Last Updated on Dec 18, 2019 by James W

Resumes have come a long way from where they were twenty years ago. Now, there’s more and more discussion about what goes into a resume, and how it should be formatted. There has been a resurgence of “creative” resumes recently which press the boundaries of what’s acceptable for hiring managers, but are these the best way to go?

In a world with so many complex ways to apply for jobs, it’s sometimes confusing to know where you stand. It’s always great to stand out when submitting your resume, but you also don’t want to accidentally come off as unprofessional. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide which resume path is right for your job application. In this guide, we’ll talk about the hiring process and when it’s best to use each type of resume.

Applicant Tracking Systems Today

First, it wouldn’t be possible to talk about job applications in the digital age without discussing resume software. As much as we want to believe a real-life human is reading the resume we submit online, this isn’t really the case most of the time. If you’ve been struggling to get any response to your resume, applicant tracking systems (ATS) might be to blame.

These tracking systems scan resumes digitally so that human resource managers can get the best selection of applicants. They use keywords based on the job description to match relevant candidates with the position. That means if you don’t have the word “graphic designer” on your resume for a job as a graphic design specialist, you probably won’t pass through the scan.

Even if you do have the right key phrases on your resume, you still might not make it through. This is because tracking systems aren’t always equipped to manage complex resume formats. Your creative resume might look spectacular on paper, but it might read as messy gibberish to an ATS. The basic rule of thumb for these systems is to use simple formatting and to include keywords from the job description itself.

An Argument for Simplicity

As you can see above, there’s a good reason to go simple with your resume. If you stick to the tried and true with a clear, easy to read resume in a font like Times New Roman, you don’t run the risk of being overlooked by a tracking system. There’s no reason your straightforward formatting can’t still be organized, fun, and unique.

Many industries actually call for traditional resumes. If you’re applying for a professional role in medicine, academia, or law, for instance, it’s expected to include a traditional resume. That means if you’re looking into nurse practitioner jobs by, you probably shouldn’t go crazy with colors and images.

When in doubt, go traditional. Unless you’re completely sure your creative resume will be well-received by the hiring manager or computer system, it’s best to save it for a rainy day. There’s no reason simple has to mean boring!

When to Be Creative

There are a time and a place for creativity. Essentially, if you’re applying for a creative role, then it can be a smart move to have fun with your resume. Creative resumes can be seen as an extension of your personal brand. They can match your personality and show you have an eye for quality design.

If you’re applying for a creative role, even if it’s not in a creative industry, you might be able to get away with a striking resume. Similarly, if you’re in an area like fashion, design, or the arts, a creative resume might even be expected. Demonstrating your visual skills is an easy way to stand out.

Last but not least, just know when too much is too much. It’s great to express yourself and your style on your resume, but you also need to make sure it’s easy to read and understand. If things are too gimmicky or cheesy, not to mention downright hard to read, it’s probably better to choose something else.

Final Thoughts

Your resume is the first impression to your hiring manager. It’s a chance to make yourself known as a quality candidate. Don’t ruin your impression with the wrong type of resume. It’s always safer to choose a traditional resume, plus these are easier for applicant systems to process.

However, if you’re in a field that values creativity and design, you might want to opt for something more unusual. At the end of the day, remember your resume is only one part of your application.

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