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So you want a fresh resume…. where to start?

In the 10 years I’ve been in staffing, I’ve looked at 3 million resumes (give or take a few 100,000). I’m excited to share some expert advice on making your resume excellent.

First at foremost, tailor your resume to align with the job you want, while keeping in mind that formatting, organization, and readability are important as well. Take a long look at the job description for the role you have in mind. What key words and ideas jump out at you? What have you accomplished in your career that makes you an awesome fit for the position? Do you have the software/technical skills reflected in your resume that are required? Your resume should reflect all of these things.

The closer your resume matches up with the job description, the more compelling it will be for a Recruiter or Hiring Manager to follow up with you. It may be easy to assume that having a certain job title means you have a specific kind of experience, but you need to spell things out for someone like a recruiter who might have many candidates in front of them with the same job title. If you are applying for a role that requires certain experiences, and you have that experience – add a specific section with examples of those.

LENGTH: Stick to a one-page resume if you have less than five years of experience, and expand into two pages if you’re more seasoned.

FORMATTING:

  • Stick with standard fonts like Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman or Calibri. They’re easy on the eyes
  • Choose size 11 or 12 font – making the font smaller to fit everything on one page is not ideal – it needs to be legible
  • Avoid script fonts. Use italics, bolding and caps sparingly
  • “Creative” formatting like using heavy graphics or running text diagonally across the page is never a good idea – sometimes your resume only gets a quick glance, make it count!

STRUCTURE:

  • Header: Your name, email address, phone number, city, state and zip code should be clearly listed at the top of the page. No need to share your street address.
  • Summary: A well-written Summary sets the stage for the rest of your resume. Five to seven sentences are ideal. Speak to your years of experience, area of specialization, and industries in which you’ve worked.  Do you have an advanced degree? Do you have staff management experience? Are you a strong project manager? Have you worked for a big name company or client? What are your technical or software skills?  Look at that job description again – and format each summary to each specific role you are applying for. What can you call attention to on a high-level to matches the things that the description calls for?
  • Tools/Skills: After your summary, make a quick list of the programs and skills in your toolkit – leading with those called for in the job description. Whether you’re a marketing analyst well-versed in Adobe Analytics and SQL or a designer skilled at using Adobe Creative Cloud, call attention to your familiarity with the required and nice-to-have tools.
  • Professional Experience:
    – List your experience chronologically, with your most recent job listed first.
    – If you have been working for an agency or freelancing, include the names/industries of your top clients. Unless your company is a house-hold name, include a one line description about your company. Are they national or global? This helps put your experience into context.
    – Lead with your company, title, start and end dates including months, not just the year.
    – When describing your role, think about the job description again. Lead with information that ties back to the job you’re applying to. More than just a list of tasks, speak to your measurable accomplishments. How have you impacted the bottom line?
    – Format these points in a bulleted list, rather than a big block of text.

EDUCATION: If you are early in your career (less than three years out of school), consider floating your Education as the first item on your resume. If not, the Education section should be toward the end. Include the name of your school, the degree earned, and your graduation date.

THINGS TO LEAVE OFF:

  • “References available upon request.” This is assumed.
  • Personal interests can be appealing to potential hiring managers, but avoid anything that is polarizing such as religious affiliations.

For feedback on your resume and a hand with your job search, get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

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from the desk of Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

Portfolio Review: Expert Tips

When applying to a design role, one of the first things a hiring manager will look at is your portfolio. The creative consultants at smartdept. inc. review 100’s of portfolios each month and want to share their top tips on how to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Unsurprisingly, the one thing that everyone on staff wanted to talk about was organization. Whether you’re organizing by campaign, client, or type of medium, it should be very easy to navigate through and get to the right place.

See the rest of our expert tips below:

Hannah Staal, Creative Consultant in Grand Rapids

  • The most effective portfolio will tell your story, celebrate your brand. It will showcase your growth and development.
  • Flushed out campaigns: Does your messaging hold true for several different pieces? i.e. signage, logo, branding, sales sheets
  • Are you specialized? i.e. packaging, agency driven…or more generalized? Embrace it!
  • Concept to Execution: did you show process? That’s always a cool perk.

Jaime Sklar, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Functionality: Content and samples should flow naturally and easily. User experience is huge when looking at design portfolios especially. Nobody likes to waste time trying to click through different samples and images that are choppy and inconsistent
  • Layout and Design Aesthetic: If the color and design aesthetic is too bulky, showy, or flashy, it takes away from the work. Black backgrounds look outdated. The text should be easy to read on each page/sample.
  • Portfolio Site Used: Use a modern portfolio site and check it regularly. Coding changes and updates can pop up without warning.
  • Variety: I prefer portfolios that include several samples from each project, along with descriptions of that project and the work you contributed.

Colleen Walton, Creative Consultant in Seattle

  • Keep it simple! The background should be neutral and the navigation should be intuitive. Your site shouldn’t distract from your work.
  • Descriptions are key. They don’t have to be long, but one or two sentences about what the project is and how you were involved is very helpful.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you. Include your email or add a contact page. People can’t hire you if they don’t know how to reach you.

Nina Strolia, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Share some information about each sample to give the viewer context. What did you contribute to this piece? Was this an existing file that you updated or did you concept it?
  • Delete that distracting background. The highlight of the site is your work, not some crazy animated background. A simple, white background is always a winner.

Colin Wodarski, Business Development Manager

  • You should express your personality without it distracting from the main focus – your work!
  • Samples should include a pertinent description in an easy to find, quick, digestible format: where did you do the project; who was the client; if it was done as a team, what was your role; tools/software used; challenge & outcome (i.e. these direct mailers helped increase web traffic by 50%)

Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Hiring managers like to see a copy of or link to your resume on your portfolio. Put everything in one place. That goes a lot farther than the cutesy “about me” page.
  • Tread carefully with sensitive materials. Did you sign an NDA when you designed that nifty piece of internal software? Even if your portfolio is behind a password wall, your future employer may worry if you’re showing samples from legally protected work. Be sure you have permission before putting your work out there.
  • Building a responsive site portfolio site Square Space, Wix or WordPress using snappy template. Or if you’re targeting Web Design and UX roles, build the site yourself to push it the extra mile. Be sure to test it on multiple browsers, your tablet and mobile phone.

Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • When I am reviewing a portfolio I look for a clean and organized presentation.
  • Often the way a candidate presents their work in an interview setting can be a hint as to how they organize their work day.
  • Show up to an in person interview at the scheduled time. Late is never good, but too early can also be a deterrent for many hiring managers.

Michelle Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • Present your work in chronological order. Most recent work should be first and student work you are proud of should be last.
  • If your portfolio lacks depth, it is perfectly acceptable to include well-executed spec work.
  • Be honest with yourself and your recruiter about what your role was on each portfolio piece. Elaborate on working with a team, the software used, and if any special circumstances were involved.

 

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