The resume has been around for some 500+ years now, thanks to Leonardo da Vinci.
Today there are more subtleties and challenges around the resume than ever. We’re talking file formats, resume types and the relevance of applicant tracking systems (ATS)…just to name a few.
For the UX Beginner, there’s an added expectation that resumes not only get the job done, but provide a good experience while communicating an applicant’s background. This is a complete guide on how to do that. This guide is split into six sections:
- Section 1: Goal of the Resume
- Section 2: Start with a Plain Text Resume
- Section 3: Essential Elements of the UX Resume
- Section 4: Designing Your Resume
- Section 5: Before You Send Your Resume
- Section 6: Free UX Resume Template
Section 1: Goal of the Resume
The goal of the resume is to communicate your work experience so that employers have a high level summary of who you are and quickly evaluate if you have the right background for the job.
In fact, knowing what a resume is in relation to two other application pieces – the cover letter and portfolio – will help create a lean resume that doesn’t try to do too much at once:
Example: if you catch yourself writing a long personal summary and don’t have enough space for the rest of your resume, save that for your cover letter. Think high-level and concise.
Next, let’s dive into what you should do before starting to write your resume.
Section 2: Start with a Plain Text Resume
Before you jump into Microsoft Word, I’d avoid any headaches and start writing in a plain text (.TXT) file. (Don’t worry, we’re still going to design a beautiful resume at the end).
When applying for jobs online (and sometimes you have to go through this formality even if someone can pass on your resume), resume-parsers present an obstacle to jump over. Resume parsers like simple. They don’t do well with fancy formatting.
Your goal is to have the parsers fully accept your resume, read it, and pick up keywords. This is why you go with something simple like a .TXT file. This approach is very handy for job portals that let you paste your resume:
Benefits of plain text:
- machines can scan and read it easily
- you can copy and paste the text between applications without worrying about formatting issues (very important, as you will see soon)
- Most programs can save documents as .TXT file, including Word and Google Docs.
- helps you focus on putting the content first
Section 3: Essential Elements of the UX Resume
Regardless of the profession, there are essential elements that every resume should have. Some of them are obvious, some of them not-so-obvious.
- Email Address
- Link to Portfolio
- Optional: Social media accounts. Include only if you have stuff you want potential employers to see
Summary (Optional, but recommended)
Write a short summary that tells employers who you are and how you relate to UX. This is a good place to show your passion about design. Here’s a good one:
This is arguably the most important part of your resume that UX Beginners should dedicate the most time to. It’s worth clarifying that experience is any professional work that relates to the job you’re applying to.
There’s no need to limit yourself to actual corporate jobs per se. This is especially true if you’re transitioning from another career.
If you volunteered for Taproot Foundation and did a major information architecture project for a client, that’s way more relevant than prioritizing something like “Financial Analyst” at the top of your experience section, even if the latter is more of a “real job.”
For more projects that would be relevant in the experience section, read 5 Hidden Sources of UX Portfolio Projects. Remember, the name of the game here is relevance.
Next, make sure to include:
- Name of company/project
- Your title (role) in the company/project
- Duration of project / time at company
- Concise statements on what you did
The most straightforward, reliable way to communicate that last bullet point – what you did – is to use a results-oriented approach. Answer the question: what did you do and what was the result?
Think highlights and results, instead of generalized information:
The skills section of your resume should be a straightforward list of, well, your skills. This section is mostly for resume parsers to pick up on your keywords, so you do want to get this right.
Fortunately, the keywords to use are often given to you. Take the job description you’re applying for, pull the keywords that relate to you, and use them in your skills section.
Here’s a snippet from a job description:
Based off of the above job description, the skills you should list are: Photoshop, Illustrator, Usability Testing, Prototyping. Other good skills to include are user research, sitemaps, user flows, information architecture, HTML and CSS. Read every job description carefully and tailor your skills section accordingly.
Sidenote: Our increasingly visual culture has led to the popularity of “skill bars” and “skill infographics” such as this one:
The simple answer: not necessary. It doesn’t add much substance to your resume. If a company is interested in you, they will refer to your work experience. If they are specifically interested in your skills, then this will come up in the first interview anyway. But if you must, here’s a better approach (because it’s more descriptive):
Education is not necessarily a must-have item on your resume depending on your work experience. A Senior Interaction Designer with 10+ years experience and a ton of previous jobs has already communicated her expertise in the field. A new grad, on the other hand, is better off listing her Dual Degree in Marketing and Design.
If it’s relevant and it helps, show it off. More examples:
One individual might have just graduated with an MS in Human-Computer Interaction, so she should definitely put that down.
But someone else (me) who has a degree in Economics might put down Cal State Fullerton UX Certificate, UCLA UX Course, and General Assembly’s UX Program instead.
Awards and Recognition
Definitely include any awards and recognition you’ve received, because it’s a testament from other parties that you have great design skills. Simple as that.
Section 4: Designing Your Resume
Now for the fun part. You’re going to take all that previous work and turn it into a designed resume that’s easy on human eyes. This resume, compared to plain text, is meant for human consumption and to give hiring managers a positive first impression. Let’s walk through exactly how to do that.
Build with a vector tool
Use Illustrator, Sketch, Omnigraffle or whatever vector tool at your disposal. This is because vectors are scalable, so if you decide to resize your icons and such, it’d be no sweat. Vector tools tend to give you much better control over typography and alignment.
Make it easy to read
- Use white space. Don’t try to cram a bunch of information together. Let your design breathe
- Line-length: keep it between 50-60 characters. Read more from the Baymard Institute
- Visual Hierarchy: Section titles should be consistent, as should spacing between different elements & blocks of text.
Emphasize the most important information
Again, most important information should be your experience. Make sure that this content sits front and center, and is not distracted by other less important elements
A Couple More Design Tips:
- Pick 1 or 2 fonts.
- Don’t use Times New Roman or Comic Sans. Also avoid script or fancy/illustrative fonts.
- If using 2 fonts, use a thoughtful Google Font pairing
- Use color sparingly (1 or 2). It’s okay if your resume is completely done in shades of gray.
Section 5: Before Pressing Send
Before you send this off, remember these quick tips:
- Get a friend to read over your resume to catch any typos and grammatical errors
- Have someone do a “6-second test” on your resume. What do they remember? What was their general impression from reading your resume? (also take note what they didn’t see)
- Output in PDF. This is the best file format for presentation.
Absolutely do not send your resume as an image file like PNG or JPG, or files meant to be edited like .PS files.
- Name your PDF with your name in it.
On that last note, I’m surprised to hear from recruiter friends that they get a ton of resumes named “Resume.pdf,” which doesn’t help candidates stand out.
Section 6: UX Resume Templates
If any of the above sounds time-consuming – especially designing a clean, readable resume – no worries. UXBeginner is providing all email subscribers a 3 free templates in Sketch and one in Adobe Illustrator.
Here’s a screenshot (not as high-res as PDF) of what subscribers get: