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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.


You’ll Never Please ’em All So Don’t Try!


Just had a conversation with a client that prompted this quick post.

The client loves his new resume except for one feature. This feature is a little unusual (can’t tell you what it is – trade secret!) but really makes his resume pop. It will not appeal to everyone – some recruiters may even dislike it – but for his target audience it’s perfect.

When I explained this, my client said ‘but I don’t want to have a resume that some people dislike.’ And that’s when I knew I had to write this post! People, someone somewhere will dislike your resume no matter what you do. It won’t have the right this or that for this or that company and it will be discarded. The cliche about not being able to please all the people all the time is only a cliche because it’s so true that we use it all the time. And the truth is that if your resume is totally conventional, it will be overlooked more often that it’s paid attention to – just one more in a pile of unremarkable documents.

By doing something different, you will at least attract attention. And if the different thing you do is calibrated to appeal to your target audience (you do know who your target audience is, right?), then how can you go wrong? For every person who is put off by your unconventional approach, there will be one or two who really notice you. Having 50% of readers pay real attention to you is already a huge leap up from where most people are – lying in that pile of unremarkable but totally safe resumes.

What do you think? Have you ever done anything unconventional with your resume? Would you dare to give it a try?

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About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

14 comments on “You’ll Never Please ’em All So Don’t Try!”

  1. Good point, Louise. It’s all about your target audience. Who cares if the whole world hates your resume? As long as your prospective employer likes it (so much she calls you in for an interview), that’s what really matters.

    Taking a risk in how you create your resume (in a unique and perhaps unconventional way) might demonstrate that you understand the employer’s culture better than other job candidates.

  2. I wouldn’t dare try it. I tend to think “outside the box” resumes only work in creative fields – if I were a graphic designer, sure. I JUST got an I.T. job using a standard resume, and I’m pretty sure this organization would have disregarded anything unconventional.

    That said, what would happen if you submitted two resumes to the same company? Would that be dumb, or would one go in the “In” pile while the other was put in the “Out”, without the sorter realizing? It’d be an interesting test.

  3. Leonard Lang says:

    Totally agree, especially if what you’re applying for will draw lots of resumes (namely almost every posted job opening!).

    I offer career change classes along with coaching. In my career classes, I have people play a game to come up with new ways of looking at their skill set. One skill that came out once was “zooming.” The person who came up with that said it meant the ability to go quickly from the big picture to the details and back again, and was able to give examples of how he had been good at zooming. Everyone laughed about it. Then another person in the class asked if it was OK to list Zooming as a skill–on a resume.

    We happened to have an experienced HR person in the class. Everyone turned to her to see what she thought. Her response: It would certainly get you noticed, and if you met all the usual qualifications expected on the resume, then that would make you stand out to get an interview. In other words, be unusual in a positive way, but make sure you hit all the standard buttons too.

  4. Linda Locke says:

    Yes, I have used unconventional resumes for years and they work wonderfully to differentiate you from the competition. And it’s not true that they only work in “creative fields.”

    In today’s marketplace, it’s a real plus to show that you willing to take a risk to stand out.

  5. Danny says:

    I absolutely agree – no matter what you do with your resume, you’re going to turn some people off, so you might as well do something that will grab the most attention of the people left over.

  6. Louise says:

    Interesting comments guys – I think maybe when you say ‘creative resume’ sometimes people think of pictures and color or really wild approaches, but really for me it’s more about finding different ways to communicate strengths. So it might be some selected LinkedIn testimonials, or a favorite quote, or a direct quote from the candidate himself about how he approaches his work, or just an unusual choice of words in the resume introduction. In some cases, humor might be appropriate – whatever the approach, the key is to keep your desired employer in mind. If it wouldn’t fly with them, don’t do it.

  7. Given your clarification, I’d be less hesitant to use it. Incorporating a little “unconventional” like you describe, with the standard, sounds reasonable.

  8. William says:

    I would so something unconventional to make my resume stand out because competition is so fierce in my arena and I have a primary weakness (not worth discussing here!!!) that I believe could be overcome in a simple way.

    If excerpts of my LinkedIn recommendations could be worked into my resume so that people can see that I am actually super-effective and NOT just another “talker” then I believe it would add weight to my resume. It’s unconventional but (correct me if I am wrong) very effective to say “it’s not just me saying this stuff about me.”

    Go ahead, throw rocks. 🙂

  9. Louise Fletcher says:

    Hi William,
    I think that’s a great idea – you can either weave them through the resume or have a separate section for them. Another way to overcome a weakness is to emphasize specific results – like the testimonials, these are proof that you can do what you say you can do. I like to make them part of the resume introduction as well as the body of the career history.

  10. Being outside the norm will get you noticed, but being too far outside the norm will make the reader confused.

    I think the reply by HR was very telling “if they had all the other skills” (then it may pop out).

    But do HR folks really reward people for being creative? NO. Theirs is an administrative job and if you make it ‘creative’ you may make it harder for them to understand your resume. If they have problems understanding it then why use it? There are plenty more qualified candidates in the stack.

    Now if it is going to the hiring manager (who will not have 1000 other resumes that they could go through) then it may help you.

    If your job application includes a portfolio then that should show creativity, but I am not sure about turning your resume into some type of ‘eye candy’.

    Regards,
    Will at virtualjobcoach.com

  11. Louise says:

    Good point Will – but I clarified in my comment above that by creative, I don’t mean ‘eye candy.’ I mean doing something to show people why you are uniquely qualified for the position. Using the same old structure and the same old words as everyone else will do one thing – make you look just like everyone else!

    I definitely don’t advocate making your resume hard to understand. As an ex-HR exec and recruiter, I think the opposite is important.

  12. Gordon says:

    I wonder if employers really believe all these glowing third-party testimonials from buddies and colleagues that you got on with in your previous job. They are kind of like these raving reviews that you see on the back of EVERY book on the bookshelf. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

    1. Louise says:

      Well Gordon, I can’t make you believe me that it works. But so far the results have been good for my clients, so I’ll keep doing it until the opposite is true.

  13. Gordon says:

    Louise, Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s great to have a resume that some people will hate, absolutely agree. What I was referring to was the generic “here are all my friends’ recommendations” on resumes, Linked In etc. When everybody has them, they are no longer sufficient. As an employer myself (at times), I don’t believe ’em.

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