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Does Your Resume Matter? Landing a Job in a Post-Resume Environment

More and more lately it seems that design companies are bucking tradition and tossing out resumes as the de facto way to differentiate between and choose candidates.

Should you be concerned about how you look on paper or diverting your efforts towards something more important? Read on to find out.

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Designer Wanted: No Resumes Please!

Think Vitamin, a popular site in the Carsonified family, recently made a post on their site advertising a job opening (now closed). I found the post quite fascinating for one simple reason: they didn’t want a resume.

They literally wouldn’t accept your resume.

Now, I don’t mean Think Vitamin simply neglected to ask for a resume, they actually took the time to write out that they literally wouldn’t accept your resume, they weren’t interested in it! Note that this wasn’t a contract job but a real full-time position with benefits.

As a business school graduate, this idea seemed altogether foreign to me. For years I was taught to structure my early career so that I would look good on paper. Even now as I’ve shifted from design over to full-time blogging, I’m constantly worried about how that will affect my resume long-term. Let’s face it, “blogger” sounds a bit more like a jobless twenty-something still living with mom and dad than the lucrative and self-driven dream job that I actually enjoy. But I digress.

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The point is, I’m used to looking good in a stack of resumes and I’ve worked hard to make that so, but what if a new trend arises and resumes begin to fall out of favor as the primary way to set candidates apart?

Resume Vs. Portfolio

In lieu of a resume, what was Think Vitamin looking for? By what standard did they judge candidates if not by the universities they attended and the companies that they’ve worked for in the past ten years?

The answer is simple, and the more I thought about it the more I realized that my current career is a result of the same exact process. David Appleyard, the owner of Design Shack and manager of a few other sites where I got my start, has never once asked to see my resume. For all he knows he hired a long-time burger flipper to run his web design blog!

The thing that of course matters in these types of opportunities is real experience. Not the artificial kind that you pad a resume with mind you but real projects that people can see and evaluate. Instead of being concerned with who gave you your diploma, some intrepidly modern companies only want to see samples of work that you’ve done.

“Who says the art student in community college isn’t a better web designer than the ivy league graduate?”

I have to admit, this does seem a fairer and possibly more accurate measure of someone’s efficacy. By judging candidates’ work before all else, the playing field is suddenly leveled in an intriguing way. Who says the art student in community college isn’t a better web designer than the ivy league graduate? A quick look at their portfolios would tell me a lot more than a Word Document with bullet points rambling on about their respective career goals.

A Narrow Trend

If you look around the web design industry right now, resume-less job searches aren’t really that rare. Web-based writing jobs share a similar trend. These types of careers obviously lend themselves to this type of a candidate search though, it’s easy to judge a designer or writer based on the work that they’ve produced. Unfortunately, not all careers are so ideally matched to this process. For everyone from restaurant managers to plumbers, a written resume might still prove to be the best and most convenient way to sift through potential hires.

“We’re all a bunch of kids using the web as a giant refrigerator”

Those of us in the creative industry though live in a different world. It’s like we’re all a bunch of kids using the web as a giant refrigerator to hang our art on, win the appreciation of mom and beat out our pesky siblings. Should you have a strong resume? Absolutely. Should you bet on it winning you work all on its own? Absolutely not.

Create a Portfolio Site, Now

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If you’re like many web designers, you simply haven’t gotten around to building yourself a personal online portfolio. Unfortunately, this could prove to be a career-stopper in the long-term, so it’s time to make the time.

To stay competitive, you absolutely need a place on the web where you can showoff your recent work. Pull out all the stops and make it as impressive as you can. Also, make sure that the site itself accurately represents your skill set in addition to showcasing your best client work.

Need some inspiration? Our Web Design Gallery is chock full of amazing designer portfolios from talented people all over the world.

Not Just for Freelancers

If this information seems like ancient news to you, you’re probably a freelancer. Freelancers have long been living in a fairly resume-free environment. Clients almost always hire freelancers based purely on the work that they’ve done in the past, so why is it that design agencies take the old resume route? It’s likely because established companies simply feel like that’s the grown-up way to hire someone, but as Think Vitamin and others prove, this trend is shifting.

“Clients almost always hire freelancers based purely on the work that they’ve done in the past, so why is it that design agencies take the old resume route?”

When you’re job hunting, the kind where you dress up and go for interviews, you’d probably be surprised if the manager behind the desk refused your resume, but it just may be the future of our industry. Regardless, it should definitely be one of your primary goals to move past resume building and onto creating a body of work that you can be proud of showing to anyone.

Conclusion

The message of today’s article is simple: for designers, a resume ain’t what it used to be. This has both pros and cons. If you hate boring, stuffy resumes and would rather let your work stand on its own merit, it’s becoming easier and easier to find employers who agree. Whether you’ve got a doctorate or are fresh out of high school might not matter as much as whether or not you can really do what you say you can.

On the other hand, if you look good on paper but don’t really have much real work to show off, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when it’s time to go job hunting. You need to make it a priority to build your portfolio up so that it stands out among that of your peers.

What do you think? Are resumes, education and employer history losing favor and giving way to a purely results-based analysis of your past work? Is a solid online portfolio the key to landing a good design job?