If you’re hunting for a new job as a designer, it’s tempting to put all of your time and effort into creating an amazing portfolio. But before a hiring manager ever sees your portfolio, they’re likely to look over your resumé first.
Creating a design resumé doesn’t have to be particularly complicated. In fact, keeping your resumé simple will get you further in the hiring process than an over-the-top design that may grab attention but won’t necessarily impress hiring managers. Remember, the first person who sees your resumé may not be a designer at all. Just as with designing great websites, designing great resumés requires keeping your user’s needs at the forefront.
What’s included in a great design resumé
A great design resumé contains much of the same information as resumés for any other industry. That includes:
Your contact information — Be sure that your contact information is prominent and easy to find on your resumé. It should include your name, phone number, email address, and website or portfolio URL.
Your work experience — This is arguably the most important part of your resume. Include relevant positions you’ve held in the past, along with a summary of your successes in those positions. You don’t need to list responsibilities that are standard for the type of position you held. Instead, focus on results you achieved or projects you’re particularly proud of. If you have gaps in your work history, consider including just the years you stayed in each position, instead of including the exact dates.
Your relevant skills — This is where you want to list any particular design skills you have, as well as the tool stack you’re used to working with. You can include things like user testing, UX design, and mobile design, as well as programs like Figma, Sketch, or Spline here. If you’ve completed any Uxcel Skill Tests, include those here, too.
Your achievements — Did you work on a project that won an award? Or maybe you spoke at a prominent design conference? These are the kinds of things you’ll want to include in this section.
Your education, qualifications, and certifications — If you have formal design training, list it here. This can include any university or college degrees, bootcamps or certification programs, or any other formal education you have completed.
Focus on the design
The biggest difference between a designer resumé and a resumé for any other industry is in the design. This is a chance to show off your design chops in a way that immediately grabs the attention of the hiring manager. That said, this is not the time to go wild with your design.
Keep readability at the forefront of your thoughts as you go about designing your resumé. Remember that the first person who looks at your resumé may not be a designer, so they’re going to be more concerned with being able to read your resumé than with the design of it.
Keep the overall layout simple. Use color and visual hierarchy to highlight the most important parts, and pay close attention to information architecture.
You’ll most likely want to skip the word processing software for your resumé and instead use a page layout app like Adobe InDesign. Creating a website version of your resumé is also a great idea (and allows for incorporating interactive elements), but be sure you create a standard PDF version as well. You’ll need that for submitting applications to most companies.
Your cover letter
Along with sending a resumé to potential employers, you’ll also need a great cover letter. It’s important to customize these letters for each job you apply for. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a basic version that you can adapt for each position.
The key things to keep in mind when writing a cover letter is that it should be short, briefly summarize your relevant experience and skills, and show the employer that you understand what they’re looking for. Ideally, your cover letter should be no longer than three paragraphs — an introduction paragraph, a paragraph about why you’re a good fit for the position, and a closing paragraph that reiterates your interest in the position and thanks the reader for their consideration.
Your resumé and cover letter should both include links to your portfolio. And your portfolio should accurately reflect your design skills and feature the best projects you’ve worked on.
You don’t need to include every project you’ve contributed to. Instead, pick the best, most interesting projects. And then focus on the story behind those projects.
“The most interesting design stories in a UX portfolio are when there is a problem. People will get interested and ask themselves, ’What did the designer do then? How is she going to get out of this? (…) The heart of the story is not the image of the screen, but the story of what we did with it, why we did it, and what user’s reactions were.” — Susan Weinschenk
To really impress potential employers, keep design elements between your portfolio and your resumé consistent. Using the same basic color palette and typography between the two starts to create a personal brand identity, which employers are more likely to remember. It shows that you treat your career with care, and that you have a personal aesthetic and style. It comes across as more thoughtful and professional than a resumé and portfolio that bear no resemblance to one another.
The design industry is competitive, but the best designers are often presented with multiple job offers. Taking extra time to craft your resumé helps you get noticed by employers and shows that you’re serious about your career.