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7 Invaluable CV Tips For Landing A More Creative Job

Photographed by Tino Chiwariro
January is often the most popular time of year to job hunt — and this year is no different.
One survey, published in summer of 2023, estimated that 23% of UK workers would have changed jobs by the summer. This statistic was 5% higher than the previous year’s research done by PwC. More research published in 2023 by KPMG UK found that 40% of UK workers were considering a career change due to the cost of living crisis.
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Significantly, 10% of people could be looking to move industry, according to reed.com’s research. But selling yourself to a new industry can be hard early on in your career, especially if you don’t have the privilege of an ‘in’. This is a particular barrier in the creative industries. Research from the Office for National Statistics found that the already small portion of working class people in creative industries has shrunk even further —16.4% of creative workers born between 1953 and 1962 had a working-class background, and that has fallen to 7.9% for those born four decades later. A paper published in 2022 says the stats have decreased by half since the 1970s.
While nepotism, money and luck largely make the world go round, all is not lost. There are ways that you can make yourself more appealing to potential employers — and a big part of that comes down to how you shine up your CV.
With that in mind, Refinery29 spoke to people with hiring power at four different companies for advice on landing that new role — whatever industry you're interested in.

For entry level, focus on keeping it simple

“Keep your CV straightforward, put a relatively concise cover letter in the email and above all explain the energy you will bring to the role and company and why they should consider you above the other hundreds of entry-level candidates applying.
“You don’t know who is reading your application and how it’s going to land so my advice is to keep it simple, without pictures and quirky listicles, which can be distracting to what is actually important. Even before any industry experience, people often devalue themselves by not talking outside of their education — i.e. their values such as charity work, and skillsets such as neurodivergent thinking — things which are actually real assets to the modern workplace.”
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— Eve Lee, founder of creative studio The Digital Fairy

But generic responses? Red flag

“When applying for a job opportunity, be sure to read it carefully and highlight your relevant experience and skills in both your CV and cover letter. If perhaps it’s in a new industry, some of these skills will be transferable. Talking about why you would like to work for a particular company in the overview section of your CV or covering letter is a good move, showing that you understand the company’s ethos and values. Talking about why you are interested in these is important, especially if you are new to the industry and have less experience to highlight.
“A copy-and-pasted generic response stands out straight away. Make sure you include something that personalises your response to that person: It’s good to show your interest in the particular role or working for the company. Keep it short, be respectful and if you lack experience, make sure you communicate your willingness to learn.”
— Erica Routledge, Tamsin Naegel and Ally Haigh from London-based B-Corp design studio, Accept and Proceed

Find a way to communicate your voice

“The purpose of your CV is to create a connection with the hiring manager, with the intention of being invited in for an interview. You’re telling the story of your career so make sure you focus on development and success. Consider every word you use and why you’re using it. Make sure it has a purpose; that will help towards presenting you in the best possible light.
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“In every single industry leaders’ event that I’ve run, every leader has said when they look at an application, the main thing they look for is your voice. You can communicate this in your ‘About Me’ section, which is your elevator pitch.”
Nikky Lyle, founder of Nikky Lyle Creative and Graphic Design Jobs UK

Be selective in your applications

“I think you should tailor your CV for each job that you apply for, not just for the industry. You are much better off applying for far fewer vacancies, but more carefully, than sending a CV to everything that might be a match. Find a few things that you are interested in and might be a fit for. Read the advert really carefully — highlight the things they say they are looking for. Then tweak your CV so that it shows how you match those things, using their language to make it easy for them to see that you are a good fit.”
— Joby Blume, director at presentation design agency BrightCarbon

Do your research and use free resources

“The creative industry is super vast and varied. So I’d start by asking yourself what type of role you’d like to do in this sector. Do you want to be a graphic designer? Project manager or account manager? You might have some skills in another sector that can be applied to the latter two roles. If you want to become a graphic designer, there’s a few routes. You can either learn as you go by following online tutorials or study a short course that covers the basics such as Shillington, or do a degree in graphic design.”
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Nikky Lyle, founder of Nikky Lyle Creative and Graphic Design Jobs UK
“Not everyone has the privilege of being able to intern, but there are loads of open/free courses that can be added to your CV to show your commitment to learning the industry and compensating for any inexperience.
“So often you will sense entry-level candidates are understandably lost in choosing a creative career direction, so it’s worth doing research and instead of just applying, [and] asking to have a chat with people in industry junior/mid-weight roles to find out more about their roles and progression opportunities. You can also try and apply to mentoring programmes. Research will ensure your first move is more considered, it will make your application stronger and you will probably meet helpful contacts along the way.”
— Eve Lee, founder of creative studio The Digital Fairy

Make your skills shine — but don’t overdo it

“If you are a creative — designer, copywriter or whatever — then spend a huge amount of time on the design, or the copy. If we get a CV for a designer, we care much more about what it looks like than we do about what they studied. If you have a portfolio, edit it carefully and brutally. If you don’t have enough experience, make fan briefs [prospective briefs for imaginary clients, like work fan fiction] or whatever, but put the hours in to make it good. Find some really strong online design portfolios — that’s what you are aiming for. Ask friends to provide feedback — often you spend so long on something, you can’t see the wood for the trees.”
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— Joby Blume, director at presentation design agency BrightCarbon
“If you are applying for a creative role, your portfolio is often more important than your CV, especially when you are starting out. People will rarely look at your grades. Collate a collection of your best work that clearly communicates your creativity, passion and way of thinking. If you haven’t completed a degree, then this could be a selection of work you’ve done in your own time and for friends.
“Sometimes candidates over-design their CVs in an attempt to stand out and they often do — but not for the right reasons. A clear, easy-to-read CV showing achievements and experience always works better for us.”
— Erica Routledge, Tamsin Naegel and Ally Haigh from London-based B-Corp design studio, Accept and Proceed

Always give it a shot

“We hire people from a huge range of backgrounds, and with really different skills. If you want to do it and you think you might be able to, just apply. You never know what a recruiter is looking for — we’ve hired people for reasons that wouldn’t have been predictable to anyone from the outside.”
— Joby Blume, director at presentation design agency BrightCarbon
This article was originally published in 2022 and has since been updated.

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