Creative Resumes – How Much Is Too Much?

Those of us who make our living in the field of recruiting have seen our share of resumes. During my tenure as a Sourcer, I would venture to say I viewed over a thousand resumes a month. Nearly all of these were standard print resumes posted on internet job boards and career sites.

Recently, I saw an article entitled 13 Insanely Cool Resumes That Landed Interviews at Google and Other Top Jobs. These included incredible works of innovation and graphic design, some of which were worthy of wall space in the Guggenheim. Resumes resembling movie posters, subway maps and Facebook pages, resumes that included tables of contents, info graphics and videos, even a resume embroidered on a piece of fabric were all featured in the article.

However, despite the originality and artistic splendor that these resumes displayed, another descriptor came to mind…overkill. I couldn’t help but wonder how these types of resumes were viewed by employers – as a display of true creative genius, or as a cry for attention from unemployed candidates with too much time on their hands.

There Are Always Exceptions

The fact that a candidate was able to secure an interview at Google with an over-the-top resume does not surprise me. Google is known for being unique in every respect, and it works for them. Any company whose employees descend slides and fire poles in the office instead of staircases has got to appreciate the outside-the-box thinking that such a resume demonstrates. But what about the rest of the world’s employers that don’t hold board meetings on beanbag chairs?

Here’s a creative resume example (you decide whether it’s too much or not!): How To Make a ‘Creative’ Resume on Prezi.

Sometimes Less Is More

An article printed in Brigham Young University’s school magazine tells of an MBA student who sent his resume to Johnson & Johnson, only to have it returned with the instructions that it “needed to be printed on white paper, mailed unstapled in an 8 ½ x 11 envelope, and could not have fancy printing or graphics, bold, underlines, italics, or small print.” This particularly concerned three BYU professors of Management Communication whose teachings included embellishing resumes with these items.

The professors decided to conduct a study of the prevalence among Fortune 500 companies of electronic resume management (ERM) systems – systems that manage resume data in a database that allows the data to be searchable. The issue at hand was whether these companies who received large volumes of resumes utilized scanners to input resumes into the ERMs, and if so, would their scanners be able to accurately read text from embellished resumes.

The results showed that 60 percent of the companies surveyed did not scan their resumes, instead choosing to input the data manually. Of the companies that did scan the resumes they received, 77 percent said their scanners would generally accept embellished typography. In the end, the three professors felt they could safely continue to counsel students to embellish their resumes.

Know Your Audience

Despite a company’s ability to input a resume’s contents into their database, the question remains whether or not employers look favorably upon lengthy, flashy or overly-creative resumes. In some industries such as graphic design or advertising, the resume may act as a living, breathing example of the candidate’s ability to do the type of work that the job entails.

What better way to prove you’re worthy of a job than with a resume that demonstrates your skill to the hiring manager before they even read a word? But for jobs that do not directly involve the skills used to create the resume, many employers will view the candidate as someone with misplaced priorities – someone who spends too much time amusing himself with creating a document instead of focusing on putting that document to work in order to achieve its intended result.

Always Have a Back-up Plan

The fact is that every job is different, as is every employer. If a candidate has the skill and originality to create a resume that will set him or her apart from the competition, and the creation of such a document is what the candidate truly enjoys doing, then why not put the skill to use in order to obtain employment? But the candidate should always remember to keep a plain, unembellished copy of his or her resume on hand as well for those employers who want nothing to do with creative, artistic resumes.

In the end, the eye-catching flash and flare on a candidate’s resume that gets him or her the job at one company is the exact same distraction that will route the resume straight into the hiring manager’s trash can at another company.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.