I’m going to give you a brief glimpse into an employer’s mind (mine), particularly if you’re applying for a design job. Employers skim through hundreds of resumes for each open position. Given the sheer volume, you can imagine that it’s impossible to read through all of them. Here’s my guide on how to avoid getting your resume deleted before it even gets read:

1. Effective Communication

As a designer, your primary job to communicate effectively on behalf of a client or your employer. This means engaging your audience, keeping them interested, giving them the information they’re looking for, and getting them to perform some action, whether it’s calling a number, filling out a web form, or going out to a store. In your case, it’s about getting invited for an interview. (More on that in this article).

Overall Appearance

Resumes for designers don’t have to be works of art – they just shouldn’t look sloppy and hard to read.

Your resume should be easy to follow. Information should be well organized with appropriate font choices and line spacing. Ideally you should prepare your resume in a standardized format like PDF to avoid any formatting issues across different computers.

Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation, and Typos

Graphics and web designers need to have at least basic writing skills. While you probably won’t be writing essays on the job, you will most likely communicate with clients and managers via email. Spell check everything and let a friend or family member review it before sending your resume off.

2. Results Oriented

While creating amazing designs and incorporating the latest web technology is a wonderful and fun part of the job, the fundamental goal is to generate results for your client or employer, making you a valuable and desirable asset for any company. To convey this, use more results than descriptions when listing your past experience.

Descriptive Example:
Web Designer        XYZ Company        2004-2008

  • Designed website mockups for clients
  • Converted Photoshop PSDs to XHTML templates
  • Helped development team integrate layouts

Results Oriented Example:
Web Designer        XYZ Company        2004-2008

  • Designed websites that converted at 12% higher than industry averages
  • Implemented new CSS and XHTML techniques to decrease production time by 10%
  • Streamlined template code to decrease implementation and updating time by 15%

3. Relevancy

With hundred of resumes to skim through, employers are looking for specific words. Taylor your resume to the particular type of job you’re applying for.

Multiple versions of your resume

You may want multiple resumes – one for each type of job. For example, web designers are often good print designers. But if you’re applying specifically for a print design job, you’ll want to focus more on your print experience and leave out the web skills unless you have room on the page for it.

Extracurricular Activities

Some people would argue this shows you’re a well rounded person. I think it goes back to “Relevancy” and “Overall Appearance”. I wouldn’t stretch to make it fit on the page unless it was relevant to the position. For example, interests in “art” and “photography” may make sense for a design position, but “mountain climbing” and “ballroom dancing” may look like you’re trying to fill up space if it’s unrelated.

Past Experience

Jobs at other design companies or academic projects are usually a good thing. However, your job as a bartender or retail store clerk can probably stay off. Use the space to elaborate more on tip #2 – “Results Oriented.”

What if I have a long job history or gaps in my work experience?

Review tip #1. Use your discretion to determine what the employer is looking for based on their job description. Being a good communicator also means being a good listener. If they want a “senior designer” with “lots of experience” and “wide range of work”, it may benefit you to demonstrate your seasoned credentials.

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