Building Your Resume

by Jason Vaughn

A resume is the key to your success. Whether you're job searching, freelancing or starting up a small business, your resume is what will get the ball rolling. A resume is your single greatest asset and first impression. If your resume comes across as weak and lacking information, you'll stand a lesser chance of landing the position or deal you want.

Resumes consist of several different elements. This article will give you a guideline for writing a strong resume for the graphic design field. None of these suggestions are set in stone, but they do include tested material that has landed me several positions from designer to creative director.

View resume sample (PDF format)

Follow the steps listed below as a guideline to a successful resume:

Step-1 Cover letters

I do not agree with the idea of a cover letter. Many people will disagree with me, but as an employer and an owner of my own company, I look at cover letters as a way to con me into believing you are what you are. I want facts, not jargon. Now, I'm sure most people are like the cover letters they write, but most employers or freelance gigs I have been working for were more interested in what my abilities are. As an employer myself, I want to know your skill sets and knowledge, not how great of an employee you think you are and how you will work so hard for my company. I determine all of this by how you present your skills in your resume and by an interview on the phone and/or in person.

Step-2 Layout

As a designer, you should make your resume look professional, not like you typed it on a word processor. Even using a word processor, you can keep your layout simple and clean, but with a designer's flare to it. Don't add excessive graphics, just keep it clean and simple by adding a banner and a logo. Remember, you still have information to put into place. If you are limited on information, you can get a little more advanced with your layout. Keep in mind that you need to make your resume faxable and easy to read. Keep your resume black and white and limit your wild designs to your portfolio. Never make your resume more than one page. Most employers do not have time to read through several pages, besides if you fax one page you stand a better chance of it not getting lost as easily.

Step-3 Position Requested

It is recommended that your resume have a small area at the beginning to describe what position you're requesting, but not necessary. For example, you may want to put the following:

Position Requested:
Art Director / Sr. Graphic Designer / Freelance is an option

Step-4 Professional Experience

It is recommended that you go in order from the most recent to the least recent job you held. Try to list all work experience most closely related to the job you're looking to land. If you have gaps in your job experience, you will need to be prepared to explain why. Make sure to also include the dates you were with the company and when you left.

Step-5 Position Details (overview)

This section is the most important part of your resume. You must give details to what type of work you were responsible for and what you did. Keep this area simple and don't go into too long of a paragraph. Remember that your prospective employer has little time to read.

In this area, state if you were a manager, how many people you were in charge of, and what types of projects were involved. Include names of companies you did business with such as clients and even vendors and suppliers. For example, you may want to put the following:

Position Details:
Graphic Designer -- Work included designs for offset printing, digital printing, Web site design -- Client work includes projects for ABC, Warner Bros., AT&T, and local small businesses in the surrounding area.

Your information may be less or more depending on what you've done. Don't be afraid to tell your story. So many designers feel they haven't done much, but when you put your mind in motion, you'll see just what you've accomplished. Even though something comes easy to you and it seems like no big deal, you might think about using it. Sometimes just learning how to operate a large format printer can land you a great job in the digital printing area.

Step-6 Technical Proficiency

Make sure you're current on the industry standards, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Quark Xpress, Macromedia Dreamweaver and others that are standard to the graphic design world. If you have only used a program once or twice and are really not familiar with it, do not put it in your resume, you may be tested on it.

Step-7 Education

It's always best if you can show some type of schooling. Many graphic designers, including myself, never graduated from college. Your hands-on experience will be your most effective tool. However, if you do not have 2-4 years in the field, your chances of landing a job without some type of schooling are slim. Even if you never received a degree, list the classes you took. Listing these classes can really boost your resume.

Step-8 Awards and Accomplishments

Your awards should consist of anything ranging from design awards, military, high school and any other awards that will pertain to the job you are applying for. Don't list how you won the spelling bee in elementary school, but you can list how you received an award for your outstanding military service.

Step-9 References

Be prepared to provide a list of references. Do not include these with your resume, but your prospective employer may request them later. Make sure and include businesses you have been associated with as these companies will provide the strongest type of references. Always ask permission from those you wish to reference, this will also prepare them to talk great things about you.

View resume sample (PDF format)