Designing Your Resume and Portfolio with the User in Mind

Craig and Adele

Craig Hodges and Adele Wootton came to visit us from Creative Niche, a recruitment management company that helps connect employers with the top talent in the creative industry. Adele is the Director of Client Services, and Craig is the Relationship Manager. They both have many years of experience working in creative recruiting, and shared valuable tips regarding resumes and online portfolios. They covered how to conduct yourself in an interview, soft skills and hard skills, and the difference between working for agencies versus client-side. If you’re looking for a job in the near future (like me), you might want to read this!


Creative Niche matches talented individuals with their clients’ job opportunities. They also help companies write better job descriptions to increase application rates.

Coming from four years worth of intensive co-op resume and interview training at U of T, I already heard much of what was covered in this talk, but it’s nice to hear it again because there are always new trends when it comes to resume writing. Apparently a lot has changed since I last applied for a job in 2012. Here are some of the new things I learned:


A resume is essentially an extension of yourself in written and visual form. How it’s designed, what it says, and how it says it, should mirror your personality. It goes without saying that the resume should be tailored to the job you’re applying for. Resumes ask the client to see you as a certain type of person, so be very careful about how you present yourself.


If even the most beautifully designed resume is unclear to the employer, it misses the point entirely and will end up in the shredder. Keep it simple and highlight your strengths, but don’t over-do it.

Adele and Craig reminded us that like a good website, resumes should keep user experience in mind. For example, consider how your resume will look like when it’s printed in colour, or in black and white. Will it still be legible? Will colours fade out or obstruct crucial text? I recently learned about the importance of print-testing my resume when it came out barely legible because of poor colour choice. On the other hand, don’t use huge blocks of colour in your resume because it could waste the employer’s ink. There’s nothing more ironic than applying for a User Experience position and not considering how the employer experiences your resume.


Even the most tech-saavy person might not be the best fit in a company. Technical skills can always be learned or improved upon over time, but personable skills and the ability to ‘mesh’ well with others can’t be taught overnight. That’s why it’s important to be honest with yourself in your resume and during the interview. Don’t exaggerate or embellish your skills because one day you could be asked to prove yourself.


During the talk, it was mentioned that job interviews was like speed dating, which I found to be pretty funny because it’s true. In both cases, you’re being judged for compatibility and fit. Physically your palms get sweaty, your heartbeat speeds up, and you become a bit awkward (or maybe it’s just me). Thankfully, Adele and Craig gave us useful interview tips during stressful situations.


I’m the kind of person who gets rambly when talking about myself, or my work. I’ve been taught to use “STAR” (Situation, Task, Action, Result) during interviews to get to the point, and it has served me well. Adele and Craig told us about a similar method, “PAR” (Problem, Action, Result). Both serve the same purpose: to contextualize your work and keep you on-point and focused on the question at hand. This also extends to resume writing. Since resumes are mostly scanned rather than read, it’s important to get straight-to-the-point without boring the reader.


It’s good to do research beforehand to see what the company’s culture is like. How you conduct yourself, your behaviour and your personality should be compatible with the company’s personality and values. If you’re a person who likes structure and balance (like me), you might not fit well in a company with an unstructured environment and long hours. Be honest with yourself about what kind of people and atmosphere you’d like to surround yourself with, and don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not.


This chart compares what it’s like to work at an agency versus client-side. Where do you see yourself fitting in?


Only showing a site on one platform isn’t gonna cut it anymore. A site’s story — its conceptualization and process — is just as important as the final product. Adele and Craig encouraged us to take our online portfolios further by showing a larger scope of design work that tells a story. Show the site through a range of platforms — mobile, tablet, desktop, and show process work, even if it isn’t required of you. Walking the employer through your process helps them better understand the way you think. I’ve heard it said that what distinguishes one designer from the next is their ability to articulate their thought process. I think this saying is very true because the web design industry is all about communication and persuasion. If you aren’t able to effectively talk about your work, you’ll have a hard time convincing clients of why they should go with your idea.


It should come as no shock that the employer is going to do more than just look at your resume. They’ll be ‘googling’ you and checking your profile on LinkedIn, so it’s important to be active and up-to-date on this social platform. Another trend is that home addresses no longer need to be included in your resume because it might cause the employer to think that you can’t get to the company on time due to how far away you live. For the daring, consider doing a video resume to supplement your print resume. It might give you an edge against the competition.


Overall, I’m grateful that Craig and Adele shared these valuable tips with us. I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of polishing up my resume and LinkedIn profile, and I think it’ll be exciting to see how I rebrand myself. Their talk left me thinking about a few questions: I wonder how these resume trends came about, and whether employers truly stay on top of them. What if a company is still stuck in the old-school way of writing a resume, and they still look for things like your address and references? Regardless of the answers, I think it’s important to keep up with resume trends even if some companies don’t. I was surprised to see some resume examples that used a lot of graphics. I personally think it’s very tricky to use a lot of graphics in a resume because it might detract from your message, but I salute those who can do it effectively.


• Track where you sent your resume, and what you wrote in each one.
• Have realistic expectations, and be honest with yourself.
• In terms of branding, be consistent across the board in all your social networks.

Stay social! Follow Creative Niche on Twitter @CreativeNiche, Facebook and Youtube.



3 thoughts on “Designing Your Resume and Portfolio with the User in Mind

  1. This is terrific, and an unexpected treat! Thank you for being such a great host and for capturing our message so well. (Not to mention the fantastic caricatures!! Very well done!)

    Best regards,

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