Infographic Resumes: Great or Weird?

Avatar of Heather Krasna, MS
Heather Krasna, MS

My good friend Jon recently alerted me to a page of infographic resumes.

As a career counselor for the last 12 years, I will admit that I find these resumes to be so different from what I’m used to that I am a bit annoyed by them. Actually, I find them extremely annoying.
But it doesn’t matter what I think. And much as I love my readers, it also doesn’t matter what anyone on this blog thinks, unless they are in one and only one category: prospective employers.

In fields where advanced design skills are needed and/or in the field of infographics itself, this will probably be a smash success. I admit, these resumes are really interesting and cool-looking. They are sometimes hard to read, but this is mitigated by the innovation demonstrated.

In fields like accounting, social work, general management… I think this has a 50/50 chance of being either a total disaster, or at least interesting enough to get a second glance from the hiring manager… who will then decide if the person is too strange, too creative, or too self-involved to be interviewed. This is the risk anyone runs when they present themselves to an employer as different or unique in a way that doesn’t fit with what the employer might value. I’ve seen some strange resumes in my time, and in general I stick with the tried and true Word version, without any weird graphics or fonts or odd colors. Yes, they make you stand out. But so does painting your face purple at the interview, and that won’t get you hired either.

What do you think?

Heather Krasna is the author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service

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13 Comments

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Lauren Modeen

First off, I think some of these resumes are definitely cool. Secondly, I am slightly torn in whether I think they are the right way to go. I do feel, for some jobs that require this exact kind of work (designer, architect, data), this is simply a nice way to show the employer up front how you think, and what they might expect out of your work product. So in that sense, I say, why not?

At the same time, depending on who looks are your resume first, you may alienate some people. Or, you may have an employer fall in love at first glance. I guess it all depends.

I suppose in many ways its no different than submitting a college application essay that colors way outside the lines of the typical. If you get someone reading it on the other end that it really resonates with it – may be a shoe in. Otherwise, they may think you are too creative, self involved, etc, like you mentioned…

At the end of the day, a person is free to present themselves however they like, and if it work, more power to it. If everyone snubs their nose, they may consider their approach, and keep the work product to after they are hired…

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Stephen Peteritas

I’m willing to bet for every awesome one of these there is there are probably at least 10 horrible ones. I think you really have to know where you are applying in order for something like this to work… I know at GovLoop we’d love one of these but at a big establish company I’m not sure they’d want something like that. Sadly the gov’t is probably on the stiffer side of this issue.

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Doris Tirone

I agree with your assessment, Heather. One would put forth ill-fated effort if they submitted an “infographic resume” in application for a Fed job. Despite Hiring Reform 2010, OPM guidelines still require applicants to supply specific data to assist in evaluating their basic qualifications. If this can’t be accomplished by their resume, applicants will not make the 1st cut. After that point, however, the addition of an “infographic resume” might just do a good job of setting an applicant apart from peer-applicants, especially if applying for a more creative-type position like Architect, Drafting Specialist, Design Engineer or the like. As for business-related positions, I whole-heartedly agree the “infographic resume” would have to become mainstream before it would bowl over the Hiring Manager who seeks a bean-counter, a social science based professional, or a general administration or management employee.

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

I think that this is a great way to illustrate targeted design skills for niche jobs that require specialized design skills. This is a great way to provide work examples and demonstrate creativity. However, I assume that, like video resumes, this actually supplements a more traditional resume, rather than replacing it. Thanks for sharing these examples.

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Julia Tanasic

What are we all arguing about? Change. Yes, exactly.
Using infographics to display professional and academic milestones is a Game-changer. Why? Because changing the way we display data about ourselves, actually changes everything: perspectives, perceptions, focus, attention and so on, and in the end the decision for hiring (or not).

1. Power. It is way powerful then the standardized list version because you get to choose particularly what you would like to highlight or like to be standing out (drags attention to the viewer eye). While with the standardized resume you bold, move around, change sizes, with infographics you additionally color, draw, zoom, design and built. You influence the viewers eye traction (e.g. from one corner to the other) and their reflection of who you are.

2. Information Visualization. Think about the potential that lies within. The different tracks about the things you did in parallel. My resume is filled with experiences that are overlapping – while studying having 3 different jobs, running one business, extracurricular activities, scholarships, etc – and I often get asked by HR staff if I am mistaken with the years or months I indicate. An visualized timeframe would have helped immense.

3. Amount. How much is enough? I am not leaning towards cutting out information for the sake of down streaming everything to a one page list. If the resume should represent me, who I am and what I did then trade-offs for the one-pager are a 50/50 win. Infographics interestingly, don’t deal with that dilemma. Although infographics should also have their limits. Even a standard, that could be agreed on. 500 million different color and boxes on one page should be a no-go.

3. Reality. Do I think our HR world can adapt quickly to such Game-changers? I agree with Doris. A infographic could work perfectly fine as an addition to the standardized resume. For now.
We need a transition period. A timeframe to adapt. The beloved one-pager list could serve the standards and the infographic could do justice to all the details and exciting stuff you did as well in your life and are worth mentioning. At the end of the day, if the HR recruiter is really interested in your profile from the one-pager, would s/he not take an in depth look into your additional infographic page?

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R. Rudy Evenson

I agree with Doris Tirone that an infographic resume is definitely an add-on to be uploaded after you have put in your standard USAJobs/Avue/whatever HRBot data-only resume. For positions involving any kind of publications, including interpretation and public affairs, it would be a strong addition to an application package–provided it was well-done. I particularly liked Michael Anderson’s, Justin Evilsizor’s, and Stephen Gates’ examples.

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Rob Carty

I think they’re a cool idea, but I think they’re best used when the applicant has confidence they’ll be appreciated by the hiring agent in question. I can see success when working with small, creative, innovative organizations when you’re directly with the person you’ll be working with/for; or at organizations where you know they spend a lot of time trying to find the right cultural fit over filling seat quickly.

From the hiring side or larger organizations that have to deal with a lot of incoming resumes, I see a two major disadvantages.

1) I can’t compare apples to apples among applicants. If I get a text resume and a visual resume, it might take me more time to find out everything I can about the visual-applicant. If I have 99 more text resumes to look at by 11am, chances are I won’t be able to give this one the time and, like Heather said, probably be a little annoyed by it. The flip-side is if I’ve requested a visual resume and want to see how the applicants approach the challenge or how they follow design requirements.

2) These appear, in general, to quantify the wrong variables to show how capable a person the applicant is. They quantify timelines and amount of time doing XYZ activities, and some other fun things like interests, humor output vs. coffee input, etc. Great – so the applicant sat in a seat for 12 years, and managed to advance in their profession. But what did they accomplish? If these visual resumes quantified and presented accomplishments or results in an easy to digest way (such as revenue growth/cost savings/widgets successfully widgeted) then I think they could have power. Especially if you demonstrate success/growth over time. But just to show you spent time in school, and spent time in an office or in X positions seems almost a waste of not only the reviewers time, but also the resume writer’s.

One key question – how does this succeed where a resume+portfolio of your best work does not? This tries to blend both ability to use graphics/data tools and summarize a background. But at first blush I don’t think it really succeeds at either. The data can be difficult to decipher quickly, and also limits us to one portfolio submission that probably doesn’t showcase the variety of things we can bring to an organization.

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Monica Hall

My thoughts: Julia makes a great point about how a picture can effectively convey info in a glance. One hurdle to cross is the limitation resume-screening systems place on graphics, color and formatting. Personally, I am intrigued and excited by these folks’ creativity…but then again I come from a design background :)

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Meredith

I agree with Julia. I think it’s a game changer. Might not happen tomorrow, but I could see easy to use software where you plug in your info and get a fantastic looking and easy to understand resume.

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Andrew Ian Derksen

Call me a dry technocrat, but I find most of the examples presented in the link to actually be more complicated or confusing than the “standard” resume. Your resume should be tailored to the job (or more honestly: the selecting official) you are applying for. I am looking for good organizational skills and the ability to summarize vast quantities of data. If you think that you can best do that with a table or a graph, then do so – but I am not looking for a flashy presentation.

I will note that some of those graphics appeared to work well describing individuals operating diverse projects simultaneously, but I found them needlessly distracting and too desperate to convey dense information. For most positions, I want an executive summary that fits on a single page in at least twelve-point font, and declares why you as an individual are the most ideal for a job. These infographics may be catchy, and yes, assuming HR’s archaic system let them through the filter: they would get my notice in the pile… but if I have to waste more time interpreting them than I do something more straightforward and elegant, then I am not doing my job.

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Lo Chan

Not sure what to add other than “they’re cool if the person knows what they’re doing.” Which you can say about resumes of any medium really. For every awesome old school resumes I pick up I see ten that I want to toss out, too.

Video resumes are becoming more mainstream because it’s become much easier to create videos of passable quality using consumer level software. Likewise, these infographic resumes won’t pick up in popularity unless there’s a tool that automates the graphic generation (like http://daytum.com, but even more powerful).

I like the idea of it being a supplement or a part of a portfolio for sure, though. Now I’ve got a holiday project :-)

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Carol Davison

I’m a former HR staffing specialist. These won’t get your hired in the fed government. Maybe at a dot.com.

Also I have a visual disability. Are they trying to make it HARDER for me to comprehend their competencies? I couldn’t imagine not losing points for doing so.

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