It’s not easy out there for junior creatives and recent graduates – there’s a lot of competition and many conflicting opinions out there on what to put on your CV. But here’s some tried and true that just might give you an edge. 

Remember some CV's stand out for all the right reasons, some for all the wrong reasons. Don’t be the latter! Whenever I'm going through a stack of design CV's, I cannot tell you how relieved I am to see ones that employ these basic tips:

Show your use of your design

I recommend a clean, simple layout with tasteful fonts of your choosing. I see a lot of advice on doing something crazy to ‘stand out from the crowd’ but remember - what might work for some can (and does) turn off others. Be careful not to bury (or omit) important info in a visual assault of the senses. Conversely, I am shocked to see CVs from apparently experienced designers using bland nondescript Word documents with default fonts and layout. 

Think practically - a black or dark page with light text looks great on screen but for many employers who still print out hard copies – you’ll eat up all the copier toner! Your portfolio will be the opportunity to show off your use of your creative range and core skills. (more on that next time)

Spellcheck and proof your CV!

I once had a client reject a designer for an urgent role, while literally talking to them on the phone as I emailed their CV through. 4 seconds was all it took for her to scan the whole CV, pick up a double space, the name of a company slightly wrong, incorrect use of upper case and a full stop that was in a different font size (no, really). “Can’t use them Brian, who else you got?” 

4 Seconds. Add in an cover letter to your application and you are in a minefield of hazards if you haven't done your homework my friends...

So – NO EXCUSES! If you're talking up your attention to detail, love of typography, passion for kerning etc - the expectation is you have pored over your CV for hours to make it perfect!

Put down all your work history

If you are a recent grad you’re probably not going to have much professional experience in the career you studied for, so put all your professional work history on there. Why? Employers want to see if you can hold down a job, turn up on time, show motivation and responsibility.  As the years go on you tweak these, removing those non-relevant after school jobs. But if you worked a call centre, or fast food place, whatever – put it down. Also - chronological order recent at top, oldest below please!

Keep it simple

One page is usually sufficient – but absolutely no more than 2 for a junior/grad. You can put a small opening statement if you wish but that’s it. You don’t want this eating up too much real estate on your page, and you don’t want the generic blurb 6/10 people seem to cut and paste from the internet!

An option I quite like to see is to finish with a concise list of your achievements, hobbies, awards or interests. This can be a great way to make a connection with the employer, speak a little about your interests and values, or perhaps a chance to demonstrate how creativity is part of your life.

Whatever you do... DON'T:

  • Use broken links to online work. Not a good look. 
  • Personal photo – no no no. This is an article in itself!
  • List yourself as CEO if you are freelancing. No.

PET PEEVE BONUS SECTION: 

I'm not sure how others feel, but the thing where you rate yourself in a percentage with software – eg: PhotoShop: 75%, InDesign: 60%, After Effects: 55% etc... this drives me crazy. How is this calculated? Against a senior designers skill level? A test at Uni? Which 25% of PhotoShop can’t you use? Hopefully not the part the employer needs you to do!

Micro rant over, but I do like to see what you are comfortable and proficient with, and also programmes you have had some exposure to, but you can list these (and use that bar thing if you must) but please… no more percentages.

See you next time, where I'll share some solid tips on presenting your design portfolios. Hope this helps in the meantime!