Why a Creative Résumé Won’t Get You a Job

Gen Zers have apparently started adding bitmojis to their résumés and making their job applications look more like Instagram profiles than the traditional headings and bullet points. While it’s important to make yourself stand out in a competitive job market, creativity will often make you the object of ridicule rather than interest. And it’s not just because old people are boring.

When you submit a résumé for a job, it’s the first look a potential employer has at you as an employee. Not as a person, as someone they want to hire to do a specific job. Now, a good résumé will also give an employer a look at you as a person: at your character, agreeability, cognitive abilities, personality, etc. A good résumé is a sales pitch, selling you. When you get creative with a résumé, adding bitmojis or photos or colors, it may indicate to a hiring manager that you’re creative and interesting. Most likely, it will indicate that you’re immature and incapable of following rules, which will result in your résumé being immediately discarded. Why? Expectations.

While innovation and creativity are important pieces of the perfect employee, an ability to follow rules is arguably most important quality. There are obviously no written rules for the perfect résumé, but there are an infinite number of resources explaining how to write a respectable one. Employers expect you to know this and expect a traditional résumé. When you veer from the norm in ways that aren’t immediately wildly impressive, it raises a number of red flags. A creative résumé could indicate that you can’t be trusted to learn and follow rules (both written and unwritten) on your own. It could say that you’re an attention-seeker who will need constant validation. It might even indicate to a hiring manager that you’re trying to hide something—maybe a lack of education or experience. Either way, it’s going to communicate that you’re probably going to be more trouble than someone whose résumé conforms to traditional standards. Also, most hiring managers are already annoyed that they have to go through a stack of résumés. So when you make yours difficult to read and navigate, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Similar to how typos indicate that you’re sloppy and have no attention to detail, creative elements in a résumé indicate that you’re, well, irresponsibly creative. When a manager asks for a report, she doesn’t want to have to worry that it’s going to be pink and sparkly or written in text speak and emojis. She doesn’t want to worry that it will be out of order and unreadable with useless extraneous information. And she really doesn’t want to have to explain that to you. You should just know.

When you create your unusual résumé, you’re probably well aware of the rules of the workplace and would never turn in an emoji sales report. You probably just want to stand out. The hiring manager doesn’t know that. That’s like going to an audition for Les Mis and singing in your best impression of Mickey Mouse, expecting the casting director to know that you’d never do that in the actual show. Obviously you’re not going to get that part.

If, however, you’re auditioning for a parody show or the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, your creativity might get you the part. See the difference? Creative résumés aren’t always bad, as long as they’re exhibiting a competent creativity that will be an important part of the job you’re applying for. The point of a résumé is to showcase your relevant strengths and experience, not your personality or personal aesthetic. If you’re applying for a creative job, it’s probably a really good idea to showcase your creativity. If you’re applying to manage social media, it might be great to exhibit your familiarity with internet culture. If you’re not, though, maybe think long and hard on whether a bitmoji is the way to go. Always keep in mind what your résumé is communicating to a potential employer.

Now, you might get a hiring manager with a sense of humor or someone who’s intrigued by your boldness, but that will most likely be the exception, not the norm. (It will also probably depend on how strong the rest of your résumé is.) Certain types of communication are still considered inappropriate in a professional environment, and if bitmojis ever ascend to appropriate official workplace communication, a new inappropriate cultural phenomenon will have risen to take its place in society and that will be the reason your résumé is thrown away instead.

Creativity and innovation have their place, but showing an employer that you’re a capable employee is ultimately going to be a better bet than trying to be clever. Of course, hiring managers are people, too, so your creativity might just be the thing that makes you stand out in a sea of boring bullet points. Or it might make you a company laughingstock. It’s your gamble. Choose wisely.