HomeNewsHow to make your resume as user-centred as you are If you’re a user-centered designer, your resume s…

How to make your resume as user-centred as you are If you’re a user-centered designer, your resume s…

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Hiring designers is fun.

I like seeing people’s work, and hearing them speak passionately about the cool stuff they’ve done. I like meeting other designers from Sydney. I like the “hire a designer” process — probably a lot more than I like being on the “please hire me” side of it.

But there’s a truth I can share with you, from this side of the fence.

If you’re a designer… yes. We do hold the design of your resume to a higher standard than those of non-designers.

Why? Because your resume is probably the first time I’m seeing your design skills. So it needs to do a few things.

It needs to look good.

It needs to read well.

But most of all, it needs to work.

I want you to use your user-centred design skills on your resume just like you would any other product you design. Your resume does have a user — it’s the people who are hiring you.

So what does a resume need to do for me to think to myself this resume really works? Well! Glad you asked. Let me tell you.


Please, let me print.

1. We need to be able to print it.

I interviewed eight people in the last four weeks, and I printed all of their resumes.

In case you’re thinking — this is 2017, who prints things? — well, I do. I need to be able to glance at the resume while I chat with the applicant. I don’t want to be on my laptop during an interview, so printed is the only option.

Here’s what I just tried to print:

  1. A screenshot of a fancy resume website. Without putting considerable effort in (ie, editing the screenshot image myself) I couldn’t make it print over several pages as the dimensions were so long and thin, so in my print-out the text is illegibly tiny. I literally just scrunched it up and put it in the bin. I guess I’ll be interviewing them without their resume in front of me.
  2. A 23 page resume document. Yes, 23 pages.
  3. A one-page resume, in black and white (great start!). Unfortunately though, it was missing something. The applicant’s name. It just had their minimalist “personal logo”. I had to go back through the filenames of the PDFs on my computer to work out whose resume I was holding, then write their name on top with a pen.
  4. A two-page, black and white, text-only resume, nicely but simply set in Helvetica, with the applicant’s name and title on top. Hallelujah!

Only two of these four applicants are going to have the benefit of me having an easy-to-glance-at overview of their work history in front of me while we chat. That sucks, and I don’t want to do that, but in the middle of a round of hiring I literally don’t have time to read 23 pages about one person’s work history, or create a separate document with divided-up sections of someone’s resume website to make it printable.

Which of these above have indicated to me that they’ve done the one thing a user-centred designer should do above all else: think about their user and how they’ll be using the product?

To do: Make your resume printable.

It should be a PDF, probably in black and white only, with font sizes appropriate for reading in print, and no more than 4 pages long. Do a test print.

Can an interviewer glance at it and get the most important information quickly?


No need to write a book. 4 pages is plenty.

2. We should be able to read it in under 10 minutes…

I shouldn’t feel like I need to upload your resume onto my Kindle to get through it.

As an interviewer, I have probably fifteen to twenty minutes (if we’re being generous) to get ready for your interview. Including setting up the room, reading through the plan, looking at any notes from anyone else, printing and reading through your resume again.

If it’s longer than 4 pages, unfortunately there is no way I’m going to read the whole thing. I’ll do my best to find out who you are and what your experience is, but if it’s that long it’s unlikely that I’ll get past your most recent 1–2 positions. That means you walk into the interview at a disadvantage because the person interviewing you doesn’t know about your early career.

To do: No more than four pages. Ideally two.

Get it down to an absolute max of four pages. Depending on how long your career is, you really should be able to get it down to two.

For each position, I just need to get a sense of what you did. For the most recent role, if you had a really wide-ranging role, you can expand and have 10–15 dot points. But the rest you should be able to get down to two or three sentences.

To do: Think about what the person looking at the resume is looking for.

Then make those things impossible to miss.

As an example, here’s what I wanted to know in the last round: How long has this person been doing UX? Have they done visual design before? Have they done user research before? Have they worked Agile? Do they know what Lean means?


Anonymous: not a good look on a resume.

3. Don’t do the “whose resume is this again?”

I’m on the fence about the ubiquitous designer ‘personal logo’. I guess it’s kinda cool — but a note — your brand guidelines should definitely include a version of the logo that has your name in it.

hello@candidatename.me at the bottom of your resume should not be the only way for someone to find out what your name is…

To do: Put your name on the resume, people.

In big letters. Yes, you’d be surprised how many I’ve seen that didn’t.

Extra credit: things you can do to make your resume extra-awesome

Include a headline.

This helps me to know what you’re calling yourself or what you aspire to be. There are differences between visual designers, web designers, UX designers and product designers. Pro tip — if you’re calling yourself the title we’ve given the job description, it looks good.

Include a summary.

This should be three or four dot points that highlight why you’re the right person for the job you’re applying for. Change this for each job you apply for — if you know what they’re looking for, lead with that.


Two summaries for the same person (okay, me). Tailor your summary to the job you’re applying for. If you know what they’re looking for, lead with that.

Call the file something sensible…

I’ve had the experience of searching my computer for someone’s resume, not finding it, and having to scour through the hiring portal and re-download it… only to find that the reason I couldn’t find it on my computer was because it was called something like resume_final_final_FINAL_9.pdf.

Put your first and last name in the filename. Voila, searchable.

I recommend something like nicola_rushton_resume_sep2017.pdf. Though please don’t put my name in your resume filename.

Putting it all together:

Do this:

  • Help us see who you are and what you want to be. A headline and summary is helpful.
  • Use dot points so we can scan your experience.
  • Highlight the things you know are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • Make it easily printable. Easily printable wins over fancy any day.
  • If you have a cool resume website, that’s awesome, but you need a basic print version too.

Bonus: Sketch template for your resume

Need somewhere to start? Download my resume template (Sketch).


Free gift, from me to you. ❤

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