A visual resume for non-designers: Great idea or gimmick?

Visual resumes are an eyecatcher. You may remember Chris Spurlock’s infographic resume, which was called potentially “the coolest student resume ever“. After the Missouri j-school blog posted it, it was cross-posted on the Huffington Post through a content-sharing agreement. HuffPo editor Craig Kanally helped make the resume go viral and eventually hired Spurlock as Infographic Design Editor.

“We couldn’t resist hiring him after seeing his amazing infographic resume, which became a viral sensation,” Arianna Huffington said in a press release. Success!

Graphics whizzes can shine

Spurlock told j-school buzz he was inspired by Michael Anderson’s visual resume, posted here. I also love Heather Billings’ venn diagram.

Chris (left) and Heather (right) have created unique graphic resumes using their design skills and creativity.

The site CoolInfographics collected a best of that inclues 18 resumes, but calls the trend “certainly not mainstream (yet).”

One problem: not everyone’s a graphic artist. This is an obstacle that VisualizeMe seeks to tackle. The site, currently in public beta, allows users to create their own visual resumes in a few clicks by pulling in their LinkedIn data.

Update, 11 a.m. Saturday: It appears the site has been hacked, so don’t go there right now. Read on to find out whether it’s useful.

A fun process, but limited customization

When I created my infographic resume, I found it easy to use the site and fun to play around with different graphics and colors. The result is here. As a point of comparison, you can look at my traditional resume in pdf-form.

The limitations of the site became obvious after a while. First of all, you can’t download the resume, which is unusual, to say the least. Yes, there are mouseovers that bring up details, but wouldn’t you want a pdf of your cool new resume to send someone? (I cheated and patched together the below image out of screengrabs.)

My graphic resume, created using VisualizeMe. Click on image for interactive version.

Skills are sized according to how many years you’ve spent acquiring them, not how good you are at them (you can enter both variables, but the first one is displayed more prominently in most visualization options). Unfortunately, that emphasizes the skills you’ve had longest, not the latest technique you learned that could set you apart. There’s a limit to how many sets you can enter for each category, for example a max. of five skills. I also wish the visualization allowed users to create a custom category such as “goals”.

But all in all, for a service that requires practically no graphics skills, you can create a sufficiently personalized graphic resume that, let’s be honest, looks pretty cool.

The question is, would you want to?

Does an infographic resume create unrealistic expectations about your skills? I think there’s something to be said for a resume that represents the best of your abilities. Will a hiring manager (maybe understandably) assume you can do these kind of graphics with ease, making an infographic resume a bad idea for someone who doesn’t have top-notch design skills? If you need a tool like VisualizeMe to create a graphic resume, you probably should not be creating one in the first place. Worse, does it appear gimmicky instead of serious?

Alison Green, who blogs at Ask a Manager, brings up another important point.

“Most (infographic resumes) I’ve seen fail the biggest resume test: presenting info managers want in easily skimmed format,” she replied to my question on Twitter, adding “But I’m open to being convinced!”

That’s a weak point of the graphic resumes from VisualizeMe. Details about your past experience are hidden in mouseovers. On first view, the only thing a manager can see is that you’ve done things, but now what you have done, which projects you were responsible for, what skills you acquired or initiative you took.

That’s why infographic resumes are so challenging: You have to translate those details into visual form without overloading your graphics with text. In the end, that means those resumes have to be specifically tailored to your experience and goals, something that a one-size-fits-all service will have trouble achieving.

2 thoughts on “A visual resume for non-designers: Great idea or gimmick?

  1. If you’re applying for a graphic design job, maybe. If you’re applying for a writing or editing job–or any job that requires a lot of writing–, probably not.

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