MBA Career Advice: Don’t Get Too Cute With Your Resume Design

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

Being in the coaching business, we have naturally received the link to this post on Buzzfeed a few times in the past few weeks – “27 Beautiful Resume Designs You’ll Want to Steal.”

Many of these resumes are aesthetically interesting and eye-catching. Many are colorful, fun, engaging and different. Many are suitable for positions in the design field, where they will want to know that you can… design! Many are appropriate for creative fields like advertising. But… Virtually all are inappropriate to send to typical post-MBA employers – namely consulting firms and investment banks. We are not trying to say that these resumes are “bad,” but we are trying to say that you should know your audience and understand what they expect from you.

When you are applying for a job in what can generally be regarded as a traditional or conservative environment, you will probably want to send in a traditional/conservative resume. You won’t get any points at JP Morgan if you write, “Sara Duncan wants to work with you” (Buzzfeed resume 1) in large bolded font, nor will you get any points at McKinsey for attaching a candid shot of yourself (Buzzfeed Resume 5). The reason why these firms demand straightforward resumes is because they are accustomed to receiving large volumes of resumes in a fairly consistent manner so that they can consume the information rather easily. They also expect your accomplishments to speak for themselves. These firms want a standard resume because they want to know that their staff will understand a professional audience – they don’t want any mavericks trying anything unorthodox in a professional presentation, for example.

So, there is room to deviate from the standard resume design, if you are certain that it will be welcomed by your employer. But, if it is not, we would advise that you avoid risks and stick with the traditional approach. In the meantime, you can admire the designs that Buzzfeed provides. Some are a lot of fun!

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