don’t buy a professionally designed resume

A reader writes:

I was wondering what your thoughts are on super fancy resumes like the ones available from Loft Resumes and other outlets that offer professionally designed and custom typeset resumes. I had a friend on Facebook complaining about them, but he also said a lot of his friends think they are a great way to stand out (his friends are mainly recent college grads, so I guess take their opinions with a grain of salt). I’m of the thought that they are kind of gimmicky and if I were choosing between two candidates, I wouldn’t necessarily choose the fancy resume over a standard one. Unless I worked at a design firm?

Um, yeah. Be wary of advice on how to get hired from people who are new to the workforce.

In case anyone doesn’t know the resumes we’re talking about, there are now companies that you can hire to design your resume for you — with color, and custom typesetting, and fancy design elements. They’re beautiful — and they’re often a turn-off.

Here’s what I think when I see one of these I-hired-a-designer-to-make-this-for-me resumes:  Does this person think that their skills and achievements won’t speak for themselves? Do they not understand what employers are looking for? Do they put an inappropriate emphasis on appearances over substance?

At the same time, I’m sympathetic because I know that job-seekers have been inundated with (often bad) advice telling them that they need to “stand out” in the crowd. But this is not the way to do it. As I’ve said a hundred times now, the way to stand out is by being a highly qualified candidate and having a resume that shows a track record of achievement, writing a great cover letter, and being responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic.

“Standing out” isn’t about sending in an aesthetically gorgeous document — although the companies making money from that idea would like you to believe it is. “Standing out” is about the strength of your candidacy, which is something you can’t buy or fake or promote through even the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful font choice.

The only exception to the “don’t bother with a fancy resume design” rule is if you’re a designer or in a similar field, in which case your resume should show your design skills — but they should be yours, not the skills of someone you hired.

Now, I’m not going to say that there are no hiring managers, anywhere, who will respond to these. Some will. But they’re in the minority. And moreover, you don’t want to work for them, because employers who respond to gimmicks over merit in the hiring process do it with their employees too … so once you’re working there, you’ll end up complaining that the promotions and raises all go to the flashiest employees, instead of those with the best work. The hiring managers who you want to work for don’t need you to use gimmicks because they know how to identify the best candidate for the job all on their own.

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