While the media loves to feature stories about creative resumes that land dream jobs for people, a group of researchers in Norway have shown that they don’t work.
It turns out that creative resumes do make you stand out from the crowd, but not in a good way (the study).
The Study Design
The research team had a gender-balanced group of 45 working people (recruiters and HR professionals, no hiring managers) and 45 students read 12 resumes.
Job applicants were non-creatives applying for a non-creative job.
The researchers created three resume designs for the experiment:
- A formal resume on white paper — the standard Microsoft Word approach.
- The second resume was identical to the first, except it was on colored paper.
- A creative resume template similar to an infographic.
The researchers inserted identical content for each person into the three uniquely designed resume templates.
The Findings from the Study
This chart shows how the readers evaluated the resumes:
A Theory About Creative Resumes
As you can see, only 27% of the creative resumes made it into the “Interview” pile. 41% of the traditional resumes on white paper got the nod. That’s a 50% improvement! Resumes on colored paper didn’t fare well either.
Thus, we now have some hard evidence that the “visually appealing” resume underperforms the standard resume.
I have a theory:
Creative resumes increase readers’ cognitive loads because they’re less familiar to them. That type of resume shows information in odd visual patterns, so it looks as though it’s hard to scan and read.
Yes, the creative resume stands out — as unusual and difficult.
Can we extrapolate the results of one study to all resumes?
No, but I would heed these results and shelve the creative resume idea.
What If You’re a Creative?
I suggest a normal resume and a creative portfolio. That way, you benefit from the best of both approaches.
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Featured by: SmartBrief on Your Career
Updated April 2019
© 2013 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.