Supplies: Resumes & Cover Letters



“Visual design is a great way to differentiate yourself from other job candidates,” says Dodd Caldwell, cofounder of Loft Resumes. “Design in general is increasingly important in the business world.”

Need proof? Check out this transformation:

About a month ago, after limited responses and no interviews, I decided to take a good, hard look at what I was submitting to these companies. Opinions vary on whether employers/recruiters prefer the classic (aka plain) format of standard (Times New Roman or similar font, size 12, template-style formatting and layout), or whether the traditional format is about to be outdated. Even Forbes says Forget The Traditional! I wasn’t having any luck that way – what did I have to lose by mixing it up?

After all…

Companies are always looking for candidates who will go the extra mile, and your resume is literally your first point of contact — your first chance to put yourself in the “yes” bucket. (Dani Fankhouser, Mashable)

A creative resume is fairly important. Not only it resembles your personality, it also speaks your capability and creativity. Putting more effort and thoughts into creating an impressive resume is definitely worthwhile, as it is usually the first thing any employer sees before flipping through your entire portfolio. (Kay Tan,

arrow1For ultra-creative resume designs, check out 45 Creative Resumes to Seize Attention and 40 Stunningly Creative Resume Designs on DeviantArt. (They’re waaaaay beyond my skills and the scope of this blog, but great for inspiration.)

After a few experimental re-designs, I applied concepts of personal branding in the design I now use.

Personal branding basics:

Essentially, material you submit for positions during your job hunt are your personal brand tools; the most important thing to remember when designing your personal brand is consistency. As graphic designer Karen Kavett says:

“Your goal when designing your personal brand should be to create a visual identity that is consistent through the path that others take to learn more about you. E.g., from the initial business card exchange, to your Twitter Profile colours, to your personal website, and even to the bio used on your LinkedIn profile, it all has to be consistent and speak the same voice. If you do this successfully, both your employers and your network will remember you.”

With regard to my job search material, my personal brand tools are:

  • Online portfolio
  • Resume
  • Cover Letter letterhead

Business cards can be included (and I’d recommend it, if you can afford it — I love to get a set of professionaly letterpressed and coloured cards to match the above, but they’re a luxury!)

By no means am I a graphic designer or similar, but it didn’t take long for me to create a nifty letterhead for my cover letter (to keep the fonts as-is, I save it as a PDF). It looks a bit like a business card with my name, phone number, e-mail address, portfolio link, LinkedIn link, and Twitter handle all in the one area, in the top right. I can use that letterhead across any written material, if necessary, and keep the actual content of the cover letter in black Arial size 11 or whatever (keep that pretty basic). I think that says “I’m creative and professional”.

For consistency, I applied the colours and fonts from my online portfolio (bright blue, black, white) to my new cover letter letterhead and resume design.

Here’s an example of personal branding design consistency:


Source: Pinterest

Need inspiration? Go to Google Images and plug in ‘resume design inspiration’, or even just ‘design inspiration’. I also love checking out the ‘Design’ tab of Pinterest, just to keep my creativity peaking. Obviously, don’t plagiarise. But DO get inspired and motivated!

arrow1Re: colour choice — ‘Why is Facebook Blue? The Science Behind Colours In Marketing’It’s a well-known marketing concept that colours influence buying behaviour. You can apply the same theory to your resume design, and pick colours that will present you and the information on the paper in the most positive way.

Let’s talk FONTS! I love them. But how to choose what suits for your resume? This infographic on sans serif vs serif is handy, as is The Undercover Recruiter‘s advice on resume font style, size and format. Their main point echoes mine:

“It’s always good to stand out and make a positive impression. When entering the workforce, you should strive to be creative, unique and let your individual skills shine.” 

00eb8bc3468a65f7c0910180056e3068Last year, the students in my Grad Dip class had to use iWeb to create our online portfolio. The design was completely up to us – we could be as creative (or not) as we wanted. I spent hours scouring free font sites, hunting for just the right ones. Not too many, and all legible of course, but with a bit of style and sass. Of course, it depends on the industry you’re working towards. I’m going for media and journalism, so there’s some flexibility. For a law grad – not so much. CareerRealism and Mashable suggest sticking to a standardised font, unless you’re applying for a creative, design-based position.

When I was just about to submit it, I thought I’d have my sister make sure it all looked OK and to confirm I’d made the right design choices with fonts, layout, colours etc. Unfortunately, when I gave her the web address of the draft, she told me there was nothing fancy about the fonts she was seeing on her screen. WHAAAAAAAT! Turns out, after all my hard work – finding the right ones and getting my design just right – they only worked on the Mac I’d been using – the iWeb program converted them back to standard when viewed anywhere else! Instead of just living with it (heck no!), I did my research (thank goodness for Google) and worked out a way to keep my hard-sourced fonts.

outside the boxMy two font tips:

1. Get someone else to check your design before you start submitting it! Not just for my reason above, but because what’s a cool, legible font to you might be unreadable or unattractive to someone else.

2. Don’t settle, and don’t be lazy! (This applies to overall personal bran design, too!) I do NOT think standard fonts are the always the best choice. The safest? Maybe, but I am all for standing out! However, if you look at some of the career websites, not everyone agrees with me. Obviously for the actual information, use a recognisable font like the ones described on the links above. But for headings, and especially if you’re creating something online, put a bit of thought into it!

Note: If you have to use your computer’s standard fonts, Donna Svei, one of Monster’s “11 for 2011: Career Experts Who Can Help Your Job Search”, suggests the best ones for your resume here.

resume text


What to avoid: 

Mashable did the leg work for you with ‘Hiring Experts Reveal Resume Pet Peeves’ and Words to Leave Off Your Resume.

They include:

  • Small Fonts: Make 10 the absolute minimum.
  • Not Following Instructions: Eg. if it says ‘Explain why you’re a good fit for us’, look at what the job requirements are, and explain how your skills match! And, if it says include a cover letter – do it!
  • Objective: Duh…your objective is to get the job!
  • Irrelevant & Outdated Experience: Skip really old stuff, like high school work experience – it looks like you’re reaching!

(N.B. Some of the points depend on the type of job you’re going for. Eg. the article says don’t add a photo to your resume, but I do because I’m going for broadcasting jobs, where appearance counts!)

even more

CV Tips For Graduates

How To Add Experience To Your Resume (Without Adding A Page)

12 Myths About Writing Your Resume 

How Graduates Can Prove They Have The Skills Employers Want

Resumes, Interviews and New Jobs … OH MY! 

A résumé – your future on a piece of paper (via Firebrand)

How To Get Away With Lying On Your Resume (re: ‘lying’ to yourself to boost self- confidence, eg. it’s okay to brag about your success & allow others to define your strengths)


Remember, they’re tips and suggestions! Use your judgment – what works for you? For example, one suggested tip is detailing your duties and achievements at each job/work placement. My resume is already three pages long without that, so instead, I use my LinkedIn profile to go into that detail (and of course, put my shortened LinkedIn link with my contact and portfolio details). One good idea is putting your reason for leaving a job under each listing. This should save the interviewer asking the ‘Why did you leave your last position?’ questions, and avoids any awkwardness.

cover letterYou might know the basics (one page, 4-6 paragraphs), but these articles lays down the essentials: how to work out what an employer is looking for, how to talk yourself up, and what to leave out. Remember: EVERY cover letter you write should be different! Don’t just copy and paste, and change the name of the company. It’s lazy! Fast Company’s Drake Baer says it best, “Would you hire someone who sent you a template? No. So don’t send one.” If you want the job, prove it the person reading it! Do your research, and succinctly describe how your skills and attitude match the job description. Why should they hire you? How are you different to the other applicants? It’s all about selling yourself, but focus on what you can do for them, not the other way around. You need to show that it’s in their best interests to hire you. Don’t just summarise your resume – your cover letter is a chance to show your personality, with your resume to back it up.

3 Secrets of Writing Attention-Grabbing Cover Letters

If you only read one article in this list, make it this one, by Drake Baer for Fast Company.

5 Steps to Crafting a Killer Cover Letter

Covering Letter Tips: Expert Advice For Graduates

4 Ways To Make Writing Cover Letters Less Painful

5 Ways Your Cover Letter Lost You The Job

Resume & Cover Letter Tips For Articulating Your Awesomeness

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