I reviewed a resume recently with a drawing of a warrior woman in leather and metal armor taking up the left side of the page from top to bottom. And I applaud it’s inclusion. The resume is for a costume designer/conceptual artist. The colorful drawing was completely appropriate for it’s audience.
The same drawing on a graphic designer’s resume when applying for a job creating brochures for a mainstream company would be wildly inappropriate. I say this because it appears (from the dozens of writer’s resumes I’ve recently reviewed) that creative professionals tend to blur their boundaries.
Everything on a resume should have a purpose, and that purpose is to show your benefit to the prospective employer. Let me say that again; your resume is not about you, it’s about what you offer to fulfill your employer’s needs. The fellow who sent me a six-page resume/essay on why he’s a writer, beginning with a lonely childhood and spritely imaginary friends and ending with the ability to paint the night sky with rainbow words of color does not demonstrate the ability to meet my professional needs.
Let’s look at another example. Say Sears is looking for a web designer. Should you include the web address for a personal website expressing your love for The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Or the site you designed all about vampires and werewolves? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “no.” Sears needs to know your ability to build professional e-commerce sites, so only include such site samples on your resume.
Returning to everything must have purpose, do not use clipart, webdings, or flourishes that satisfy your creative bent and have no other purpose. If the prospective job DOES have a strongly creative element, match your creative additions to the needs of the company and be sure not to use copyrighted or trademarked material. If Disney is looking for an artist to illustrate their children’s books, it will be very tempting to use Disney characters as border art on your resume. While that is arguably fair use under copyright law, it’s better not to approach that line. Use your own characters that coincide with the intended market. Disney will not be responsive to bloody, child-snacking gnomes in the border of your resume.
In the same way, creative professionals should tailor their portfolio to be a targeted tool of display. While your master portfolio should have examples of everything you ever produced, you should cull those samples for work relevant to your target company.
Employers do want creative people, but as Paul Newman put it in The Color of Money, they need to know if you can “flake off and on at will.” In other words, creative individuals need to cultivate their professional muse as much as their fanciful muse, and know when to bring forth the right one at the right time.