In a competitive job market it’s tempting to want to make yourself stand out.
And since we are such a visually driven culture (studies show that you can convey more information faster with pictures than you can with words), it's not surprising that some job seekers are considering turning their resumes into infographics.
These visualizations of data are everywhere, from the best places in the world to start a business to the sleep schedules of some of history’s greatest minds.
And some believe that the data on your resume is the next logical step. Matt Cooper, CEO of Visual.ly, an online visual content marketplace, argues that it’s getting more difficult to fit an entire career into a simple chronological list.
"The world has gotten so competitive that employers are less likely to take a risk on a new employee without doing a thorough check of their job performance. And that means data—lots of it," he says.
But before you turn everything on your resume into a bar graph and pie chart, there are a few things to consider:
Not all hiring managers will appreciate an infographic resume. Dana Manciagli, a career coach and former hiring manager for companies like Microsoft and Kodak, advises against infographic resumes and warns that sending one is the quickest way to have your application put in the "no" pile. While Manciagli says it’s fine to post an infographic resume on your LinkedIn profile, you should never send one in addition to—and especially not instead of—a traditional resume.
"There is a flow to a resume for a reason—so the viewer can easily review by cruising down the document in an expected way," she explains. In addition, Manciagli believes an infographic resume minimizes the seriousness of the job application process. She also points out that one wouldn’t scan in a company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which scans resumes and captures keywords to assess a fit.
What about creative positions that might not use an ATS? "Some may argue that infographics are needed when applying to artistic, design, or creative jobs. I disagree. Show samples of real work you are proud of, not your resume in an image," Manciagli says.
"While infographics can certainly add value as a supplement to a candidate's resume or application, the position itself is most important when determining whether to submit graphic content along with a traditional resume," says Erin Anderson, senior vice president of Human Resources at education technology company 2U.
Anderson explains that while an infographic resume can provide an indication towards your creative capabilities and serve as an extra tool in your toolkit, she prefers to see the work of creative people through a portfolio or graphic samples.
She advises candidates for creative positions to consider including portfolios, graphic samples, or infographic resumes along with traditional resumes. "We think it's important to remember that many recruiters still rely on traditional resumes to view a candidate's industry experience and educational pedigree," she explains.
Amanda Augustine, Job Search Expert at job-matching service TheLadders, believes there is a time and a place for infographic resumes. She suggests including one if you have the option to pass your resume along to a networking contact or email your resume directly to a recruiter or hiring manager. But forgetting to include a more standard resume is a huge no no.
"I only advise including infographics on a resume if the infographics are sharp, clever, and highlight the candidate's achievements, as well as relate directly to the role the candidate is targeting," says Shari Rosen, a senior recruiter at Pandora that works with ad operations hires.
She says that while she doesn’t necessarily look for infographics on a resume, she is always impressed if an infographic resume ties into the role and business and is a clear, impressive visual. If this is the case, she recommends including charts and information that show the candidate's past success and passion about the company and role.
Visualizing any metric that reflects growth, whether it’s a percentage, number of new accounts or revenue, or number of people reached, is key says Mark Phillips of executive search firm network Sanford Rose Associates.
"The primary fault with most traditional resumes is that they focus on responsibilities not results," he explains. "Infographics put results front and center without sending the reader on a hunting expedition."
But while an infographic could be really effective at conveying this information in an engaging way, there are a few rules to keep in mind according to Phillips and Rosen.
Phillips thinks infographic resumes work well for creative disciplines and results-focused resumes, especially for job candidates in sales since they can highlight results and outcomes. But, generally, he would advise against executives using one, unless they are with early-stage startups.
Additionally, he warns about using an infographic just to stand out. "If your job history isn’t good, a graphical resume will highlight that fact," he says. "It will be clear to everyone that reads it that the infographic is simply an attempt to cover up the ugly truth."
If you do decide to experiment with creating some data visualizations on your resume, there are several things you should consider.
He offers these tips for creating an infographic resume that won't make recruiters cringe shared with us some tips for creating your own infographic resume:
Consider the rules of proper data visualization.
Select charts that make sense for the type of data you’re trying to visualize. For example, use bar or column charts for displaying skills expertise, but don’t use a line or area chart for this.
While an area chart might appear to be visually interesting, it is also confusing when used to convey skills. Generally our skills do not peak and decline over time, which is what such a chart would convey.
Keep it simple and short.
It’s more effective to use charts that are easy to understand and convey your message quickly. "Remember, you get only a few seconds with the recruiter or hiring manager," Woo warns.
Simple bubble charts do a good job of visualizing the number of years experience you have for each skill.
But ornamental design elements that aren’t used to convey information—"chart junk" as Woo calls it—and overly complex charts or anything that would require the hiring manager to spend a lot of time figuring out what you’re trying to convey will repel hiring managers. Don’t expect a hiring manager to read upside down text, discern various shades of color, and guess at the meaning of your graphic, because they won’t.
Woo also suggests being mindful of your infographic’s length, as they have a tendency to go long. "Data visualization is not about trying to fit everything into charts, but about curating and choosing only the most relevant data points to tell your story," he says.
Pick a color scheme.
Woo recommends bringing color psychology into the mix and choosing a color scheme targeted to your audience. Colors like blue and green, for example, can convey feelings of trust, Woo says.
Woo also advises against mixing and matching a random assortment of colors and instead suggests picking a color scheme that works for you and the reader. His default is to always choose a light background and a single color with multiple tones.
Tell a story.
Woo says that the most important thing to remember is to tell a story. "This story has to be congruent, concise, interesting, and creative," he says.
Cookie cutter resumes with long winded objective statements and boring bullet points of what you did since you were in high school won’t cut it, he says. Instead, he suggests opting for something more personal.
Include a call to action.
Think about what you want the viewer to do after reading your resume and include a clear call to action for your reader.
If you want to be contacted you should include a "Contact me" section with your contact information. If you want someone to connect to you via Linkedin, you should add a "Connect with me via Linkedin" section and link to your Linked profile. If you're a writer and you want people to look at your blog, you could add something like "Check out my writing" with a link to your blog.