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Trending: Infographic Resumes

February 12th, 2011 by Nate
Infographic resumes have been growing in popularity in the past few years, following the popularity of infographics in general. While they are nice eye candy and present a lot of information in a nice graphical package, do they really communicate that information more effectively than a standard resume?

A couple days ago, a twitter post by Xiik prompted me to check out what’s been a growing trend in traditional resumes: The infographic resume. It seems logical enough – a resume is essentially a collection of focused information about your employment experiences and accolades, and well-designed infographics excel at presenting information in an interesting and understandable way. Creatives (esp. designers) may be particularly drawn to this form because 1) They hate boring resumes 2) It utilizes their skillset 3) It is still “traditional” in the sense that it’s still presentable as a printed document, yet different enough to stand out from the mass of other resumes that may be coming across HR’s desk.

Cool Infographics blog has a nice article about this trend that’s picked up over the last year or two. I’m impressed by the variety of different infographic styles that people have come up with, and some even contain humorous bits about the individual’s life history. It’s definitely refreshing to have influential life milestones woven into the employment timeline, as it provides additional context for career development and helps mitigate some of the stuffiness that can plague a formal resume. Especially in a creative field, influences and job compatibility can come from any number of outside sources, and work experience isn’t necessary indicative of a good potential hire. This style of resume provides the opportunity to integrate relevant life experiences and training in a way that would seem out of place in a normal format.

Michael Anderson’s infographic resume is one of the original concepts, and has influenced many subsequent unsuccessful attempts to duplicate the style

I have to admit, however, that I’m a bit disappointed at most of the efforts I’ve seen so far. Many only serve to complicate the information they present, trying to cram a certain type of data into a less-than-ideal representation. That’s ok if you’re simply using the graphic as accompaniment to a standard resume, but if you’re trying to do something new, it needs to be a step forward in communication, not a step backward. Think long and hard about what data you really want to present, and then think about the best and simplest way to communicate that information visually.

I like the way this graphic serves to enhance the more traditional presentation above it. The top information is very digestible, while the timeline below gives that information additional context. Colors are used well, and the 3d timeline adds just the right amount of eye candy.

Some of the problem lies in the fact that many try to cram too much information into one graphic, leading to a large cluster#$@% of information. Different colors, lines, and captions are scattered everywhere, and it’s really hard to distinguish the relationships between these datasets. I’d rather see them as individual graphs, labeled with distinct comparisons and relationships that the designer wants to make sure I understand. The appropriate type of graph should be used to convey the associated information most effectively.

I’m not a fan of the “subway map” style resumes. The format doesn’t effectively communicate any chronological or quantifiable information, and the angled text makes reading very difficult.

A simple search on flickr brings up a lot of examples of what people have done. Check them out, and pay attention to whether or not the graphic is actually effective at communicating the applicant’s important information. Do you look at it and know where to start? Are you led through the graphic in a logical way? Is the information being presented actually enhanced by the graphic, or would it be better served as a simple traditional resume? Could the information be separated out into smaller graphics to improve comprehension?


5 Responses

  1. Topher Says:

    Great article, Nate! I think you make a lot of good points. And I completely agree with the concern about the usability of the infographic resumes. Certainly, if it’s hard to read, it could be a HUGE deterrent to a hiring manager. But it seems like these days, more-and-more, a standard resume/cover letter can get lost in the crowd of applicants. Creative positions have the added benefit of “bending” the traditional rules to stand out a bit. Creative applicants can send resumes with more exciting fonts, colors, icons, etc. I don’t think the infographic resume gets you hired. I think the infographic resume gets attention — attention that could get the applicant’s resume passed around the office, talked about and into the hands of the decision-maker. It’s definitely going to depend on the culture of the company. But, if somebody is creative enough to do an infographic resume, odds are they don’t want to work for a company that wouldn’t appreciate the effort and creativity that went into that piece. That being said, if it’s tough to read, it’s couldn’t hurt to attach a standard resume too. So, probably not great for a tax law firm. But it would definitely get my attention.

  2. Nate G Says:

    Thanks for your comments, Topher… I agree, if one of them came across my desk, I’d definitely give it a thorough study regardless of how confusing or awesome it was. Mostly for the novelty of it, as it’s still fresh to me and likely for a lot of people. I guess they’re like any good idea – if these graphics become more commonplace, they’ll have to get increasingly more creative and refined to impress people.

  3. Eric Says:

    I agree with Topher as well. I don’t think the infographic resume gets you the actual job, but I do think it would get you further in the weeding out process. I’d definitely give it a closer look, which is important in today’s ever competitive job market. Pairing up an infographic and traditional resume seems like the best option because for creative positions you will likely be evaluated by suits and creatives. Thanks for the great read Nate.

  4. Hirer Says:

    For what it’s worth, as I person who hires designers (and as a designer myself), I noramlly dismiss this kind of thing. I have 100 CV’s to go through and they need to communicate, not look pretty. My advice is keep it simple. Communicate what you need to in a very organized fashion, and move on to the portfolio link, which will say a hundred times more about your abilities than an infographic resumé ever would.

    Infographics are meant to display difficult to assimilate information in an easily digestible way. So many of them (including these CV’s picture) do the opposite.

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