Get your CV and folio right to get your foot in the door

In the middle of the COVID global pandemic there have been many unfortunate businesses having to pause, rethink and re-tool to concentrate on key issues. Inevitable downsizing putting some extremely capable and hardworking creatives back into the job market.

It feels like the right time to offer up some advice on nailing that CV and application to get your foot in the door.

Know who you are presenting yourself to

Your audience is likely a Creative Director, Executive Creative Director or a Design Manager of some sort. They are likely working across multiple projects, overseeing new business creative, marketing their own businesses, mentoring the team… in other words, your audience is likely to be fairly busy.

It’s also fairly safe to assume that your CV is one of many. Our last ad invited 135 CV’s in under 72 hours!

50 milliseconds* to make an impression

Studies have shown that it takes the average viewer 50 milliseconds to assess a website’s visual appeal. It makes sense that a very similar statistic holds true when assessing the first touchpoints of any job application.

Remember, that your audience wrote the job spec. They know exactly what type of person, with what specific skill level they are looking for. 

Any creative application will be very quickly judged on overall design skills, attention to detail, layout skills, information flow and visual ease of finding information, typography knowledge and much more.

Your 50 milliseconds worth of first impressions count enormously, so make sure you are using them wisely.

Folio first

A picture tells 1,000 words. Personally, my first port of call with any new candidate is their folio. Raw talent isn’t always defined by where a candidate might have attended university, or what they believe their level of Adobe CC Suite knowledge is. 

Within seconds, a quick scan of an online or PDF folio can help answer many of the important questions regarding talent ahead of concentrating on the finer details.

Some of the key indicators even a quick flick through a folio can give are

  • An eye for design. Can this candidate design at a level appropriate to the position on offer?
  • An eye for detail often shown by looking closely at layout and alignment.
  • The range of skills.
  • Typography knowledge and consideration.
  • Colour appreciation.
  • Graphic presentation skills.

Now… where is it?

In all our creative recruitment ads we clearly stipulate “no folio, no application”. It’s amazing how many applications still don’t include a folio at all.

Second in line for this booby prize are those that make potential new bosses jump through hoops to find a folio such as

  • including a non-clickable link and worse still, one that isn’t selectable forcing the retyping URL by hand (remember we are likely a little pushed for time).
  • including a link on LinkedIn but not replicating that link on a folio and/or CV – open LinkedIn / search for the candidate / confirm it’s the correct person / open contact info / possibly find folio link… possibly not
  • linking to a company website which often leads to the question…

…  and what did you actually work on?

A candidate once showcased the global Coca-Cola site across a couple of pages of prime folio space. On inspection, they had actually only worked on a small banner visible on only 1 of the 4 images presented.

Be honest and open about project involvement. It’s OK and even a bonus to show comfort and experience working in a team. Was the work developed by a team of designers? What roles were played within that team? What stages were you involved with… strategic idea generation all the way through to rollout or just the final artwork on a 160×160 banner?

Stories matter

Super brief… what’s your story? But more importantly, what would you like your story to be with our wonderful, amazing company should you are successful with your application?

War and Peace vs the Single side of A4 Holy Grail 

The quicker you can impress the more likely you are to hold your audience’s attention (there’s an advertising lesson in here somewhere).

Length is less important than the hierarchy of information. Get the order right and let the reader signoff when they have read enough.

So you think you know your Adobe CC?

I’ll admit, this might just be a personal bugbear but the trend for indicating Adobe CC Suite prowess using percentages, doughnuts or bar graphs must be put to rest. For one, being able to gauge a level of Photoshop knowledge means first knowing the total capabilities of said program. After 25 years working with Adobe CC suite, I can confidently tell you I do not know every inch of its capabilities. Especially as it’s a forever changing landscape with regular CC updates.

Leave off the bar charts and embrace the resulting negative space.

Show me the detail

Tiny imagery crammed into the bottom corner of a CV in a desperate attempt to follow the single A4 page advice isn’t going to help an employer get a good indication of your skills and capabilities. 

Find a way to let us see the detail in as much uncompressed glory as possible.

The final tip to potentially… tip that balance

Name your files with the expectation they will disappear into a folder full of CVs and PDF folios. “CV.pdf” isn’t going to help you be found easily at a later date.


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