The Quest for a Better Resume: Let’s Talk About Optics

December 5, 2017

Resumes are hard. Always have been, always will be. It’s hard to write and talk about yourself. It’s even harder to boil years – or even decades – of experience and accomplishments into a few short pages of text and visuals. You’re probably more focused on your job than keeping a resume updated, and if a few years pass in between the times when you need a resume, you often find that resume trends have changed, and it’s hard to know how to format it, what to include, and what to leave out. It’s easy to feel lost because, of course, resume writing is one of the toughest tasks of any professional.

Let’s revise that slightly: it’s easy enough to write any old resume, but it’s difficult to craft a document that actually boosts your candidacy with how awesome it is.

A recruitment firm like Argentus is something of a resume clearing house. We see them all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We see resumes that have up-to-the-minute style, as well as resumes where we have to brush off the cobwebs as we double click on the attachment in our inbox. We’re frankly bored of the latter. That’s why we’re doing a new miniseries on the Argentus blog, called The Quest for a Better Resume. (Makes it sound like an epic journey, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.) We’re going to dive into some key aspects of resume writing and give examples to help you craft a resume that wows hiring managers and, hopefully, us!

Today we’re going to be talking about the Optics of resumes. If you’re in Supply Chain, Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, or other similar corporate fields, how do you create a resume with visual pop that stands out from the competitors you’ll be squaring off against in any job hunt?

Read on to hear our advice!

Resume Optics:

There are certain creative fields where a visually-stunning resume is almost a requirement, rather than something that helps you stand out from the pack such as graphic design, and web development. If you’re in some of those visually-oriented fields, you might even do an interactive resume – like this famous one from 2013 by web designer Robbi Leonardi  – to rise above fellow job applicants by showing your skills at the same time as you’re describing them.

A visually stunning resume isn’t a requirement in the same way in Supply Chain Management, Procurement, Logistics, or Strategic Sourcing, or Planning. The field is more technical, analytical, and less creative (even though it does take a surprising amount of creativity at times). It’s emerging from a more blue-collar history, although it’s now much more of a corporate field with strategic depth. Because of these factors, lots of people see a beautiful resume as a bonus rather than a bar for entry.

These factors also mean that we see some god-awful looking resumes – resumes that have all the visual appeal of the purchase orders that many tactical Supply Chain professionals issue as part of their jobs.

Just because you work in a more technical field doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put some thought into how to make your resume visually appealing. In fact, take it from people who see a lot of resumes: a visually-appealing resume is a true asset in a job search, especially in a field where lots of resumes are dry as the Sahara. As recruiters and hiring managers, we get bored of the same old resumes, so think about how you can catch our eye! You don’t have to be a graphic design genius to do so.

So what does a bad resume look like, from a visual perspective? Well, you know it when you see it, but here are a few things they tend to have in common:

  • They’re cluttered. Information density can be important. You want to get across your accomplishments, skills, and metrics, and if you’re later on in your career the amount of this info you have can be considerable. But some resumes arrive so cluttered that the prospect of reading them is like peering into a hoarder’s apartment – and thus exhausting.  
  • They’re all text. Related to the above. Resumes sometimes arrive without any visual element beyond text lack appeal.
  • They use either Times New Roman or outlandish fonts. Times New Roman can be acceptable, but mix it with the above faux-pas and your resume can look woefully out of date. Think about Calibri, Verdana, Arial, or Trebuchet MS.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to give your resume some visual polish:

  • You don’t have to be a graphic designer to experiment with style. There has been a proliferation of online resume-building tools over the past few years. While some are better than others, they all tend to offer templates that are cleaner and more visually interesting than Microsoft Word, giving you a chance to play around and inject some personality into your resume’s look.
  • Use some colour. You don’t need a multicoloured resume, but an accent colour (generally blue is good) helps your resume to stand out. Other non-text elements like word clouds or icons can also be effective, if used judiciously.
  • White space is your friend. This is maybe our biggest, most important tip. The best visual resumes treat white space as a tool to draw the eye towards crucial information. It doesn’t mean that you should make your resume sparse, but a lot of white space shows that you care about making your resume easier to read. It also shows that you know how to highlight and distill what’s important, an implicit demonstration of the communications skills the hiring manager is going to be looking for.  

Here’s an example of a great summary page that recently came in from a Supply Chain professional (personal information blacked out). See how it incorporates all of these elements:

Having an ugly resume isn’t as much of a deal-breaker as having an error-laden resume, or one that’s full of buzzwords and lacking in concrete accomplishments. But it still matters. Hopefully these tips give you a few ways to think about the visual aspect of your resume and put yourself above the competition. 


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