I hardly ever look at résumés. In general, they don’t help me achieve my goal—to discover people who will be a great fit at IDEO.
I get that the résumé is just the first step in the journey, but what a terrible first step it is, especially when you have to read through several thousand of them every year. Just last year, we had about 14,000 candidates applying for jobs at IDEO. You can imagine how tedious it would be to look through that tall stack of 8.5 x 11 black-and-white typed documents. At a certain point, they all start to look the same, and your chances of singling out that special person with unique skills are very slim.
In a job market where creative confidence, collaboration, and storytelling are valued across sectors, it would make sense for your first impression to be a showcase for those qualities. Rather than standard, it should be exceptional.
So, how would I fix the résumé? Here are a few ideas from a design-thinking perspective.
First, I would ask: What are you trying to communicate?
Do you want to merely list standard qualifications, or describe more unique skills? Are you showing off your depth of experience, or a particularly remarkable journey? Do you mean to infer your qualifications by being linked to the companies listed on your résumé, or to show that you’ve developed your own point of view?
Second, I’d add some visual flair.
Your résumé might convey what’s important to you and what strengths you want to emphasize through creative visual puns. IDEO mechanical engineer Jordan Lay impressed us with his engineer’s rendering. (see above)
Perhaps you’d like to feature an illustration of your character, offering insight into who you are as a person and your combination of skills and experiences. Business designer Joe Brown introduced himself to IDEO staff with charming cutout illustrations.
Third, think like a digital native.
In the not-so-distant future—and some might argue, right now—the résumé will likely be digital, not even printable on paper. That allows video and animation to play a role in telling your story. Take a look at this clever video created by IDEO systems designer Deirdre Cerminaro, when she applied for a job. It showcases her personality, imagination, as well as her video-producing chops.
Whichever creative approach you take, remember that your résumé is a design challenge and that you must think about the user. While it might pay to be visually compelling, it’s just as important to be clear and legible.
It’s a tall order, but making the effort to get your résumé right will make you stand out from the pack of job seekers. So go ahead and challenge yourself to put your best foot forward.
Images courtesy of IDEO / Jordan Lay + Joe Brown
(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)