Please Avoid Making These Design Resume Mistakes
Hello job seekers! We’re back to talk about what it takes to get the dream design job you’re after. Last week, we discussed, “The Magic Element to Include in Best Graphic Design Cover Letter Ever.” If you missed the post, please go back and check it out.
Today, we’re moving on to part two of your submission to the graphic design studio of your dreams – the resume. Before we go on, quick note: We highly recommend applying to companies you’re interested in working for even if they’re not advertising any open positions. Some companies get so many applicants that they don’t advertise. Some companies may not be hiring, but if a strong candidate comes to them and says: “Hey – I ONLY want to work for YOU.” they may consider it. It can’t hurt right? Right.
Okay, let’s get into it! Here are a few mistakes we see quite often on design resumes, as told by our President, William Beachy:
Failing to design your resume and cover letter. Shockingly, this is frequently not done. Many designers use a basic Word resume template. A candidate once told me that their design professor specifically told them to use a plain-jane Word template. I’m not sure where this professor got their information from (maybe the year 1950), but I think that professor was wrong. Your resume, cover letter and web-portfolio need to be a perfectly matched set, and they should be as pretty as everything in your portfolio. As I said before, this is the FIRST IMPRESSION you’re giving your potential employer. Make it shine!
When designing your resume, don’t be afraid of getting creative! Bold type and infographics can be a plus – so long as they are handled well. A concept behind your application is also a plus. I had an applicant give me a resume that was a ‘Top Ten’ list. Specifically, it said: “Top ten reasons you should hire me.” Then she creatively worked all her education and experience into a list of ten items.
Rating your skill level on various software. I see this constantly. It says something like: Illustrator 90% | Photoshop 95% | Word 85%. What does that even mean? Is there a standardized test that I’m not aware of? It’s funniest when I see stats like this, but the applicant’s portfolio sucks. First of all, I’ve been using Illustrator for 20+ years and I’m only at maybe 85% proficient with it. So, how are you – a student who is just graduating at 90%. The simple fact is this means nothing. Don’t try to put a stat to how proficient you are in your software knowledge. The employer will know exactly how proficient you are based on the quality of the work in your portfolio. Instead a simple list of software you know how to use with no additional qualifiers is fine.
Adding extra fluff. Remove any and all work experience that is not art or design related. The fact that you taught kids martial arts is great, but I prefer my candidates come across like their entire life is focused on art and design. You can imagine my feelings when I see a resume that says: “McDonalds (cook), Progressive (insurance salesman), Lincoln Electric (assembly), Chipotle (cook), Freelance Designer.” It paints a picture of someone who has not been focused on design! This candidate would be better off if they left off ALL their previous experiences, and just said: Freelance Designer.
Now obviously, if this topic is brought up in an interview… do not lie! Tell them all about the other previous work experiences you’ve had and what you learned from them and how those will apply to your new position. And if they ask why those were left off your resume, just say: “I didn’t think those jobs were applicable to this position.”
With this approach… they think of you as a DESIGNER FIRST… who has some other life experiences… as compared to a resume that makes you look like an EVERYTHING ELSE FIRST… oh… and with a little design experience too.
See the difference in that?
Ok, now that we’ve covered our mistakes to avoid on design resumes, promise us you’ll do your best to do so.
Stay tuned, as next week we’ll be back with our favorite rules about creating the best design portfolio ever.
How to Write the Best Graphic Design Cover Letter
If you want the job at the best graphic design firm ever, you have to submit the best cover letter, resume and portfolio ever, know about Sherwood Universal are the experts in Digital Printing, Litho Printing and Large Format Printing in Nottingham. Through continual investment in both our printing equipment and our people, our customer can benefit from both state of the art equipment and a team of highly experienced printing specialists. (We’ll leave the bits about being a worthy designer to another post.)
And with no shortage of resources on what makes a great cover letter, resume and portfolio out there, this should be a somewhat simple feat. But here at Go Media, we are disappointed to see the same mistakes made over and over again. It often seems like applicants choose to apply for more jobs – the quantity – over quality (in other words, doing a thorough job of applying to fewer companies). In this three part series, we talk about the elements in cover letters, resumes and portfolios that really make our jaws drop.
To start, we’d like to address cover letters. Above all, there is one element that most good applicants touch upon, but often do not take the time to cover with enough depth and passion. This aspect makes all the difference between a cover letter worth passing by, and one worth paying attention to.
What is this magic element?
A SECTION THAT SERIOUSLY PLAYS TO OUR EGO.
Sounds simple, right? Far from it.
It takes time and a ton of time, which is why we rarely see it. Please read on!
In the cover letter, it’s critical that you communicate to the potential employer: “You are the only company I am applying for, I’ve been following your company for years.” You want to play into the ego of the company. In order to communicate this you need a plausible story. Most importantly, you need more FACTS about the company you’re applying to. So, this means research! Referencing a few portfolio items is a fine start, but anyone can do that in 10 seconds.
If you REALLY want to wow the potential employer, spend several days (even weeks if necessary) reading anything you can get your hands on about them. This may sound like a huge investment, but consider this – you’re about to commit to working there for YEARS. Isn’t a week of research worth getting into the right company?
If they wrote a book – read it. If they have a blog, read every article you can on the history of the company. About page? Read it. Then, write a concise ‘How I got to know your company’ story… If you can find any gem in your research to reference you can say things like: “I read in your book that you used to lay on the floor drawing with crayons all day as a kid. That’s exactly how I spent my childhood.”
Basically, you need to make sure they know you KNOW them… you did your research. You desperately want to work for them and them only. Sprinkling in a few obscure facts will help communicate this.
As an employer it’s VERY clear to us who’s done their research and who is just throwing out a generic cover letter. Pandering to our ego works. We want to think that the people I’m hiring are HUGE Go Media fans! Of course! We love hearing their stories about how they discovered our company and have been following us for years. When they reference specific tutorials we wrote 8 years ago, we think: “Wow. This is going to be a loyal employee!”
Similarly, continue to blow us out of the water if you’re able to illustrate actionable ways in which you’ve shown your love for the company. Have you volunteered for our design conference, benefit shows, or attended every single one of our open houses? Let us know!
Also, Answer the why
Next, explain WHY you want to work for the company you’re applying to. The reason should be specific. Something like: “Your firm has a background in illustration and I can see that you appreciate art. This is unique compared to the other firms I’ve considered applying to. I love the balance of artistry with design – it’s something I’ve always done. It’s important to me that I’m working in an environment that has that appreciation for the artistic side of design.” Again, you are not only giving the reason why, but you’re reinforcing that you have a deep knowledge of the company you’re applying to. This ties everything together eloquently while making us feel warm and fuzzy.
While you’re at it, here are things to avoid doing in your cover letter:
- Not addressing anyone specifically. Never write “Dear Hiring manager” or “To whom it may concern”. Do your research! Figure out who’s hiring and write to them specifically!
- Sending before having trusted friends and family proofread it again and again. Watch your spelling! Attention to details is critical. One error here can knock you out of the game completely.
- Using your email as the cover letter itself. Design a cover letter that you save along with your resume and attach. It’s ok if what you write in your email is exactly the same as the attached pdf. The point is – I want to see you apply the same branding from your resume onto a cover letter page, and then again on the website. If you don’t attach a designed cover letter you’re losing that opportunity.
- Praising your own design skills, i.e. “I’m a VERY talented designer.” This simply comes across as arrogant. Whether you are talented or not will show up in your portfolio. Saying you’re good ONLY WORKS AGAINST YOU. If you want to praise yourself in any way – it should be: “I work hard, I’m eager to learn and I have a positive attitude.” These are things that cannot be seen in a portfolio. And these ARE traits that a potential employer is looking for – not arrogance or overconfidence.
- Giving your potential employer work. Saying things like: “To download my resume go here…” is very bad. Make hiring you as simple as possible. I recommend attaching a finished designed cover letter (which may contain the same text that you included in the e-mail), your resume and a pdf of your portfolio and or a link to an online portfolio.
- Saying you want this job as a jumping off point for completely different. The last thing we want to hear is that you’re applying to be a Junior Designer, only to turn into a Project Manager in another 6 months. We will support your hopes and dreams, but we are looking to fill the position of a Junior Designer now. If you’re actually looking for a Project Management position, please look elsewhere.
Okay, now that we’ve covered our number one must follow rule and these important don’ts, promise us you’ll dedicate the time your cover letter (and future employer) deserves.
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Stay tuned, when next week we’ll be back with our favorite rules about creating the best design resume ever >
Please Avoid Making these Mistakes We Often See on Design Resumes
Tips on Landing an Internship
Sadly, the day has come where my amazing internship with the designers at Cleveland design firm, Go Media ends. But before I go, I want to pass on helpful advice to any designers out there who are also looking to obtain their dream internship. There are lots of different things that come into play when applying for internships, two of which include your resume and cover letter. So whether you’re looking to land your own internship at Go Media, or at another awesome company, keep these tips in mind when preparing your materials!
Add Relevant Experience
Now I know what you’re thinking. How am I supposed to get experience when I need experience to get experience? But that’s not what this tip is about. Relevant experience can be relevant in many ways. Maybe you were the manager of your local grocery store where you picked up leadership skills. Or maybe you had a retail job where you regularly collaborated with team members and customers to produce high-quality products. All of these things help attribute to your worth as a potential intern or employee!
It’s all about selling yourself and believing in yourself. Also, it’s much easier to get experience first from being involved on your school’s campus, being a part of different organizations, or volunteering. These types of activities are crucial in building an impressive resume and getting your foot in the door for future opportunities!
Use Action Verbs
Now that you’ve listed some relevant experience on your resume, you need to effectively convey to your future employer what you did at that job. The best way to do this is use action/power verbs, rather than passive or weak verbs. Using words like, helped, assisted, contributed, worked, etc. are very vague and don’t help your future employer understand your duties. How did you help or assist with the project? In what ways did you contribute? Better words to use include, designed, collaborated, proposed, initiated, resolved, etc.
And if you’re having trouble coming up with your own power verbs, you can find a helpful list of them here.
Keep it to One Page
This is always a general rule to follow when building your resume. Unless you have 10+ years of experience in the field, you should keep your resume to 1 page, and even if you do have 10+ years of experience, hiring managers would probably appreciate you condensing your most relevant and important material to a single page.
And you may be asking yourself, but Rachel… how am I supposed to sell myself when I can’t fit all of my experience and achievements on one page? Well you can! It might take more work to refine your experience and details rather than just plug everything you’ve ever done in your entire life on your resume, but it’s a crucial step to making your resume effective.
Remember, a resume is an overview of all of your relevant experience and qualifications. As you gain more and more experience, you’ll want to refine your resume and delete older and less-relevant information. The company you’re applying to might get hundreds of resumes and cover letters every day, which means these hiring managers don’t have time to read every carefully placed word on your resume. They need a quick, effective overview so they can immediately determine if you’re a candidate they’re interested in. They don’t have time to read through your 2-3 page resume.
Create a Clean and Simple Layout
The point of your resume is to convey important information to the person receiving it. This means it needs to have a clear hierarchy and be easy to read and digest. I get it, you’re a designer and you want to voice your creativity everywhere you are, and you still can! There’s nothing wrong with adding personality to your resume and brand, actually, I encourage it! But I don’t encourage you to get so creative with your resume that it’s hard to understand and follow.
Remember, a lot of the time, your resume won’t even be going to a designer. It will be going to a hiring manager who will determine if you make the next cut. Save your beautiful ideas and designs for your portfolio.
And keep in mind to keep your color palette limited. I recommend going B&W or using 1 color. Remember, your resume may look beautiful on screen, or beautiful printed on your handpicked paper at your favorite printer, but the company you are applying to will probably print your resume out on cheap paper from a low-quality office printer that turns your rich, navy blue to a pale blue-ish grey (or they may just print it in B&W to begin with).
2. Cover Letter
Personally Tailor Each Cover Letter
When writing cover letters, you don’t want to have one general cover letter that you fire off to every company you apply to. Instead, create a unique, personalized cover letter to each specific company. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a general template that you base most of your cover letters off of, but they should all ultimately be different.
This involves researching each company. Go to their website and read about their history. Learn more about who they are and their values. You can then use this research to write a cover letter that better explains exactly why you believe you’re such an incredible fit for them specifically.
Read the Position Details
This one might seem obvious, but it’s incredibly important. The company you’re applying to will probably have a very clear job listing of what they are currently seeking, what skills they are looking for and even the type of personality or work ethic they want. They lay out exactly what they are looking for, and it’s your job to connect the dots between what they’re looking for and how that pertains to your experience.
Not only will they be excited that someone has so much relevant experience that matches perfectly with their job description, but they will just be happy that someone took the time to really read the job description and understand what they are looking for.
Don’t Forget to Focus on Them
Sure, a cover letter is obviously supposed to focus on you and your talents/experience, but it should also explain why you will be an asset to them. Don’t focus on how a position at their company would be beneficial to you, focus on how you would be beneficial to their company. You want them to read your cover letter and think that they need you as an asset, not just that you seem to be a solid, dependable candidate.
All in all, you just need to be confident, passionate and eager. Apply to a lot of different places, take any negativity or failure as a learning experience, and continue to grow as a designer and as a person.
And once you do land the internship of your dreams, don’t forget to soak up every little bit of the experience you can! As my time comes to an end at Go Media, I can’t help but express how much I’ve learned and grown as a designer. The people at Go Media are truly one of a kind, and I’ll always be so appreciative of the time and energy they gave towards teaching and mentoring myself.