how you meet those needs. And keep the layout traditional and easy-to-read, so that the busy recruiter doesn't have to try and figure out what you're trying to say.
Note: The exception to this rule (and there always is one!) are graphic designers. Their entire job is to design things that are fresh and interesting and their resumes should reflect that.