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How Personal Branding Principles Can Help You Design Your Best Resume

By Liz Cuadrado


You’re entering the job market as a fresh-out-of-college-graduate and need to create a great resume for yourself. You’ve read articles on what to include in your resumes and applications. But now….how do you pull it all together in a visually cohesive and organized way?

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Through my experience as a graphic designer, I’d like to share guidelines which help to create a unique resume that best represents you. As you navigate the hiring process, the easy road may be to pick a template online, throw in all your experience, and hope that will be enough. However, I’m encouraging you to try a different approach and think of your resume and cover letter as part of your visual personal brand. 

While a resume may seem like just another common part of the application process, it is actually an opportunity to leave a great first impression by displaying your information in a way that is organized, well presented, and intentional. 

During times like these, virtual communications are just as important as in-person interactions. We will be seeing most of the interview processes happening in the virtual space because of what’s happening in the world. So here are some tips to help you create an authentic representation of yourself and create a design that stands out!

What is a visual personal brand?

First, let’s talk about visual branding. There are many agencies dedicated to developing cohesive brand identities, with the end goal of connecting a company to its core audience in the best way possible. It reflects what a company or product stands for and where it’s passion lies. It speaks to their core audience and helps them to communicate clearly what it is they do.

So, in short, a visual personal brand represents you when you aren’t present and explains what you do and why you do it.

How does that translate to you as a job hunter? 

You can take those same principles mentioned above and apply them to yourself.

  • Who is your audience in this case? 
    • The hiring manager or company that you’d like to work for.
  • What are you communicating?
    • Who you are and what you do, and how you can be a great match for that company. 
      1. First, start by focusing on clearly defining who you are, through your experience, education, skills, qualifications, and what sets you apart from the rest. 
      2. Next, reflect on your identity as a professional and individual and how those elements can translate visually to your resume. 
      3. Finally, put it all together using the visual design principles I’ve provided below, broken down step by step.  

Now, let’s start building that winning resume!

Step 1: Choose a resume-building program

Pcik one you feel most comfortable working with to create your resume, cover letter, and any other materials you’ll need. I personally prefer using Adobe programs like Photoshop and InDesign. However, products like Canva, Piktochart, and VisualCV are very user-friendly and offer great graphic design tools to help you bring your vision to life. There are so many other programs and sites out there designed to help you create your resume, so explore and see which works best for you! 

You’ll notice that some of these programs have templates and while I don’t condemn using templates altogether, I recommend reading through this guide first to have a better understanding of which selection to make for the best representation of you. As a designer, I highly encourage you to follow the beat of your own drum and modify it to really reflect YOU. At the end of the day, it wouldn’t look too good if you and three other candidates used the same exact template layout! 

Step 2: Define your voice

When I work with companies on their brand development and design, I start by sending out questionnaires to help me understand the main essence of who they are in order to have a better understanding of the overall picture.

How Personal Branding Principles Can Help You Design Your Best Resume-pin-t5

In this case, your resume serves this purpose: it summarizes your experience, is a point of reference, and helps describe who you are as a prospective employee. Taking the time to answer these questions and understand your goals will help you tailor your resume to showcase the key elements that make you unique. Grab your notebook, put on some mellow tunes, and start by answering these questions about your career and you:

Your career:

  • What made you decide to work in your industry?
    • What is your favorite part about the work you do? How would you describe your work style? 
  • Where do you want to see yourself in this industry in the next year? Three years? Five years? 
    • While this question may be a common interview question, it is imperative to clarify your vision of your future. For your case, it helps to ensure you are taking the right steps to get there. For the case of your potential employer, it helps them see if having you onboard will align with what they are looking for within that time frame. Short story: everyone will be on the same page. 

About you:

  • What sets you apart from your competition? 
    • Think about your background, experiences, personality, and unique qualities. Lean in to what makes you different to give you an edge against the other candidates, and help reveal special qualities can add value to a workplace.
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 keywords that relate to your professionality? Ex. collaborative, balanced, simplified, optimistic, energetic, etc.. 
    • Really give this some thought. By having a deeper understanding of what characteristics define you as an individual and employee, you can use those as a starting point for communicating that clearly across your resume, as you’ll see in the next step. 

BONUS TIPS:

  • Download the Productive Job-Hunting Game Plan to gain clarity on you and your job hunt.
  • Create a mood board! 
    • Sites like Pinterest are great tools to collect images that stand out to you and relate to your work ethics as well as aesthetics. This board by Saffron Avenue is a fantastic example of how their collection of images works to establish the brand’s overall style and design language.

Step 3: Bring it all together

Now that you’ve written these down, it’s time to translate them into your visual branding. This will look different for each person and industry, and that’s the point. This exercise differentiates your voice from the rest and reinforces what you stand for through design elements.

During my branding process with companies, at this point, I gather what I have learned so far and start developing a design language that reflects the core values of that company. When it comes to designing your resume, you want the look to match the message. I’ve included some examples below that help translate what your core essence is into a visual style. 

If you see that your work method is more often reserved, calm, and focused, then a classic color palette and timeless elements would be a great way to express that visually.  (etsy)

If you see that your approach to projects is more direct, extraverted, and outgoing, then maybe have more pops of color and fun elements to reflect that energy. (etsy)

Overall, this process will be unique for each person, but the point I’m trying to drive home is that going through the exercise of knowing where you stand as a professional and what you have to offer will help guide you in presenting your information in the best way.

P.S. Don’t forget to download the Product Job-Hunting Game Plan to be sure you are moving through the job searching process and quickly and efficiently as possible.


Liz Cuadrado is a creative professional with experience in the fields of Interior Design, Photography, and Graphic Design in the New York City area. Her passion is to creatively explore concepts that excite, encourage, and empower her and her community. Liz and her partner have recently launched Invisible Castles, which documents their Pan-American journey of travelling from Alaska to Chile. 

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