Dear Sam: I think my resume is boring! The page just looks like a long list of bullet points. If I don’t want to read my resume, I’m sure a hiring manager won’t either. How can I be creative when writing my resume? I want my documents to stand out without being cheesy. – Jessica

Dear Jessica: Creating a visually appealing document is a top goal—and challenge—when writing a resume! While content is very important in the development of an effective resume, the formatting and aesthetic play a key role in compelling—or repelling—readership. The most effective resumes are a perfect blend of keyword-rich, targeted content and design.

One of the easiest ways to make yourself stand out from your competitors is to do something different when you have the opportunity to do so. When it is appropriate for your field of interest, being creative in your approach will increase the effectiveness of your search. An accountant, for instance, would not use a creative format. But, when creativity makes sense in your profession (such as in marketing or a design field), use it to make you stand out from the crowd and better engage the reader, thereby extending the four- to seven-second screening process.

Below are some examples of creative formats that use color and unique design elements:

Aesthetics & Formatting

Consider the following check list when assessing the design of your resume:

  • Modern and appropriately sized font
  • Strategic use of color
  • Easy-to-read format
  • Highlighted testimonials or recommendations
  • Achievements with strategic use of bullets, bolding, and italics
  • Appropriate page length

Important note: Your design does not have to be limited to your resume alone. To ensure consistency of your brand, infuse your design throughout your resume, cover letter, thank you letter, and perhaps even your personal business cards. While you may not always be able to submit a tangible hard copy of your documents, you will at the very least be able to take them to an interview.

Defining your brand is critical in differentiating you from the hundreds of other competitors out there vying for the same job. No matter what your field, don’t stick to overused templates (especially Microsoft Word templates!), and instead create a unique look that brands your candidacy in the manner in which you want to be seen as a professional.