Resume Writing is Creative Writing

Creativity probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of resume writing. But your resume is actually a creative document. Many people assume a resume is just a list of stuff you’ve done, in the order that you did it. That’s a big mistake.

In fact, you have a ton of freedom when writing your resume. You are, of course, limited by the truth. Never claim to do something you haven’t actually done! But within the bounds of reality, you have plenty of room to express yourself.

The purpose of a resume is persuasion. You are making the case that you’re qualified for the position, and you should tailor your resume for each new application. Interpreting years of jobs, projects, volunteer work, education and learning to show you can do a particular job requires imagination and ingenuity.

You’ll need to be creative to craft awesome accomplishment statements that capture what you achieved in a previous job. You’ll need to select the experiences that are most relevant for a given position–and it helps to think outside the box. You’ll also need to use some imagination in how you present those experiences, selecting the best formatting for your field.

What can you title your headings in order to best highlight what you’ve done? What order of sections puts your experience in the best possible light? How can you describe that volunteer project in a way that’s concise, convincing, and relevant? How will you reinterpret your skills and qualifications for each job or program?

Here are just a few of the ways you’ll need to exercise your creative judgment when developing your resume.

  • Choosing which experiences to include and which to leave off
  • Crafting language that captures what you did in a way that others can understand
  • Arranging visual elements so that the most important information jumps off the page
  • Summarizing your entire educational and professional history on just one sheet of paper
  • Finding and demonstrating transferable skills that are relevant to this job from experiences that may seem totally unrelated at first glace
  • Speaking directly to the posting while apparently talking only about yourself
  • Identifying and highlighting the things that really make you stand out as a candidate

Your resume is not just a generic list of jobs and credentials. It’s a living, persuasive document that should get people’s attention and convince them you’re the right pick. Condensing years or decades of experience into a single page of relevant, well-written content requires more than a little creative thinking. A great resume is a work of art.

Shalom Leo Bond
Career Development Facilitator
UNM Career Services