Are non-traditional or visual CVs a good idea?

Although they may not be mainstream, there is a trend for designers or creatives to offer a visual CV. But what are the pros and cons of ‘creative’ résumés for the rest of us? Let’s kick off the discussion with a case study of a CV that went viral across the internet (click graphic to view larger).


You can also view 16 more examples of visual CVs on Cool Infographics.

The pros…
Michael Anderson’s infographic CV provoked a massive amount of social bookmarking and online sharing, elevating him to a top ranking on Google for those seeking ‘geek résumés’. In fact, the CV has earned him 36,250 page views since July 2008, with up to 3,000 visitors looking at his work on some days. That is A WHOLE LOT of people, and presumably potential employers, looking at his CV.

Michael successfully tapped into the fact that everyone has to create a CV at some point, that many of us HATE doing this with a vengeance and that we all still want to stand out from the crowd.

This innovative infographic ‘shows’ rather than just tells future employers what the candidate can do in that it demonstrates his skill in creating visuals.

The cons…
But while TechMynd deems it awesome and says that “when you’re talking about creative jobs, there are simply no rules on how to present yourself”, we disagree.

The problem for hirers and human resources departments is that may struggle to process such complex visual information or be unable to compare it with others presented in a more traditional CV format. The stats on coffee intake and humour levels, and  ‘lunyboy’ in his email address, may have raised a smile, but risk appearing unprofessional.

Even the creator said on his blog: “This is just concept art, as there are almost no real metrics represented except for time.” (Hence he offers a traditional CV for download.)

What happened next?
We contacted Michael Anderson to see what happened when his visual CV went viral and this is what he told us: “The strange thing is, I got a job from the résumé about four months BEFORE it started getting traction on the internet. I have landed a few freelance gigs, mostly fun ones. But because I now work 45+ hours a week, I have missed a couple of truly golden opportunities, too.”

We hope to have Michael – now known as ‘The Résumé Guy’ – guest blogging his viral CV experience here on the Firehead blog soon (subscribe to the Firehead feed).

The professional recruiter’s view
What do the professional hirers think of such tactics? CJ Walker, Firehead’s CEO, had this to say:

“I’ve seen a few different takes on IT/Web CVs, and although the idea of presenting your CV visually is appealing from a creative point of view, it’s definitely not the best approach to take when looking for a corporate or agency job.

“It’s good that Michael presented it as part of his portfolio rather than as his main CV because a CV is a document meant to provide certain information that hirers find useful, and in a format they can process in their established systems. Chances are, they would not be able to do this with an infographic. And if they can’t, you simply won’t be present in the review.

“Gimmicks are for getting noticed, sure, but they are risky. I believe that in the world of job search, they brand you as an outsider trying to go around the rules. Not a favourable view when you’re competing to land a job.

“Michael’s infographic certainly caught people’s interest, though, and might lead candidates into thinking this is what they have to do. I can see a Firehead mission statement on CVs coming soon – so if you have any other thoughts or questions, please post them in the comments and I’ll respond in a future post.”

What do you think?
We’d love to know what you think of visual or non-traditional CVs, whether you are an employer who has received them or a job-hunter tempted to create one. Perhaps you’ve used a gimmick as part of a job application, or included unusual content or innovative design on your CV? More importantly, do they work? We’d be interested to know if it helped or hindered in getting the job?

NOTE: We’ve now created a form under Candidate Services where you can fill in your details and upload your CV quickly and easily – we have new content and communications roles in Europe becoming available every day.

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  1. For once, I can feel forward thinking. I did an infographic CV about ten years ago. Ok, so I ripped off the London tube map, but it did the trick and got me the job that taught me a lot that forms the basis of what I know.

    My problem with these sorts of approaches to a CV is that many of them seem to be the antithesis of what infographics are about, which is making information simpler than it was in its original format.

    If the worst should happen, and I ever become an employer, I’d look at overly designed CVs with an element of suspicion, and assume they were a case of style over substance – but I would look at them, that’s for sure!

CVs Recruitment