While creative CVs allow you to display your personality and creative flair, they're not appropriate for every role or industry. Learn more about when to use a creative CV, their pros and cons and how to put one together
What is a creative CV?
As the name suggests a creative CV is a CV that puts an imaginative spin on the traditional CV format. Designed to highlight your creative ability, they are usually used to apply for jobs that focus on art, design, VFX and technology. For example:
- concept artist
- fashion designer
- film/video editor
- game artist
- graphic designer
- VFX artist
- web designer
However, creative CVs can also be used to apply for roles in industries such as advertising, media and publishing.
There are different types of creative CV and the one you use will depend on the job you’re applying for and the employer. Creative CVs can take the form of:
- written documents with additional design elements such as graphics, infographics and illustrations
- video CVs
- online portfolios
- personal websites with a career focus
- alternative approaches such as designing your CV as a comic strip, board game or attaching a QR code containing your CV to a relevant object.
What are the advantages of creative CVs?
- Some skills and competencies are hard to showcase with words alone. Creative CVs are useful in the sense that they actually demonstrate to employers what you can do rather than just telling them about it.
- When done well they can help your CV stand out, especially in industries where competition is fierce and speculative applications are common.
- The creative approach is more personal. As well as listing your skills and experience, creative CVs allow you to display your personality, giving the recruiter an idea of whether you'll be a good fit for the company.
What about the disadvantages?
- Submitting a creative CV is a risk, and the more creative your idea, the bigger the risk is. Your idea might be unique, and it could be visually brilliant but if it doesn't fit the organisations look or brand it's unlikely to impress.
- Not all employers in the creative industries welcome this CV approach. You'll need to do some research in to the industry and organisation you're applying to in order to determine if this method of application is accepted and has been successful in the past.
- There's a chance that your creative CV will be all style and no substance.
- These types of CVs are often time consuming to create. You’ll need to ask yourself if this time could be better spent perfecting a traditional CV and working on your portfolio.
- A lot of recruiters use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen candidates CVs. These systems operate by searching for keywords in CVs that match the job description/person specification. Creative CVs may not be compatible with these systems due to their design or format meaning organisations will discard them before they even fall into the hands of a hiring manager.
Do I need to use a creative CV?
There's some debate around whether creative CVs are a valuable tool to help you stand out in competitive industries or a bit of a nuisance to recruiters. For some, they break up the monotony of looking through hundreds of standard CVs that all look the same. Others see them as an annoyance that creates extra work (having to open CVs in alternative software, searching for information among a complicated design or watching a three minute video) and slows down the application review process.
'The value of this application method is dependent on what the creativity actually adds to the information your CV contains,' says Helen Curston, graduate employability specialist at University of the Arts London. 'If it showcases relevant skills and does not distract it is useful. However, if it distracts from the contents of your CV, it might feel too gimmicky to a recruiter.'
It's therefore important that you understand the audience of your CV, so you'll need to do some research beforehand. Conduct a Google search around what's typically expected in your industry, contact employees of the company on LinkedIn and ask if they submitted a creative CV and if you're still unsure call the hiring manager to enquire if a creative CV would be welcomed.
If you're confident that your traditional CV is strong, your portfolio should tell the employer everything they need to know about your creative ability so spending time putting together a creative CV will be unnecessary. However, if the job advert specifically asks for a designed CV or a more creative approach to your application, you'll need to follow the instruction.
Another thing to consider is that this type of CV isn't appropriate for every profession. 'They are most useful when they provide an opportunity to showcase your skills, for example, where you have typography, illustration or graphic design abilities,' explains Helen. Therefore, they're unlikely to impress business, finance, healthcare, engineering or law recruiters, so stick to more traditional formats if applying for these roles.
What should I include in a creative CV?
One of the most important things to remember when designing a creative CV is that while the presentation is important nothing takes precedence over the content. Employers still expect to find all the usual elements contained in a standard CV, such as your contact details and education and work history.
'Make your design easy to scan, use reverse chronology, clear headings to signpost content and ensure all the most important, relevant and impressive information is found in the top third of the CV,' advises Helen. For more details on what to include see how to write a CV.
If this information is lost among an over-complicated design recruiters are unlikely to spend time looking for it.
Once you've taken care of the content, you'll also need to consider typography, colour palette, the layout of sections and the use and positioning of illustrative icons and images.
If you're including a personal statement be sure to mention your specialism and any successful projects you've worked on and don't be afraid to name drop big companies or clients you've worked with. Also don't forget to include a section on relevant skills such as competency with certain design or editing software.
The bottom line is no matter how creative; this type of CV still needs to be professional, relevant, readable and concise.
And remember, a creative CV shouldn't replace a creative portfolio. Designers, art directors, advertising or marketing managers still want to see examples of your work. A link to an online portfolio should be prominently displayed in your CV, making it easy for a recruiter to view your work. Put the link near the top beneath your name or contact details.
However, don't be fooled into thinking a creative CV will mask a weak portfolio. Employers won't be taken in by a fancy CV or cleverly-edited video if you don't have a strong portfolio of work to back it up. You'll therefore need to do some work beforehand to ensure that your portfolio is up to scratch and only contains examples of your very best work.
Learn more about putting together a creative portfolio.
Where can I find inspiration?
If you're a creative person wanting to showcase what you're capable of via your CV, you shouldn't need to copy what's already out there. If you're producing a written document the design needs to be original and if using videos or alternative methods, ideas should be authentic.
That's not to say that you can't use a creative CV template to spark ideas. This Creative CV Guide, published by University of the Arts London (UAL), University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and University College Falmouth (UCF) contains a number of examples.
Find out more
- View all of our example CVs.
- Learn more about the top 7 CV mistakes.
- Gain an insight into the creative industries.