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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

5 Tricks to Submitting a Creative Resume That Gets Hiring Managers' Attention (Without Turning Them Off)

colored pencils

I’ve got news for you: Going through traditional applications gets old for hiring managers, too.

So, in an attempt to make the experience a little more engaging—for me and for the applicants—I recently led a hiring process where I asked candidates to create a Tumblr showing us why they’d be the best person for the job. The job being our company’s apprenticeship—which is essentially a six-month immersion into ad agency life where the selected candidate rotates through various departments and is mentored by senior team members.

I liked that it leveled the playing field. A creative resume allowed applicants to show personality and creativity, and it allowed me to judge skills that would directly translate to the role (so I wouldn’t dismiss people who might not have the exact background I’d requested in the job posting). It gave more opportunity to a broader group of people, while also weeding out those who weren’t willing to go the extra mile.

We hired Jessi, whose Tumblr resume is a thing of beauty. It demonstrates her eye for creative work and imagery. It’s clean, it’s simple, and gives an honest breakdown of what she’s done in her life—both professionally and personally—and how what she’s learned would be applicable to the job. She showcased design skills, passion for her work, and interests outside of what we’d be hiring her for. (That’s the kind of person I want on my team!)

So, what can anyone learn from Jessi’s application? What’s the secret sauce that helped her creative resume land her the job?

1. Research the Company

You’ve heard this advice before—and with good reason. What’ll impress the hiring manager at one company will turn off the person reading your materials at an organization known for its formal culture.

You can use social media to dig and unearth more on potential employers than you’d probably ever need (or want) to know. Does the company project a laid back and fun vibe? If so, mimic that in your approach. Remember, there are degrees of creativity, from submitting a classic resume with more use of color and design to thinking way outside the box. The more you know about an organization and its culture, the more you can tailor your outreach, thus increasing the likelihood that you’ll hear back.

2. Use What You’ve Got

Not a designer or aesthetically inclined? It’s all good. You don’t have to be a visual artist to get creative. I once had a candidate share an expertly written cover letter that began with a request for the reader to read it while listening to a certain song. His approach stuck out, and I ended up hiring him.

3. Show Off Your Side Hustles

Perhaps your current role doesn’t allow you to flex those creative muscles of yours, but you’ve got a side gig creating wedding invites. Find a way to work that into your resume and portfolio. Share any projects—even those outside of your 9-to-5—that show off your skills, plus your creativity, passion, and drive. If it’s something you’re doing in addition to your full-time gig, it must be meaningful to you and something you’d pour your heart into for your next employer.

4. Don’t Get Too Carried Away

There’s a difference between eye catching and overwhelming. Remember that recruiters and hiring managers are often rooting through a sea of resumes. You want to stand out, but if there’s too much information jammed onto one colorful page—or if you want someone to watch a 45-minute YouTube video—it may not get you noticed in a good way. Make it clear, clean, and simple. It shouldn’t take extra effort to review your application.

5. Remember, Gimmicks Aren’t Your Only Option

Recruiters, hiring managers, and human beings in general tend to respond better to thoughtfulness than trickery. Trust me, I fondly remember and still work with the people who sent smart, thoughtful thank you notes, but I never hired the person who sent me a plastic foot to “get a foot in the door.” (Yes, that really happened!) Honestly, if you’ve got the skills, showcasing them in a thoughtful way will speak more to any potential future employer than cheesy devices.

The key to landing your dream job is all about showcasing your passion to your potential new employer. Do it in a way that’s thoughtful, smart, and fun! And if that company doesn’t bite, it’s their loss anyway. Move onto to the next opportunity that’ll appreciate you for you and your mad skills.