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Creative Resumes: Should You Have One?

Gone are the days when applicants could only “wow” employers with powerful cover letters and loads of experience. Now you have the opportunity to stand out against the competition by giving your resume a dash of pizzazz. Whether you go as far as reconstructing your resume’s layout or simply use an interesting font, creative resumes are a growing trend amongst job applicants. Before you start Googling zesty templates, let us give you a crash course on creative resumes.

Though opting for a more innovative format seems like a no-brainer, the phenomenon has its fair share of drawbacks as well. To find out whether an alternative resume is right for you, check out our pros and cons list.


It’s more memorable than a traditional resume

We can only imagine how daunting it is for employers to look at hundreds of sheets filled with 12-point Times New Roman font.  Not only will your creative resume be a sight for sore eyes (literally), but also your potential supervisor is sure to remember it. 

“[Resumes] are the first impression an organization has of a prospective candidate and they have to make a great impression to get an interview,” says Ron Puskarits, Director of Compensation for the University of Illinois who reviews a plethora of resumes. 

If you want to use your creative resume to catch your potential employer’s eye, Heather Huhman, president and founder of Come Recommended, suggests submitting a more traditional version as well. 

“Think of [a creative resume] as a supplement to your portfolio, and use it when you want to stand out in the crowd,” Huhman recommends. Though handing in two different copies of your resume sounds a bit odd, the recipient can see your creative side and still look at a traditional copy of your resume. 

It highlights your strengths

When used correctly, a creative resume has the power to tell your potential employer more than just that you work at your university’s admissions office or that you’re Vice President of Philanthropy for your sorority. 

“Having a creative resume seems like the best way to show prospective employers how creative I can be,” says Angela Huang, an advertising student at Boston University.

While a traditional resume only boasts your impressive experience, a creative alternative shows that you have something more to bring to the table. “Make sure it focuses on what makes you an asset to their company,” said Huhman. So if you’re extremely organized, why not create a precise layout? Or add some standout graphics if you’re an Adobe Illustrator expert. Showing that your strengths align with what the company is looking for will make you a strong candidate.

It’s a great opportunity to brand yourself

As any career-driven collegiette knows, it’s important to brand yourself, which means creating a professional image so you are recognizable to potential employers. In addition to standing out, an innovative resume gives you the opportunity to start branding yourself.

“Feel free to add a few graphics, like a personalized logo in the header or center,” suggests Huhman. If creating a personalized logo of your name sounds like a nightmare, you can easily brand yourself just by writing your name in a different font. 

To truly create a well-established brand, keep your logo or font consistent.  “I’ve worked on making a graphic with my name on it, something that I can use in the future on business cards,” says Angela. All this planning may seem stressful, but it’ll be worth it once you have a strong presence in the industry of your choice. 

It’s easy to make (even if you’re a graphic design novice)

So you have to be a computer whiz or hire a graphic designer to have a creative resume, right? Wrong. On the contrary, scoring an innovative resume is easier than you’d think! 

“If you don’t have a design background, spruce up yours by using a sans serif typeface (such as Heveltica or Gill Sans),” says Stephanie Mulvey, a freelance graphic designer who designs creative resumes. “You can also accent your resume with a color that expresses you and remains respectful to the job position, so no neon shades.” 

If you can spice up your resume on your own, why not give it a try?


It’s not appropriate for all industries

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but creative resumes aren’t appropriate for all industries. According to Alison Cheston, a career connector who teaches career workshops at NYU and Barnard College, this type of resume is ideal for applicants who are interested in a more artistic field such as fashion or communications.

“Creative formats should never be used in banking and financial services, consulting firms, healthcare or government,” says Cheston. If you send a creative resume to an inartistic company, the recipients may think you’re not serious about the position. Unless you’re sure that you’re interested in a creative field, sticking to a traditional format is better than being inappropriate.

It can be distracting

Your resume may look cool, but it’s an issue if you can’t read your contact information without tilting your head. As aesthetically pleasing as your creative resume may be, nobody is going to hire you if they can’t read what it says! “Remember, the purpose of your resume is to land you the job, so always keep it readable to the audience,” says Huhman.  

According to the career guru, less is more. “The key to a tasteful creative resume is consistency and moderation,” Huhman says. “Avoid using graphics that take away from the focus of the resume.” Since you don’t want your resume to give your potential employer a migraine, keeping simple is a practical alternative.

It can look unprofessional

If Elle Woods taught us anything—besides the bend and snap, obviously—it’s that creative resumes can sometimes be more comical than impressive. While pink and scented may sound like a great way to stand out, it’s more likely to scream, “Don’t hire me!” 

“I once received a resume with clip art graphics for an HR-related position and thought it was too much,” says Puskarits.

Realizing you crossed the line might not be so easy if your resume doesn’t smell like Marc Jacobs’s latest fragrance. Preventing an Elle Woods moment is as easy as asking a professor, supervisor or your school’s career service center for advice. 

“If you are at all in doubt as to whether you’ve gone too wild creatively, get some feedback from mentors and/or those you admire who are in the field,” says Cheston. If your advisors don’t love your resume, it may be better to stick to a more basic appearance.

When Does a Creative Resume Become Too Creative?

We can tell you what makes a creative resume over-the-top, but you won’t know what one looks like until you see it. To save yourself from a major career faux pas, check out these templates to see what’s eye-catching and what’s eye-burning.

Example 1: Let the games begin

Applying for an internship or job sometimes feels like a game—however, you shouldn’t express that on your resume! 

“This is borderline tacky,” Mulvey says. “Your resume should be easy to read and understand.” You should show your potential employers that you’re responsible and mature, not that you would rather be playing board games. 

Sometimes trying too hard to be different is worse than landing on the “Go To Jail” space.

“While it would stand out, it might be too time consuming to follow the path,” notes Puskarits. “A recruiter or hiring manager typically has a large amount of resumes to review.” Translation? There’s a good chance your resume may end up in the “no” pile.

Since your resume should never be hard to read, it’s better to nix the creative theme and choose a more traditional format.

Example 2: Simplicity is key

According to this expert, a little bit of pizzazz goes a long way. “This is a wonderful example of the perfect amount of creativity,” gushes Mulvey. “It’s simple enough to remain fresh and current for years.” The layout is perfect for a collegiette with a lot of experience, while the color palette spices up your average sheet of paper without being too abrasive.  Unlike the board game example, this template is creative and concise.

“It’s easy to follow and allows the reviewer to get a feel for the candidate quickly,” says Puskarits.

If you’re looking to optimize space on your own resume, add some text boxes. Adding a text box is as easy as hitting “Insert Text Box” on your word processor’s toolbar. Once you alter the box’s size and dimensions, you can type inside the box. For a creative and polished finishing touch, Mulvey suggests using a modern font. “Fonts like Futura, Century Gothic and Arial are refreshing,” says Mulvey.  Genius!

Example 3: Advertising your experience

While we think Don Draper would love this format, we can’t guarantee that everyone else will. “If I were a hiring manager for a graphic artist, I would be impressed from the get-go,” says Puskarits. “I would not use that resume to apply for another position.”

To give this layout a less creative twist, nix the graphics and organize your experience and skills in text boxes. “The ad blocks create a visually-pleasing grid,” Mulvey observes. “It may look busy at first glance, but it becomes easier to understand once you read it.” Avoid any initial confusion by organizing your text boxes into neat columns.

Example 4: Minimal Experience? No problem!

“This is the perfect creative resume for someone who does not have much experience and is worried about filling the page,” says Mulvey.

Not only is this resume perfect for the collegiette who’s just starting to fill up her resume, it also gets our reviewer’s stamp of approval.

“This one was quite creative and piqued my interest,” says Puskarits.

We know what you’re thinking: how can you recreate this template for yourself?

 “A fast and creative way to make the page look fuller is by adding a strip of color on the side,” suggests Mulvey. 

If you’re not a computer connoisseur, adding this stripe is as simple as hitting “Insert AutoShapes” on your toolbar. Once you resize and rotate your shape—we recommend adding a rectangle—give your resume a splash of color by double clicking on the graphic. Though you’ll probably have to revamp your layout once you have more to add, nobody said that having more experience was a bad thing.

Example 5: A trip down memory lane

Though the timeline gives your potential employer a good idea of your work history’s chronology, our experts have clashing opinions about those graphics. 

From a design standpoint, they’re distracting. “They take up so much space and it’s hard to focus on the writing,” says Mulvey. 

However, some employers may appreciate the timeline. “I think it’s an interesting representation of the candidate’s education and experience,” Puskarits says.

Since the verdict is still out on this one, and your resume should already be in chronological order, save the timeline for Facebook!

Example 6: One collegiette’s trash…

With this template, someone may mistake your cherished experience for a piece of garbage. Even worse, they will probably think this resume represents you as a worker. “The crumpled paper suggests that the person is messy and lazy,” says Mulvey.  

In addition to the lackluster appearance, the excessive arrows are sure to confuse your resume’s recipients. 

“It’s too heavy on the graphics and too light on the content,” Puskarits adds.

Instead, make your resume reflect how you want to be perceived—polished and professional.


Just remember that your resume’s format is only one piece of the puzzle. Packing your resume with invaluable experience, writing a persuasive cover letter and nailing your interview are crucial when it comes to snagging that coveted job or internship. Whether or not you choose to make a creative resume, keeping the bigger picture in mind will prepare you for the application process. 

Kelsey is a senior at Boston University, studying Magazine Journalism  in the College of Communication. As a magazine junkie and fashion fanatic, she loves being a part of the Her Campus team! At BU, Kelsey is president of Ed2010 at Boston University.  She has interned for Time Out New York, Lucky, Anthropologie, and Marie Claire. Kelsey also has a fashion blog, The Trendologist, where she covers the latest trends, fashion shows, and red carpet reports. When she isn't busy, Kelsey loves hanging out with her friends and family, shopping, reading style blogs, going for a nice jog, listening to music, creating baked goods in the kitchen, watching movies, and eating tons of frozen yogurt and sushi! After graduation, Kelsey hopes to work as an editor for a fashion magazine. Follow Kelsey on Twitter and Instagram at @kmulvs and don't  forget to check out her "Catwalk to Campus" blog posts!
As the Senior Designer, Kelsey is responsible for the conceptualization and design of solutions that support and strengthen Her Campus on all levels. While managing junior designers, Kelsey manages and oversees the creative needs of Her Campus’s 260+ chapters nationwide and abroad. Passionate about campaign ideation and finding innovative design solutions for brands, Kelsey works closely with the client services team to develop integrated marketing and native advertising campaigns for Her Campus clients such as Macy’s, UGG, Merck, Amtrak, Intel, TRESemmé and more. A 2012 college graduate, Kelsey passionately pursued English Literature, Creative Writing and Studio Art at Skidmore College. Born in and native to Massachusetts, Kelsey supplements creative jewelry design and metal smithing with a passion for fitness and Boston Bruins hockey. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_thornFollow her on Instagram: @kelsey_thorn