How To Write a CV For The Creative Industries

By Graeme Jordan (CV Writer / Interview Coach / professional Marketer)

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We have been using CVs as a method of shortlisting candidates for a long time and despite predictions of their imminent demise, it is likely that they will still be relied upon by recruiters for some time yet. They will, of course, be used in combination with a variety of other things, like the candidate’s online presence, a variety of testing methods and assessment centre activity.


A CV is different because it is often your gateway in to the other stages of the selection process. It is also vital to understand that a CV is a unique and personal offer of the value that you can deliver to that particular employer. That is, if it is done properly of course.

Let’s be honest - a lot of the advice that is out there about CV writing is pretty old fashioned and of questionable relevance. It seems that in the creative sectors the question of relevance is particularly pertinent.

The creative world is different, right?

It certainly is! But not everything about a creative CV is different. Here are a few key areas to illustrate what I mean:

Stand out (but for the right reasons!)

Gimmicks are bad. Professional creativity is good.

As Carl Buckley, Managing Director of Urban River Creative explains:

“It’s not just about skills and experience, but attitude – the majority of agencies employ fewer than 12 people and "fit and personality" are just as important – demonstrate you have ambition and creativity, but at the same time have a professional outlook”.

Don’t tell them – show them

Anyone can claim to be great at anything. Some people are willing to be more outlandish with their claims than others. Recruiters tend to see through any baseless claims though – they need hard evidence to back them up. This is where you can be better than the others. Provide evidence of what you have done in the past for other people and how this has supported their business.

This evidence can be verified by reference to your online portfolio and you can also greatly enhance your credibility with the design of the CV itself. Chris Henderson, Managing Director of Climb Creative ( puts it like this:

“Nine times out of ten we are really disappointed when we open the email or envelope. This isn't necessary due to the content of the CV but more delivery approach. If you’re applying for a creative role within a creative industry - It's obvious really; be creative!”


Analyse the job advert ... (if you can)

OK, some of them are nonsense:

‘A fun, lively and relaxed team’

‘An agency working across many verticals delivering tailored bespoke solutions for their clients’

None of this stuff gives you any clue whatsoever of what you should put on your CV. Have you ever noticed the people who claim to be all mad and wacky and outgoing really tend not to be? I am certain that the interviewers have a set of criteria in mind that is wholly unrelated to this kind of job advert filler.

If you don’t know what the selection criteria is then finding out would be a better starting point than applying your creativity to the unknown.

Ignore the cliché, the generic and the obvious. You have to be skilled in the basic aspects of the job – that goes without saying. What else you got?


What about content?

There are no secrets to writing great content – just meet the selection criteria better than the next person!

The important thing is that the end result is an effective representation of you and that it is relevant. Demonstrate that you care about both content and design and you will be well ahead of many.

“Make a key opening statement: inspire the reader to get in touch after 10 seconds.

At the same time don't be big headed. Most agencies have been there and done it – you are one in many thousands”

(Carl Buckley)

What are your superpowers?

There are many different areas of specialism within the creative sectors. There has also been a discernible convergence of territory in the sense that many of the agencies that once specialised now cover a broader range of creative disciplines. So, you need to understand:

Is this particular role demanding a specialist or someone with a range of complementary skills?

Is it suitable for my skill set?

How do I credibly demonstrate that I am the one?

Do yourself a favour and only apply for the roles in which you have the best chance. You will find that you then have more time to get these applications right.

What form of a document should be used?

Not surprisingly, for creative roles, a badly formatted Word document is not going to cut it.

Chris Henderson says this about CV layout:

“This is your opportunity to shine and showcase your skills as a designer and impress the employer. Treat it as a design project. It may well be the only chance you have to get to interview stage and stand out from the crowd. Think about creating a simple on-line CV with a portfolio of work.”

So the advice overall is to get both the visuals and the content right by applying your creative skills and also focusing on the selection criteria and the ways in which you can meet this better than the next person.

If you would like feedback on the effectiveness of your CV then email [email protected] for some free advice (limited to 10 per month so don’t miss out).

Graeme Jordan is a CV Writer and Interview Coach who helps candidates at all levels in a range of industries to get interviews and get selected. See more at


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