Your résumé is often your first opportunity to introduce yourself. A well-designed résumé can help you get through the first hurdle of orchestra and festival auditions, pique the interest of an arts organization you’d like to work with or act as your foot in the door for the next phase of your education. While there’s something to be said for simplicity, injecting a little creativity and personality into your résumé can make it memorable, landing it on the top of the pile. Here are some tips that can help you stand out.
Check out the PDF examples below to see different ways of presenting yourself for different positions.
DO – Include the Basics
Every résumé must include these five elements:
- Your name: Make it large and legible.
- Work experience: Paid and unpaid, listed in reverse chronological order (so the most recent comes first).
- Education and training: List schools or workshops you’ve attended with dates of graduation and/or attendance.
- Skills: In addition to your performance chops, you might be an expert sound editor. What relevant skills will add to your value?
- Current contact information and/or representation: Include your phone number, email and website.
- Optional: Awards and commendations.
DO – Make It Relevant
When you’re listing work experience, education and training, you don’t have to include everything you’ve ever done. Make sure that what you include is relevant to the job you’re seeking. It doesn’t have to be all paid work – that unpaid internship might have provided the precise job experience you need. Pro tip: not all of your gigs will be performance-based. You may want to prepare more than one type of résumé: one for performance, one for teaching, one for arts administration – or whatever type of niche market interests you.
DO – Keep It Short
A résumé should be concise and to the point, so include applicable facts only. Remember, you’re walking a fine line between teasing and wowing your readers. You can expand on the details of your résumé all you like when you land that in-person interview.
DO – Design It
Be consistent. Treat your name like a logo. It should appear in the same font and size on your résumé, cover letter and website. If you set your résumé in Helvetica, for example, make sure that you use it for all of your communications.
Choose one font and stick with it. You can create hierarchy between sections by using one font family and then varying weight between regular, medium and bold, and by varying type size. Remember to set rules and stick with them. Make all subheadings a uniform point size (14 to 16) as well as all body copy (10 to 12). Keep your leading, or the space between lines, the same throughout.
If you don’t feel confident designing your résumé from scratch, you can find a designer to help, emulate an example like the ones provided here or use a template. There are limitless resources available, but make sure that that they can be tailored to your unique needs.
DO – Proof It!
Check your résumé, check it three more times after that and then have your friends and family check it, too. Nothing can sour your chances at an interview faster than missed typos or information that is muddled or, worse, incorrect.
DON’T – Over-design
Do not include photos unless they are specifically requested. While you want to reflect your personality, keep your reader in mind and give them an easy, clean and clear read. Pro tip: you may be a comedian at heart, but please don’t use Comic Sans for your résumé to illustrate your quirky personality. Just don’t.
DON’T – Include the Kitchen Sink
Just because you won the talent show in high school doesn’t mean you need to include it in your résumé. When you’re just starting out, you may need to include student work in your work experience. If so, make sure that it’s applicable to the job description you’re targeting.
DON’T – Misrepresent Yourself
If you lie about your experience you put both yourself and your employer at risk.
It’s tempting to suggest that you play it safe when it comes to the look and delivery of your résumé. Designers, like myself, get to be incredibly inventive with our résumés because being creative is our job, but in other fields, it may seem that creativity is actively discouraged. That hardly seems fair to those in the arts industry. If you have the creativity and technical skills to craft something amazing, it might just be worth the risk – just be sure you know your audience. A custom Lego version of yourself included with your résumé is not going to impress every prospective employer.