woman writing CV

How to write a creative, personal CV (and keep it professional)

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It can be difficult to represent yourself accurately via your CV but it’s even more important now recruitment has moved online for the most part. Here, an expert shares her tips on adding personality to your CV.

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Recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds looking at a CV, according to a study by Ladders Inc, which means you have very little time to impress a potential employer, no matter how impressive your experience is. It’s therefore crucial that your CV stands out and that you put your best self forward. This may seem a little difficult, considering a CV is traditionally considered to be a list of bullet points on an A4 sheet of paper. But there are actually many ways you can add personality to your CV, while keeping it professional, particularly if you are applying for a creative role.

Jasmine MacPhee founded the platform Find Your Intern, in part, to help people do this. The platform is dedicated to helping people find paid internships and creative roles. Jasmine also creates resources for people to help improve their CVs and cover letters, both on the level of design and content.

Here, she has shared her tips for injecting your personality into your CV, without compromising on professionalism. 

Find your personal brand and make that part of your CV

Jasmine explains that one of the best ways to ensure your personality comes across in your CV is by having a strong personal brand. This is something you should establish before you start working on your CV by figuring out what defines you and what your niche is, among other things. From there, you can make sure that your personal brand is part of your CV by making the most of graphic design.

“Make the most of colours,” Jasmine says, explaining that for creative roles, there’s no reason to worry about adding colour to your CV, especially if you do so with care and intention. Jasmine recommends choosing three colours: your brand colour, a complementary colour and an accent colour. “Your brand colour should be something that represents you and the complementary colour should look good next to it,” Jasmine says, explaining that her colours are pink and black. Your accent colour should be something that complements both colours but also makes the combination a little bit more unique (Jasmine uses yellow). 

Jasmine recommends incorporating each of these colours into your CV. “Roughly, your brand colour should make up 60% of your CV, your complementary colour, 30% and your accent colour, 10%,” she adds.

Another way you can incorporate your personal brand into your CV is by designing a logo. This could either be a symbol that you feel represents you and your work or you could also use your initials in a font you like that incorporates your chosen colours. “The best logos are simple, clean and not too fussy,” Jasmine says. 

Be strategic with your formatting and language

Your CV should look clean to an employer but this doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Jasmine recommends using bullet points throughout your CV to make it easy to read, but you can also add a profile at the beginning, where you can show off your personality a little bit more. “Your profile can be a bit more conversational and an insight into you,” Jasmine says, adding that this only needs to be a paragraph.

Even though you should use bullet points in the rest of your CV, according to Jasmine, this doesn’t mean it has to lack personality. “Try to avoid generic language and, instead, use creative language,” Jasmine says.

“For example, instead of using a word like ‘bubbly’ use a more formal, and specific word, like ‘innovative’,” Jasmine suggests. Another example she uses is replacing ‘team-builder’, which many people will use on their CV, with a term like ‘collaborative’. 

Appeal to your potential employer but don’t over-do it

You should definitely adjust your CV for each job you apply to, making sure you tailor it to the job description and the company you work for. “Use words from the job description on your CV to make it easy for the employer to see why you would be a good fit,” Jasmine suggests.

However, ensure that you don’t compromise on your personal branding to do this, or spend too long tailoring your CV for each job. “Creative CVs that use a company’s specific branding can be great if you’re reaching out to small brands or trying to grab someone’s attention, but your focus with most CVs should be displaying the data and the facts in a simple way that properly represents who you are,” Jasmine says. 

Avoid adding unnecessary details

It’s a given that you shouldn’t ramble or over-explain in your CV with so much limited space but Jasmine says that there are other graphic details people sometimes add to CVs that are not only unnecessary but often dilute your personal branding too.

“Never add a photo to a CV,” she says. “You’re wasting vital space that you could use for content or more productive graphic details that will actually help get your personal brand across – your appearance should have no impact on whether or not you’re suited for the job.”

Jasmine says that including your photo also makes non-biased recruitment even more difficult. Look out for any other details on your CV that are wasting space, like shapes or even white space. You don’t want to over-crowd your CV but you also don’t want to look like you’re trying to find ways to fill the space in lieu of relevant experience. 

  • Jasmine MacPhee, founder of Find Your Intern

    Jasmine headshot, founder of find your intern
    Jasmine has helped countless young women secure their dream jobs.

    Jasmine is the founder of Find Your Intern (FYI), the only platform to find paid creative internships, supported by an active membership, flourishing community and shop. 

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Images: Jasmine MacPhee, Getty

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