The 21st Century Resume

When I started thinking about changing jobs, I set sail for the high seas and prepared to showcase my booty.

No, geeze, not like that – my resume is pirate-themed. Yes, like the “Arrrgh, me matey” kind of pirates. It’s an homage to Jay Chiat, a founder of account planning in the advertising world, whose corporate creed was “We’re the pirates, not the navy.” On my resume, I also confessed my obsession with reality TV and admitted that I own a ball python.

My mother questioned my sanity. My friends were intrigued. But it worked. Employers contacted me, specifically mentioning how my resume stood out and showcased my creativity – something that’s pretty important in my field.

Most people approach their resumes in a pretty old-school way – contact information up top, objectives, work history, education, accolades, etc. all nicely laid out in Times New Roman, sized 12. This is the golden standard for resumes, and there are places all over the internet that can show you how to better organize your resume, usually within these constraints.

Other resources (which I’ve clearly avoided) provide warnings for those that want to be too cutesy or funny on your professional documents. A New York Times blog entitled “The Perils of Being Too Cute on Your Application” discusses college resumes and the influx of applicants that share too much or provide silly, irrelevant information in an attempt to stand out amongst their peers. It warns against listing non-education/experience-related information on an application. Many agree, but there are a few who think that these quirky additions are a positive thing. After all – we’re funny, exciting and interesting people – why wouldn’t we want to present those characteristics to employers?

So should you avoid listing “President, Lady Gaga Fan Club” in an application? Is this old school thinking? Or a warning to people like me?

I say, get creative. Granted, you might not want to put “God” as a reference in a job application (yes, it happened) or list yourself as the “Master of Time and Universe,” but there’s got to be something that makes you and your resume stand out. Try to keep these things in mind when reviewing your resume:

  • Feel out the type of job you want to apply for. In the world of advertising agencies, creativity is golden, so I felt comfortable getting creative. Most people in my position have a creative book or resume for potential employers. However, if you’re applying to a law firm or an incredibly stogy corporate job, maybe a creative and fun resume isn’t up your alley.
  • Think of your resume as a first date. Don’t dump all of your dirty laundry out for them to see – but definitely leave them wanting more. Give them a reason to call you. A few quirky statements and additions to your resume (that are always truthful and applicable to who you are as a person) can pique an employer’s interest enough for a “second date.”
  • Stand out, but don’t be overly silly. Make these quirks relevant and applicable to this job. What’s the point of listing “avid reality TV watching” in my resume? It helps me understand the raw human nature and primal urges rooted in psychology that lead to consumer behavior in the real world. Isn’t watching Jersey Shore similar to observing animals in the wild? Now, compare that to listing something on your resume like “I love it when you give me hugs” (yup, another real one), and you’ll see the difference.
  • Never forget that it’s still a resume. Put your best foot forward and list all of your relevant skills and employment history that make you perfect for the job.

There are 4.8 unemployed people for every job opening – and nearly half of HR mangers surveyed typically review only 25 applications (or less!) for their open positions.  In today’s harsh employment marketplace, you’ve got to stand out – and how can you possibly do that without giving them something worth a second glance?

For me, it was pirates. It’s up to you to find yours.

Do you have a resume that’s cute, custom and quirky? Do you have a successful experience with a resume outside the norm? How do you feel about resumes that “color outside the lines”?

Erica Dermer I'm a qualitative market research nerd from Arizona, formerly a boutique agency planner, working with numerous different industries. I'm constantly looking for LOLZ through qualitative research, advertising, insights, and blogging. I'm addicted to social networking. Let's be friends.

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3 Responses to “The 21st Century Resume”

  1. Eugene Kim

    Great post! Succinct, and so true. I’m interested in your pirate-themed res. I haven’t gone that far, but I know that the creative resumes stick out.

    My girlfriend put a “hello, my name is” label on hers as the header.

    When I was transitioning, I kept mine pretty formal, since I’m an account guy, but I took liberties to use different colors and different headings – “My Bread and Butter” for work experience; “Off-the-clock” for other interests and hobbies, etc. Ultimately, I met with a Managing Partner who called that out and said that he loved it!

    And I definitely want to emphasize the need for knowing your industry. Advertising is a world where people are accepting video recordings for applications. Consulting, finance, more corporate-type industries will be much more conservative.

    Great post, Erica!

  2. Lauren

    Great post Erica! You nailed it. I wish I was in an industry that would accept a resume written in pirate language, then it could match my facebook language. But even in more conservative industries, you can still be creative — in college I worked for the Spirit Staff. In addition to a plethora of other duties, I accompanied the mascot, aka I was the mascot’s body guard at games and events, and I listed it as such. This caught the eye of my current VP, and that’s what I spent half of my interview talking about…..


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