creative resume

Recruiters Don’t Want to See Creative Resumes

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:

  1. A formal resume on white paper — the standard Microsoft Word approach.
  2. The second resume was identical to the first, except it was on colored paper.
  3. 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:

 

Resume Type

 

Reject

 

Maybe

 

Interview

Creative

42%

31%

27%

Colored Paper

32%

36%

32%

White Paper

26%

33%

41%

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.

Conclusions

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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This post also uses data to help you decide about a resume controversy: Wave Goodbye to the Useless Resume Skills Section.

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Featured by: SmartBrief on Your Career
Image: Fotolia/pokki
Updated February 2019

© 2013 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

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Comments 10

  1. If it were I — if I saw “if it was me” on a resume, I’d reject it immediately, no matter what the color of the paper.

  2. Thank you for your input Mariah. This blog is a conversation. While if “If it were I” might be the Queen’s English, the Queen doesn’t talk with many people. On this blog, I will always default to language I would use in conversation, “proper” or not. “If it were I” sounds a bit stuffy to me.

    Kind regards,

    Donna

  3. It’s hard to draw firm conclusions on these scores. To me it proves that authenticity in general is appreciated.

    If my English is poor, than please realise that I’m not a native English speaker or writer.

    From the Netherlands with love 😉

    Bert Huisman

  4. Hi Bert,

    Thank you for your comment (perfectly stated in English). It is hard to draw conclusions. “Guess the Algorithm” seems to be a new sport. The best we can do, when sites such as Google and LinkedIn don’t reveal how they generate search results, is to experiment and make educated guesses.

    Kind regards,

    Donna

  5. Hi Donna,
    it would be nice to know whether there is a difference between Europe and USA.
    I tried to gather some information on how and to which extend social network profiles such as Xing or Linkedin are integrated in the recruiting process. In the US there seems to be high emphasis on the appropriate profile whereas in Germany for example the profiles just are checked for any peculiarities. May be it is the same with “creative” resumes – Europe is more traditional and less inclined to new ways of job applications.

    kind regards
    Claudia

  6. Hi Claudia,

    I have wondered about cultural differences as well. However, one of the studies mentioned above was conducted in the EU and the other one in the US. In both cases, the non-traditional resume underperformed.

    Kind regards,

    Donna

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