The dreaded résumé. How can one love something meant to condense and cram a person’s life and career into a handful of pages? We as job hunters hate them because they never seem to sufficiently convey what we do or how we do it, and it’s usually the first impression any potential employer gets of us. Employers have a love/hate relationship with them because they do, at first, provide an apparently good abstraction of a potential hire, but it’s a thin veneer that quickly rubs away when they come face to face with an individual that barely seems to match up with that first impression.
After taking a look at my résumé a few days ago I decided that it was time for a complete overhaul- the format I was using didn’t represent my current focus on user experience well enough and frankly it just didn’t represent me very well any more. This time, however, I was going to approach this as a UX project and apply my current processes and principles to my résumé just as I would any other project. Here’s how it went:
Identifying the key problems
My career has spanned more than ten years now. In that time I have been a designer for both print & web, a front-end developer, an animator, an illustrator, a logo designer, an information architect, a usability tester, a public speaker, a presentation graphics specialist, a game journalist, and a video editor just to name a few. That is a wide spectrum of skills, and while I am definitively focused on UX at this point, I feel that all of these skills absolutely contribute to my capability in that area. I needed a solution that effectively conveyed this spectrum while keeping the emphasis on what I am doing now.
Another rough area has been my employment timeline: a patchwork of for-hire full-time jobs and self-employment and freelance periods, with a considerable amount of overlap between the two. Simply listing places of employment and positions held has proved insufficient as I am always questioned about perceived gaps during interviews. This new résumé needs to address that.
Ultimately, what I wanted to create was a more user-friendly document- something that presented information about me in a more appealing and intuitive fashion. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if it stood out from the rest of the pack as well.
Typically, my first step in a project engagement consists of discovery, so I decided to start off by doing some research and playing with a few ideas. One of the inspirations I had that led to this project stemmed from a joke I made earlier in the week about making a 4th Edition D&D character sheet version of my résumé; Listing my skills as daily, encounter, at-will powers, creating stats for myself, etc. I’d still like to do it for giggles, but thinking about the majority of the companies who might receive this, it just didn’t feel very practical. This line of thinking, however, did lead me to more fruitful territory: Personas. As persona creation is one of the cornerstones of the UX field, this dovetails nicely with the new focus of my résumé. While there are many ways to format and present personas, they typically fit onto a landscape aligned sheet of paper, have a headshot with a quote next to it, and partition out various sections like ‘Profile’ and ‘Goals & Motivators’.Design-wise, I felt the orientation would work very well, along with the immediate identification of a photograph for a follow-up interview. Content-wise, I especially liked the idea of using a profile section to tell a short narrative about myself, and adding in ‘Goals & Motivators’ could provide insight into not only why and how I do things, but the direction I’m headed.
Another thing that got the creative juices flowing when I started concepting this out was a résumé I discovered via a Huffington Post article about creative résumés, specifically the one shown by Michael Anderson. Utilizing infographics felt like the perfect solution to both my job history and skillset presentation problems; particularly, Anderson’s timeline execution was very close to what I needed. Some of his infographics seemed a little confusing but overall this felt like the final piece of the puzzle I was trying to assemble.
Starting with the hardest first: infographics
Since I knew I was going to be modeling my timeline pretty closely to the design that Michael Anderson did, I decided to tackle the less defined infographic I had in mind first- Skills.
My previous résumés typically broke out my skills into three groups: ‘web’, ‘graphic design’, and ‘multimedia’. While I still liked the idea of categorization, the categories themselves were pretty antiquated and not relevant to my current level of experience. I decided to go with ‘UX’, ‘Web’, and ‘Creative’, with more emphasis placed on ‘UX’ (it had been so long since the last revision that UX wasn’t really represented at all). From there I added all of the UX skills and shifted the focus of the rest away from types of software I was proficient in to terms more task oriented, i.e. instead of ‘Photoshop’ and ‘Final Cut’, using ‘Interaction Design’ and ‘Video Editing’ (As my experience has grown, the tools I use have become less relevant as I simply chose the best tool for the job or simply what is available to me at the time. I am much more flexible and agnostic than I used to be.) As I listed each skill out, I determined a numeric value between 1 and 10 to approximate my level of expertise with each particular skill. This was a fairly arbitrary designation, but it at least offered more information than a mere bullet list would, and it would work nicely with the type of visual I had in mind- a radial bar graph:
With that done, I proceeded to gather my data for the experience/employment timeline. The top half of the timeline represents my for-hire/ full-time employment periods and the bottom half represents my self-employed and freelance periods. Variances in the lines for each employment chunk arbitrarily represent level of activity, and as one for-hire piece drops down you’ll notice a spike in the lower half as freelance work picks up. Additionally, I represent my time with Console Gold/ Gaming Trend as an overlapping piece on the upper timeline, which I felt was more appropriate grouping with the for-hire section. The final product is what I feel the first proper representation of my work history, and eliminates the need to question perceived gaps or overlap due to a persistent level of freelance work throughout most of my career:
Putting it all together
With the infographics done, it was just a matter of filling in the blanks. The scale of the timeline graphic necessitated a two-page layout for the full résumé, and it made sense to make page one more of an ‘about me’ page with the skillset infographic, ‘Profile’, and ‘Goals & Motivators’, while page two was dominated by timeline. For ‘Profile’, I repurposed a bio I wrote for my IS ’09 speaking engagement last year and added a little bit more to it, retaining its tongue-in-cheek quality. My ‘Goals & Motivators’ touched on what I look for in a collaborative environment, my ambitions as thought leader , and my desires to teach and learn. Finally, I added ‘Recommendations’ underneath the work history timeline, pulling a few choice referrals from my LinkedIn profile. The results:
By no means am I claiming that this is the perfect résumé for UX practitioners or otherwise- everybody has different needs and different audiences. I merely wanted to show how turning my own processes inwards and applying user-centric thought to something as worn-out and tired as a résumé can yield a document that I’m actually proud to send out now. Based on early response I think my ‘users’ may be just as happy as I am.