Five Tips for Creating a Fantastic UX Résumé

Me facilitating a job search discussion with my students in June of 2018.

The first thing our students learn about résumés at Center Centre is this: The primary goal of a résumé is to get you a job interview.

Using that goal as a guide, I worked with the Center Centre staff to develop curriculum for our students.

We dedicated a section of the Preparing for Your Job Search course to résumés. During the course, we coached students as they went through multiple iterations to craft their résumés. As a result, our students had impressive résumés ready to go well before graduation.

After developing this curriculum and coaching students, I identified five of my favorite résumé writing tips. I believe these tips will set you apart from other job candidates:

  1. Keep an Up-to-Date Repository of Your Project Work
  2. Emphasize Work You Want to Do More of in the Future
  3. Create a Custom Résumé for Each Job Application
  4. Include Results, Not Just Responsibilities
  5. Double Check for Errors

1. Keep an Up-to-Date Repository of Your Project Work

Imagine you’re ready to apply for a UX job. Like most professionals, you probably haven’t updated your résumé in several years. Now you need a new one, and you can’t remember what you’ve done over the past few years. (In fact, you can barely remember what you’ve done over the past few months!)

So you scramble to remember the work you did, and you update your résumé. You submit the résumé with the application and hope you didn’t forget to include anything important.

This approach is all too common, yet it’s a stressful and ineffective way to create a résumé.

The Career Management Document

A Career Management Document (CMD) helps you avoid this situation. A CMD is a comprehensive collection of résumé content you can use in a future résumé. It’s a document you frequently update with all the recent work you’ve done.

I update my CMD about once a week. I start by reviewing evidence of my recent work. I review Slack messages, Basecamp posts, emails, and any other current work-related content. I write what I’ve done in the format of résumé bullets. Then, I add them to the CMD.

Here are some of the bullets in my CMD:

  • Coached a student on writing a stronger portfolio story to showcase their advanced UX skills, resulting in the student getting a job interview.
  • Facilitated an end-of-study analysis in under 90 minutes that helped the team synthesize user research data from 12 participants.
  • Led a remote retrospective with teams located in two offices, developed actionable takeaways, and ended the activity on time despite a delayed start.

My CMD has several hundred résumé bullets, and it continues to grow. I add any content to the CMD that might go into my résumé someday. I include everything I can think of to the document, even if it seems insignificant or trivial at the time. (You never know what skills you’re using now that may apply to your next job.)

Updating the CMD once a week may sound like a big commitment, but it saves me time and stress in the long run. It’s much easier to craft résumé bullets when project work is fresh in my mind.

My CMD is a detailed archive of all the work I’ve done. When I’m ready to apply to my next job, I can easily craft a custom résumé by pasting the bullets from my CMD into a new document. Then, I have a complete, up-to-date résumé.

I recommend listening to these Manager Tools podcasts to learn more about creating and maintaining your CMD:

2. Emphasize Work You Want to Do More of in the Future

Your résumé isn’t just a snapshot of the past work you’ve done. It’s an indicator of the work you can do in the future. Make sure your résumé shows the type of work you want to do at your next job.

If a hiring manager sees X on your résumé, they’ll assume you’re willing and able to do more of X. So make sure X represents what you want in the next step of your career.

If you want to do more user research, put that on your résumé. Include evidence of usability testing, user interviews, and so on.

If you don’t want to make wireframes all day, keep wireframes off your résumé. Or, include them to show you’re well-rounded, but make other skills like research more prominent.

3. Create a Custom Résumé for Each Job Application

Instead of sending the same generic design résumé with every job application, consider customizing your résumé for each UX position.

Every UX job is unique. Your résumé should show you can do the type of work that specific job requires.

If the job involves a lot of prototyping, for example, emphasize prototyping on your résumé. You can include other experience, such as information architecture and content strategy, to show you are well-rounded. Be sure to focus on prototyping so the hiring manager is confident you have that skill.

A generic design résumé may or may not showcase the most appropriate skills for the position. When you tailor your résumé to the specific role, you’re more likely to exhibit the right skills for the job.

A custom résumé does more than exhibit the right skills. It makes the hiring manager’s job easier. By showing you have the right skills, a hiring manager can quickly determine if you’re a good fit for the role.

A custom résumé also demonstrates you’ve taken the time to read and understand the job description. Hiring managers appreciate that, and they will likely consider your thoughtful résumé evidence of effective design.

By the way, as I mentioned above, maintaining a career management document will prepare you to craft a custom résumé the next time you need one.

4. Include Results, Not Just Responsibilities

When writing résumé content, make sure the content shows the outcome of what you did. Many designers only put responsibilities on their résumé. Responsibilities show that you did something, but they don’t show that you achieved results by doing that thing.

For example, consider this responsibility:

“Led a design sprint for a project.”

Fair enough. Now, compare that to this responsibility, plus the result:

“Led a design sprint that finished on time, on budget, and collected the data the team needed to validate our idea.”

The latter sounds much more compelling. It shows you can not only lead a design sprint, but you can also lead a design sprint that’s successful and moves the project forward.

You want the hiring manager to read that bullet on your résumé, then think, “They led a design sprint that validated their idea! We use design sprints here. It sounds like they know how to do the work AND get results. I want to hear more about this. Let’s bring this person in for an interview.”

Remember that results can be simple. Delivering a design to your client on time is a result. Delivering the design within budget is a result. Even if the design never makes it to production, finishing on time and within budget is an outcome worth showcasing on your résumé.

Results do more than show you can achieve outcomes with your work. They get a hiring manager excited to interview you.

5. Double Check for Errors

Double check your résumé for typos, misspellings, punctuation, and other grammatical errors. I’ve seen many UX design résumés with errors. Some hiring managers will disqualify you immediately for having these mistakes on your résumé.

Wait until the end of the résumé-writing process to check for errors. Focus on writing the content first. Then, focus on polishing the résumé.

If spelling is not your strong suit, you can use tools to check your spelling. I’m a big fan of Grammarly. It catches more errors than built-in spell checkers.

Even if you use a tool, I recommend having another person (who’s good at spelling and grammar) look at your résumé. Tools can overlook errors that a human will find.

More Resources

If you’re eager for more résumé tips, I recommend Manager Tools’ podcasts on résumés. I consider Manager Tools a trusted source for career guidance. These podcasts are a few of my favorites:

Go Forth and Create an Awesome Résumé

As I mentioned earlier, the primary goal of your résumé is to get you a job interview.

Your résumé can complement your UX portfolio. (The primary goal of your portfolio is also to get an interview.) A UX portfolio shows your design accomplishments in detail, while your résumé showcases your design achievements in concise prose. Together, they can convince a hiring manager to contact you for an interview.

I hope you’re able to use these tips to craft a résumé that lands you a great interview. Which of these tips have you tried already? What else have you learned about creating a good UX résumé that’s not in this article? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks to Fred Beecher and Thomas Michaud for their input on this article.