Can Creative CVs Do More Harm Than Good?

Creative CVs, we’ve all seen them. Especially since the pandemic started, I’ve noticed more and more posts on LinkedIn and Twitter of people attaching their CVs to denim jackets, creating games to show them off, and who can forget the time that somebody’s application was allegedly sent via owl to Social Chain?

Like a domino effect, the more creative CVs are talked about, the more they seem to surface – but for me, I find them quite problematic. Let me tell you why.

What Is A Creative CV?

But first, for those who don’t know, I’ll tell you what a creative CV is.

Traditionally, when you apply for a role you’ll send a covering letter and CV to the company you want to work for, maybe complete an online application too. But in the last few years, there’s been a real increase of candidates going above and beyond to get the attention of potential employers. The first I remember very clearly was when an application was supposedly sent to the Social Chain office in Manchester via carrier owl. More recently, candidates have tried to stand out by attaching their CVs to toy taxis, creating branded trainers, running secret Twitter accounts and even developing online games.

As I’m going to talk about why I (perhaps controversially) don’t love creative CVs, I’m not going to post a recent example here. I actually am very impressed by the creative lengths that some go to, to make themselves stand out. By no means do I dislike them either. I just think they potentially create some problems for applications who, for whatever reason, can’t match the standards of others. Anyway, to get an idea of some of the most recent applications that have surfaced, you can search #CreativeCV on LinkedIn.

Why I Believe Creative CVs Are Problematic

I’m going out on a limb here, and saying it’s probably an unpopular opinion that I don’t rate creative CVs that much. Or at least not as much as others in the PR industry seem to. I don’t necessarily dislike them, I just think they might do more harm than good for a number of reasons. Those being…

Financial Implications

One of the most problematic things about creative CVs to me, is the cost behind them. Not every creative CV will be expensive, but some of the stand out ones I’ve seen would definitely have had some money put into them. From web development to ad campaigns, to utilising physical items such as trainers or jackets – there are costs to be had there that aren’t always available for every applicant. Do creative CVs create an unfair advantage towards those who can afford to pay for extravagance? Of course the other argument is that they need not cost the earth, but let’s be honest, more often than not it is likely that a candidate has spent money on their application and this isn’t always feasible for everybody. Not only this, but if you don’t hear back from the employer – it can be totally disheartening after the time and money invested.

Unrealistic Standards

Secondly, I have problems with creative CVs because they make it more difficult for genuinely good applicants who have all the right qualifications to stand out for a job. I have a few years of experience behind me, have been blogging for around 4 years now and have a first class degree, but I do think if I were ever to apply for one of the big agencies, I wouldn’t stand a chance because I’m not the type to opt to go down the path of a creative CV. For me, experience and personality are two of the most important things when it comes to hiring, yet it can be easy for these qualities to be overlooked when faced with extravagant, attention grabbing applications every day. Is it a case of style over substance? One thing I have noticed, is that it’s mostly graduates who opt for creative CVs, and fair play to them for taking steps to beat the competition. However, perhaps I’m old fashioned in my belief in that the best way to get your foot in the door is to get yourself out there by networking and applying for internships.

Smoke, Mirrors And High Expectations

Then of course, an applicant might have spent time thinking of how they can do a creative CV, they might have even read up on it, but it might not be indicative of their actual skills and creative capacity. Are they always expected to be that creative? Are they able to sustain that? This is something I wonder a lot, as more often than not I grow into a new role and get more creative and better at my job the more that I invest time and passion into it. Getting into a position via creative CV might set an unrealistic expectation that an applicant might fail to sustain for their period of employment. I much rather believe in showing an employer and a brand what you can do over time, whether that’s through personal branding before applying, interning at an establishment before applying there, or of course giving them the confidence that you’ll grow into your role. Not only this, but it’s worrying to think that applicants might put unnecessary pressure on themselves, as creativity isn’t always easy to sustain, and burnout can happen quite easily.

I’m not the only one to think this either, I ran polls on LinkedIn and Twitter to see what others thought and surprisingly found that on Twitter 47% agree with me, and that they don’t really rate creative CVs. 48% said the same on LinkedIn. The vote was very close though.

Be sure to check the tweet and LinkedIn post out for some good arguments for both side. The polls are still live too.

The Flip Side Of The Coin & Arguments For Creative CVs

As I mentioned above, I have nothing against creative CVs per se, and I do actually appreciate the talent behind them. I’ve seen many great examples on LinkedIn, and when the applications showcase a particular skill, such as design, then I’m a big fan.

With anything, there’s always two sides to the argument, and while I’m mostly against the idea of a creative CV, I do also believe that sometimes they are appropriate. When you’re applying for a very creative role, for example a design position, then they’re fantastic for showcasing some of your talents outside of the traditional portfolio model. But that being said, I also do think that talent speaks volumes, and a portfolio or website of quality work speaks just as much to the talent of an applicant, as a hand stitched denim jacket might, for example.

I also think that creative CVs do show a real passion to work at the company, which is important to any employer. For example, when an applicant has taken the time to get familiar with a brand, and create a replica product, that shows some real respect for the business. However, the problem with this again, is that you can still be a fervent supporter of a brand and creative CVs aren’t the only way to express this.

Overall, I’m not really in favour of creative CVs, but maybe that’s just because I’d never opt for one myself and this potentially puts my personal brand at a disadvantage? Please do add to the conversation and let me know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter.

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