Creating a great résumé isn’t always easy. For graphic designers, there is added pressure. It’s not enough for your résumé to outline your skills and experience. Since you’re a designer, your résume must also be visually appealing and form a showcase of your capabilities as a designer. Typography, color choice, and even infographics can all make a difference.
Your résumé also needs to be easy to read and understand. According to Muse, employers look at résumés for an average of just six seconds before deciding whether to move forward with a candidate. That means you’ve only got seconds to grab – and hold – their attention.
To be successful in your graphic design job applications, you need to know how to navigate the hiring process and design your résumé around it. Read on for more advice about applying for a graphic design job and building a résumé that will help you land it.
Applying for a graphic design job
Every job-seeker takes a slightly different path, but the basic process is likely to go something like this.
- Browse job sites like LinkedIn, Upwork, and Indeed, reading job descriptions and finding those you are qualified for.
- Apply to jobs with a cover letter and résumé. You may also attach a copy of your portfolio or add a link to your design website, if you have one. Pro tip: ensure your résumé contains keywords that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) filter résumés for keywords, years of experience, skills, and educational background.
- If your résumé passes initial screening, it will then go to the hiring manager. If they like what they see, you’ll be invited to interview. This will involve discussing your experience, skill set, and ability to fit into the team. You might also get a chance to discuss your creative portfolio and how your style aligns with their vision for the job.
- You may be asked to complete a practical assessment, such as a piece of design work, during or after the interview. If all goes well, you might be offered the job.
Today, we’re going to focus on creating the kind of résumé that gets you through that initial screening process and impresses the hiring manager when it lands on their desk. Let’s get started!
What employers look for in a graphic design résumé
Recruiters and hiring managers might look through hundreds of résumés in hiring for one job, so you need to make sure yours stands out in the right way. That means striking the right balance between aesthetics and readability, while also making sure all the essential information is included.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of a perfect graphic design résumé:
Personal details & contact information
This sounds basic, but you must get it right. That means including your full name, email address, and contact number. Some people still include a postal address, but that’s a bit old fashioned nowadays – it’s your choice. If your preferred name is different to your legal name, you can indicate that as such: James (Jim) Smith.
Your email address must look and sound professional. An email address like email@example.com doesn’t exude professionalism! Use some form of your name – firstname.lastname@example.org is clean, professional, and easy to remember and locate in an inbox.
Your potential employer wants to know that you have relevant experience, so you need to feature this section prominently. Include your most recent experience first, and work backwards.
Here are some pointers for writing your work experience section:
- Many employers don’t mind if you don’t list every job you’ve ever had. If it’s not directly or tangentially connected to graphic design, leave it out.
- Remember that freelance jobs and even voluntary work are worth including, as long as they relate to design.
- Summarize each job briefly. Remember to focus on what you achieved, not just what you did. (For example, “I worked on the new product catalogue” doesn’t tell us much. “I was the lead designer for the new product catalogue, which led to a 20% increase in sales over the same period last year” is far more impressive!)
Before you list a previous client by name, ensure your contract doesn’t include a nondisclosure agreement. We’ve seen people get caught out by these clauses.
Education and training
While a college degree isn’t necessarily an indication that you’re a great graphic designer, you must include it on your résumé if you do have one. Even a degree in an unrelated field gives you a well-rounded set of skills that employers find very useful.
If you don’t have a degree, don’t worry. Just make sure you list any other relevant educational achievements. This includes any relevant certifications or professional qualifications you’ve obtained.
Graphic design skills that look good on your résumé
The skills section is where you list the specific skills you have that relate to the job. Here are some graphic design skills that you’ll want to list if you have them:
- Software: Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Acrobat
- UI/UX design
- Print design
- Color theory
- CMS solutions (WordPress, ecommerce platforms, etc.)
This is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point. Your chances of getting a job are higher if you can list as many relevant skills as possible. Remember that saying you have a skill isn’t enough – you’ll need to be able to demonstrate it. Ideally, your portfolio will include at least one sample that illustrates each skill you claim to have. If you hold any relevant qualifications and certifications, or are listed on a designers directory you might also mention those.
5 perfect graphic design résumé examples
You might be reading this article because you’re stuck in a job-seeking rut and are in search of inspiration for your own graphic design résumé. That’s why I’ve collated some of the best to inspire you. Here are five awesome graphic design résumé that should get your started:
Ethelia earned a bachelor’s degree in new media design from the Rochester Institute of Technology and interned at YouTube. Her résumé lets her work speak for itself: her education, work experience, and leadership skills stand out. Ethelia went for a clean, no-frills design, with her nickname and section headers in light blue.
This résumé contains all of the applicant’s relevant experience and skills, including Adobe products, programming languages, and Microsoft Office. She also makes herself stand out from the competition by sharing that she speaks three languages – a serious asset in today’s globalized world.
If you’re a recent graduate, pay particular attention to this one. Ethelia draws on her internships and voluntary roles from her college career to showcase her skills and suitability for the job. Remember that both technical and soft skills matter.
Maria is currently working as a barista at Starbucks, which isn’t exactly the work experience a hiring manager would look for in a graphic designer.
However, prior to moving to France, she was an artistic director at a PR agency in Spain. Her résumé takes playfulness to the next level, making it both attention-grabbing and a showcase for her design skills.
This résumé is very heavy on images, but still contains all the relevant details an employer needs to see, including work experience and education. I really like the additional details, such as the circle chart to illustrate her software skill levels and the carnival high striker to show her proficiency in various languages.
In any other industry, I’d caution you against using a résumé that relies this heavily on visual content. But for a designer, it’s perfect.
Marcy takes a similarly fun and playful approach to her résumé, using bright colors for her section headings and a hand-drawn logo. The brightly colored section headers make it easy to find everything at a glance. Her work experience is front and center, and speaks for itself, with past roles at well-known companies including CBS, Wix, and Nickelodeon.
Marcy takes the unusual approach of positioning her contact information at the bottom of the page. There’s nothing to say it has to go at the top, so don’t be afraid to play around with the layout in your own résumé. Just follow Marcy’s example and ensure your relevant work experience takes center stage.
Chuck D. Lay
Chuck’s résumé is extraordinarily creative and eye-catching. He chose to mimic a traditional newspaper classified ads section, using the box layout to differentiate his contact information, work experience, education, and skills sections.
Chuck’s résumé is a work of art in itself, even including hand-drawn black-and-white images and the coupon at the bottom of the page, tying it all together with the “vintage ad” theme. The use of the portmanteau “designerd” (“designer” and “nerd”) sums up his personality and enthusiasm wonderfully.
Hili specializes in illustration and motion graphics, and her skills are on display in this crisp and minimalist résumé. She manages to incorporate all the details an employer needs while still maintaining a good amount of white space. I also like how she uses icons to draw attention to each of her skills.
In addition to using illustrations, Hili uses font weights and divider lines to break up her résumé into easily scannable sections. I also like the bar chart she uses as a visual indication of her software skill levels. Hili’s résumé is a good example of a one-page résumé that keeps things simple while still getting the right impression across.
If you’d like to check out a few more examples of effective résumés, we’d recommend this article from Livecareer.
Whether you’re looking for a full-time office-based position or your next work from home or freelance gig, your résumé is what will sell your skills to a prospective employer.
As a graphic designer, your résumé is your chance to make a great first impression. Combined with an online portfolio, a well-designed résumé will help convince potential employers that you are the ideal candidate for the job. If your résumé is beautifully designed, well laid out, and thematically appropriate, you’ve already shown that you have an eye for great design.
While your graphic design résumé should be creative, it also needs to be easy to read and understand. Remember that you have only seconds to make a first impression, so ensure all the relevant information is front and center. You need to strike a balance between artistic license and readability for your application to stand out and be noticed.
Remember: you don’t need to use the exact same résumé for every job you apply for. You can and should customize it for each prospective employer, reflecting the kind of style they’re looking for and highlighting the most relevant aspects of your experience.
Good luck with your job search!