High-Impact Resume Strategies For Creative Professionals

iStockphoto.com |  scyther5

iStockphoto.com | scyther5

The most substantial asset graphic designers, art directors, interior designers, photographers, fine artists, marketers, and other creative professionals possess is their ability to translate a concept into an attractive visual presentation. It is both their tool and their trade.

When meeting with hiring managers or potential clients, creatives need to demonstrate their ideas and experience in a professional fashion.

The first piece of work such an applicant usually presents is their resume. A beautifully designed resume, with nice fonts, illustrations, layouts, and graphics can quickly demonstrate to a hiring manager at an advertising agency or within a corporate marketing department a candidate’s visual design and copy writing skills.

But, the realities of the corporate job application process get in the way. Companies often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to gather and sort resumes, and on top of the challenges they present to every applicant, they can even more quickly derail applications for creative professionals.

Creative professionals tend to focus on form, building complex layouts in programs such as Adobe InDesign that incorporate graphic illustrations and other elements. Applicant tracking platforms, on the other hand, generally require a plain, simple design in order to parse resume data – this means a resume created in Microsoft Word, with a single column of text. These systems often disregard (or can’t read) anything presented in text boxes, graphics, or tables, and recruiters will generally pass over resumes that the system hasn’t been able to fully understand. A resume with a complex design will appear at the bottom of the applicant tracking system’s ranking of the applicants against the job description.

So, how can creative professionals increase their chances of securing an interview and, ultimately, the job?

  • Build an ATS-Friendly Version of Your Resume. In order to make it easier for the applicant tracking system to parse the data and, hopefully, give your resume a higher ranking, use a single-column format. Don’t include large tables or graphics, as these can make a resume hard to scan. Even if you follow these guidelines, there could still be issues parsing data – if so, try saving your resume as a .txt file and uploading that version. And use your ATS-friendly resume for all online applications.

  • Keep a Graphically-Designed Version of Your Resume Handy, Too. Yes, you’ll want to have two versions, because the hiring manager will use the designed version to evaluate your creative eye. If the applicant tracking system lets you upload attachments along with your resume, absolutely upload your graphically-designed resume, along with samples of your work. And print out copies of this resume to hand out during an interview.

  • Develop Your Portfolio and Put it Online. A nicely designed portfolio of your work is a fantastic way to highlight your skills and achievements. Create an online version with your best work samples, and include a URL link to your portfolio in the header of your resume. You can also post this in your LinkedIn profile for greater exposure.

  • Don’t Rely Solely on Your Online Application. There’s a lot you can do to get noticed. After applying online, try to identify the decision-maker for the position on LinkedIn. Then send him or her a brief note – via LinkedIn or through email – to inform them that you’ve applied online, and ask where you can send your resume and portfolio samples. A well-timed message can potentially improve your changes of being seen by the hiring manager, regardless of how the applicant tracking system scores your resume.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Three Compelling Reasons To Keep Job Hunting During The Holidays

iStockphoto.com |  RyanJLane

iStockphoto.com | RyanJLane

It’s the holiday season, everyone’s taking their vacations, and companies just aren’t hiring. Time to forget about the job hunt until the new year, right?

Wrong!

It’s true, hiring does slow down between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s also true that things come roaring back on January 2. But here are three compelling reasons to keep plowing ahead with the job hunt during the holidays.

  1. Those jobs are still posted online, right? You can still apply, which means they’re still looking to hire. The companies are still gathering resumes. And sometimes job postings have automatic expiration dates, and if you miss them then you lose your opportunity. Go ahead and apply.

  2. There are fewer people working at your target company, but the corporate recruiter might be one of them. The holiday season is catch-up time for HR. Most of the hiring managers are on vacation, so it’s an opportunity for recruiters to review applicants with less interruption. I can confidently state from my days in HR that the holidays were extremely productive for identifying and screening candidates, and preparing packets of resumes for the hiring managers to comb through when they return to work after New Year’s Day.

  3. There are fewer job applicants, too. Your competition is busy attending Christmas pageants and visiting the relatives in Minnesota, so they’re not applying to jobs at the moment. That means fewer applicants, and if the recruiter’s working, there’s a greater chance that the recruiter will take a look at your submission because the pile of resumes to review is more manageable.

Enjoy the holidays and the New Year!


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Why Is Applying To Jobs Online So Darn Complicated?

iStockphoto.com |  SIphotography

iStockphoto.com | SIphotography

Why is applying to jobs online so darn…. complicated?

Don’t believe me? Try it. Visit an employer’s career portal and select a posted position. Then click the “Apply Now” button.

Buckle in, because this is where it gets rough. Prepare to be bombarded with an endless procession of requests, mandatory fields, and seemingly arbitrary data to complete:

—>Create a Username and Password (required)
—>Upload your resume (required)
—>Enter your contact information (required)
—>Enter your address (required)
—>How did you hear about this position? (required)
—>What are your salary requirements? (required)
—>What is your willingness to travel? (required)
—>What is your willingness to relocate? (required)

… and on. And on. And on.

Then you’re asked to enter all the employment and education data from your resume that the system seemed to parse out of your resume when you uploaded it. Manually. Field by field.

In the end, you’re looking at investing around 30 minutes for each online application you fill out. It’s a process that’s painful and demoralizing, especially considering that thousands of other job seekers are applying online to the same job and the chances of your resume being seen by a human being are pretty darn low.

Why would employers do it this way?

Why would they put in place a process that is so deliberately opaque and difficult to navigate?

As someone who spent almost two decades as a recruiter, I can assure you that companies usually try to build hiring process with the best of intentions.

They want to be an employer of choice, and they want people to feel good about applying to their company.

But they also want their recruiters to be as efficient as possible. And with the average corporate recruiter responsible for filling an active load of 20 or 30 open positions, maximizing their time is essential.

So companies invest in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). They use these system to store job descriptions, approve and process new jobs, and collect job applications.

The latest ATSs are pretty powerful technology. From an employer’s standpoint, one of the most valuable features of an ATS is the ability to incorporate extensive screening criteria so the system can review each application and rank each one against the criteria in the job description.

Look at it this way – how valuable is it for an employer to have the system sort through the thousands of applications, and provide the recruiter with a short list of 20 to 30 applicants who check all the boxes?

It’s great for the company in the sense that their recruiters are saving dozens of hours that would have been sifting through resumes. But if the ATS doesn’t have a strong data engine to parse, pull, and synthesize data from the resumes, employers will usually default to pushing that work on the applicants in the form of additional fields to complete. And ATSs make it very easy to add screening questions to an online job application – hence, the litany of qualifying questions and endless mandatory fields to fill in. This also doesn’t help the candidate experience.

Unfortunately, when it comes to companies that rely on ATS platforms for their hiring, there’s not much you can do to avoid the online application gauntlet. In fact, many employers tell applicants they won’t even talk to them unless they’ve first filled out an application online.

But there are actions you can take to make your online application more effective:

  1. Make sure your resume is ATS-friendly. In order to make it easier for the ATS to parse the data in your resume and hopefully avoid excessive re-typing, use a single-column format. Don’t include large tables or graphics as these can make a resume hard to scan. Even if you follow these guidelines, there could still be issues parsing data – if so, try saving your resume as a .txt file and uploading that version.

  2. Improve your chances with the search filters. You’ve heard about keywords - the technical and soft skills listed in the job description. Before uploading your resume, read the job description. Really read it. Identify the skills the company is looking for in this particular role and sprinkle these into the text of your resume.

  3. Don’t rely on your online application alone – shake a tree. There’s a lot you can do to get noticed. After applying online (sorry, you’ve got to play the game), try to identify the decision maker for the position on LinkedIn. Then send them a brief note – via LinkedIn or through email – to inform them that you’ve applied online, you have the qualifications for the role, and would love to connect with them. Your well-timed message can potentially put your candidacy front of center, regardless of how the ATS scores your resume.

  4. Work your network. It’s a big world out there, and there’s the possibility you know someone (or someone who knows someone) at the employer who can put your resume securely into the hands of the hiring manager. At many companies, good referrals carry more weight than a random online application.

  5. Let LinkedIn do the work for you. This is about playing the long game, generating interest in employers so that they pursue you and you spend less time chasing online job ads. Companies pay a lot of money for LinkedIn subscriptions that enable them to mine the system for passive candidates. Invest time in building a strong LinkedIn profile, loaded with keywords and accomplishments so that you’ll show up in their searches. And constantly grow and nurture your network with high-impact connections so that you elevate your online brand.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.