Ever thought your resume needed a little more sizzle? No, me neither. And yet here in my desk drawer at my recruiting agency office is a supernaturally aged, medieval-style scroll – burnt edges and tea stains galore – that proclaims itself the perfect prop designer resume.
It’s not mine, alas; a candidate turned it in some months back. Scanning the unfurled work history, I behold a vast array of experience: weapons design, model-making, SFX and more. With such impressive qualifications, why did Ye Olde applicant feel the need to produce a resume so… niche?
Maybe it’s because he knew that, in a job market where hiring managers spend less than nine seconds looking at a resume, he had to find a way to stand out. In fact, the recent rise of the novelty resume indicates an increasing desperation to ‘grab’ potential employers.
But what’s the theory, and does the weird resume actually work?
What do we mean by a ‘weird resume’?
Resume writing is a difficult art – or at least, so statistics suggest. In September this year, a survey by CV-Library claimed that almost half of UK employees didn’t know how to write a stand-out resume, and a quarter couldn’t tailor a resume to different job roles. What’s more, recruiters are constantly complaining that the standard resume is too dull to land you the job anyway.
But when we do try to shake things up on paper, we’re more at risk than ever. Employers regularly reject resumes for unusual choices in length, layout, colour, fonts and inclusion of photos. So, while recruiters expect you to stand out, commiserations to the candidate who goes too far.
With opinions so contradictory, it’s no wonder some people have decided to discard the literature altogether. The result? A weird and wonderful menagerie of resume ‘replacements’.
There’s the countless number of crafty, edible and musical cover letters. There’s the guy who disguised himself as a delivery man to deliver ‘resume doughnuts’ to prospective employers. There’s the billboard resume and the sandwich board resume and the video game resume and the guy who sold himself on eBay.
So do they work?
Desperation or dedication? Eccentricity or creativity? Do these outré methods get the job?
Of course they do – sometimes. Of the examples above, nearly all were flooded with job offers the moment their campaign went viral. But what about our poor props-master, languishing in his drawer?
Don’t be fooled. For every sensational, inventive resume that makes the news, there is a ‘weird’ one that recruiters just don’t have time for. After all, hiring managers are not looking for unusual candidates; they’re looking for candidates that fit the job spec.
A recent survey from CareerBuilder, as detailed in Fortune, investigated some of the less successful creative applications that recruiters come across. Flaming resume s, cake deliveries and gift-wrapped cover letters are just some of the failures reported. To be honest, even weird hobbies can turn off hiring managers, let alone weird applications.
Not only that, but the success of creative applications is partly dependent on industry. Without fail, the big news stories cover applicants in creative fields: advertising, copywriting, design and technology. But slip a sparkler through the letterbox of a law firm or corporate grad scheme, and you’re more likely to get sued than hired.
Can we compromise?
As with all things under heaven, there is a middle ground to the creative job app. The art is finding a way to stand out within the constraints of the standard process.
Firstly, there are ways to make a resume eye-catching short of putting it on a chocolate bar. Simply shake up the layout. Infographic resumes are a neat way to get a bunch of information across in a visual, stimulating format that can be as professional or playful as you like. Alternatively, try using charts or a mind map format – anything to up your visuals.
This approach is unlikely to put off prospective employers. If you can’t afford professional resume-writing services like Stand Out CV, don’t shy from self-designing. After all, if you’re applying for a creative job, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your skills.
Alternatively, if you’re up for a client-facing role – sales, PR, consultancy and so on – you might want to consider making a video resume . You can find platforms all over the web; all you need is a camera and a proactive attitude. Just remember: a video resume should never replace a written one, only supplement – it’s for showing off your personality and communication skills, not your experience.
Finally, if you’re just looking to make yourself that bit more visible, follow up on applications. If a couple of weeks pass and you hear nothing from a company, send one polite email – more will look desperate or, worse, stalkerish – enquiring whether your resume was received. It shows you’re organised, dedicated and, most of all, that you care.
I don’t know whether this tea-stained scroll got its designer any interviews, though I like to think it did. What’s clear is that he put more effort into his resume than most – and that, whatever the result, gets top marks from any recruiter. So if you want to stand out from the crowd this application season, try revving up your resume first. You might just be surprised by the results.