Land the Job

Selfies, emojis and rainbows of color: Recruitment experts give their verdict on creative resumes

Photo by Joshua Barnatt

In today's competitive job market — where hiring managers can spend as little as seven seconds looking at a resume — jobseekers may be tempted to add a little creative flair to their applications to help them stand out from the pack.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this has led to a new phenomenon — resumes are beginning to resemble social media profiles, with emojis, headshots and even bitmojis making an appearance.

CNBC spoke to recruitment experts about how far job applicants should go when it comes to designing a creative resume.

Keep it simple

Speaking to CNBC via email, Deepa Somasundari, director of client success at global job site Indeed, urged jobseekers to err on the side of caution.

"Jobseekers can apply some creative techniques, but always remember that relevance is what catches an employer's gaze — not emojis," she advised.

Instead of spending too much time and effort trying to create an innovative resume, Somasundari suggested making simple alterations to creatively enhance the information most likely to earn you an interview.

"One way of highlighting specific skills, experiences and achievements is by bolding the text," she said. "This will help draw the attention of employers to your abilities."

ZipRecruiter's CEO says you need to do these three things to land a job
ZipRecruiter's CEO says to do these three things to land a job

Darain Faraz, careers expert at LinkedIn, agreed that being creative doesn't have to equate to over-the-top artistic flair.

"A 'creative CV' doesn't necessarily have an outlandish format and a rainbow of color — it just means presenting the information you really want to get across so it stands out from the norm," he told CNBC in an email.

He explained that this could mean pulling out important figures — such as a number of awards won or a sum of money saved in a previous role — putting key career milestones into a timeline format, or listing skills alongside a visual aid to denote how well-versed you are in them.

Consider the role

According to Jo Cresswell, community expert at Glassdoor, appropriate limits of creativity are dependent on the industry you're hoping to join.

"Creative industries or creative roles lend themselves more naturally to visual, dynamic and even interactive CVs," she said. "Rather than applicants listing on their CV that they are proficient in design software, for example, they can actively demonstrate that capability through the format of their application."

Cresswell added that hiring managers in corporations or more traditional industries, such as finance or law, were unlikely to be won over with colorful or visual resumes.

Hack your next job interview to improve your odds of being hired
Hack your next job interview to improve your odds of being hired

"Instead, hiring managers will want to see clear achievements through numbers and detail as well as evidence of technical skills and capabilities," she told CNBC. "They won't want images and colors to distract. Application tracking software must also be considered, as less traditional CVs may not lend themselves well to being uploaded and re-formatted."

Speaking to CNBC in a phone call, Kate Brooks, executive director of the Career Center at Vanderbilt University, agreed that the key is to bear the intended audience in mind.

"Ask yourself: 'Is what I'm doing relevant to my audience? Is this appropriate for the job I'm applying for?'" she suggested.

Emojis and selfies — there's a time and a place

Brooks added it was wise not to go too wild when it came to creative decisions.

"Younger folks may be using emojis, but I would be very cautious about that. Usually we use emojis to convey emotion, but your writing should convey that on your resume," she said.

"People use creative resumes to try to stand out — they think if they use color or a different format it will make them stand out," Brooks added. "That is correct — you will stand out — but will the person reading it see that as a positive or will they see it as a gimmick?"

When it came to including a headshot or photograph of yourself, Brooks again recommended considering whether it was really appropriate.

"In the United States you generally don't put a photo on your resume — the only people who do that tend to be real estate agents or models," she said. "Otherwise you probably have a photo on your LinkedIn profile, but you don't need to put one on your resume."

The key for showing off your creativity is to let your work speak for itself, Brooks told CNBC.

"If you're moving into a creative field one of the things you can do is have a portfolio that showcases your creativity," she said.

"The whole point of a resume is to explain your background — but are you being so creative that you're making it harder for a would-be employer to find what they need?" Brooks added. "Always ask someone else to look at your resume and see if they can find the key information."