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Trend Watch: Infographic resumes

Posted by John Telford on Jul 28, 2015 2:31:17 PM

Over the last few years, the use of infographic resumes has been on the rise. 

There may be a few factors that led to this — the growth of social media, the introduction of Pinterest, infographics' widespread exposure via the internet as well as readily available DIY programs to help the general public in creating their own infographics. 

Whatever the reason, infographic resumes can easily border on being something very good or something very, very bad. It depends on the industry you're trying to get a job in, and how much experience you have creating infographics.

Much of the hoopla surrounding infographic resumes can be traced back to this one.

SpurlockGraphicResume

Chris Spurlock's 2011 take on the new resume format landed the freshly graduated University of Missouri j-school student a job at The Huffington Post. But back in 2008, a guy named Michael Anderson put this one (see below) together for himself.

 

anderson_infographic_resume

 

Now, these individuals are obviously, based on the skillsets and experience outlined in their resumes, in creative art/graphic design fields, so it would seem appropriate that their resume designs showcase their creativity. However, if you really look at the content of their resumes, I think they come up short when compared to a more traditional format.

Information graphics should aid in understanding. They should make it easier for a person to grasp the information being presented, and overall, I'd say these two examples actually make it more difficult to understand Spurlock's and Anderson's skill sets and professional histories. For example, let's look at Anderson's employment and academic history which are combined onto a kind of timeline/area chart.

At first glance, this might seem like a pretty smart, economical way to display this information, but the execution and rationale for the data behind the chart is a little dubious. The resume states that the "area (in the area chart) represents energy expenditure over time." Great, but what does that mean? How many units of energy are being measured? Is it manhours, calories, productivity, what? We don't know because the chart doesn't tell us, and therefore we have no idea whether or not to be impressed because we can't judge how these histories are being quantified in the chart.

Additionally, we can't judge the time spent working at each job or getting an education because the years on the timeline are not consistent lengths and no labels are provided beyond the year itself. Consequently, we're left guessing at the amount of time spent for each job/academic milestone.

Some of the same issues exist in Spurlock's employment/academic timeline, though he does avoid the vagueness of "energy expenditure" and there is a banded background that suggests each year is broken into three 4-month blocks of time, so there is a little more information we can glean from his timeline. However, I'd argue you're still left guessing/estimating versus simply listing the dates you worked somewhere as you would in a standard resume format.

The other charts on each of these resumes also raise similar questions and suffer from the same issues of how the information is being quantified which means these resumes don't do a very good job of conveying information, which is the primary goal of an infographic.

Now, there is something to be said for creativity here, and certainly Spurlock's resume didn't hurt him since he landed a pretty impressive job right out of college. However, if you're thinking about making an infographic resume for yourself, here are a few tips that you should consider before you take the plunge:

  • Many people who use them don't actually work in industries that love this kind of resume. Generally, the only people who could stand to use an infographic resume to land a job are people looking for work in fields where creativity is appreciated. Applying for a graphic design job? Sure, use your infographic resume as a sort of work sample. It just may catch the eye of someone in the company because of the unique style you bring to your resume. Applying for a job as an insurance underwriter? An infographic resume probably shouldn't be your first choice.
  • Infographic resumes don't always showcase your traits in the most positive light. You don't often find that someone has hired another person to build a resume for them. You may seek out the advice of a wise relative or close friend who has recently gone through the job search experience, but typically you will craft your own resume. Same goes for building the infographic resume you plan to use. When done correctly (and for the right field as we mentioned above), this can be a great tool for you. However, all too often we have seen infographic resumes that end up shining a bad light in one area or another because they were built using dubious, non-quantifiable data. For example, are you planning on using a bar chart to showcase your skills? How can you actually quantify your skills, though, especially in comparison to one another? We've seen this before, and all it does is make the things you are less experienced in look insignificant when you compare them to areas that are your strengths.

    resume_skills_bar_chart
    In the example above, which was taken from an infographic resume posted online, the job seeker has illustrated his technical skills on a scale for 0-100, but 0-100 what? Additionally, trying to quantify these skills and put them into a chart casts some skills in a negative light relative to others.
  • The first person who sees the stack of resumes sometimes has no clue what they are looking at. Oftentimes you are asked to send your resume to a generic hr at company dot com email address, or something similar. This could mean that the first person who sees your resume is not necessarily the hiring manager for the position, but a human resources person who is quickly glancing at your resume to verify that you meet the minimum qualifications. Human resources professionals are typically very business-minded and might not see the value in an infographic resume.
  • You could be putting yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to being selected for a call back, let alone an interview. Many times companies use software to search resumes for keywords that they are seeking relative to the position they are hiring for. When you use an infographic resume that is (most likely) saved as a PDF, JPEG or other format that doesn't play well with this text-scanning software, you no longer have keywords in your document that can be searched. This means your name will not show up on a list of prime candidates for the position. Even worse, your resume won't be archived in the company's database of potential employees, and you'll be eliminated from consideration from any future job openings.

  • Use a traditional resume to supplement you infographic resume. If you do create an infographic resume for yourself, be sure to also include a more traditional resume design with any job application — whether you're submitting it online or in person. Ideally you want that more traditional resume to be in a format that is easily scannable by keyword-searching software, and it'll help with any HR personnel who are reviewing your application who are more accustomed to reading conventional formats.

When it comes to finding a job today, we know the competition can be tough. It's natural to want to try something that will help you stand out from the crowd, and while we're huge advocates for using information graphics to communicate more effectively, we also know that they aren't always the best method in every situation. We hope this helps to educate any future job seekers on the advantages and disadvantages of using infographic resumes to sell yourself to a potential employer. They may be fun, and they look pretty, but you should take great caution in using one of these just because they're trendy or hot at the moment.


the anatomy of an infographic guide
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Topics: Infographics, The Huffington Post, Infographic uses, Infographic Resumes, Trendwatch, Michael Anderson, Chris Spurlock

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