Employers see surge in Gen Z CVs containing photos and illustrations; ‘there’s a freaking bitmoji’

When it came time late last year for 23-year-old Valentino Bogliacino Bueno to revamp his résumé, he added up top an oval photo of himself smiling. He didn’t stop there.

He designed a watermark of his initials and stretched it diagonally across the page. He included a “by the numbers” section in large blue type to highlight points about his budding career. Accounts under his supervision: 125+. Languages he can speak fluently: two.

“I wanted to do something that stood out,” says Mr. Bueno, who recently received a promotion to regional marketing and site coordinator at Balfour, which sells class rings to high schools and colleges. “I feel like this is what the future of résumés is going to be.”

The stodgiest of business documents is in the midst of its most extreme makeover yet—whether employers want it or not. Gone are the utilitarian, black-and-white documents covered in bullet points. As Gen Z enters the workforce, companies are seeing digital CVs filled with artistic flourishes, including illustrations of college mascots, logos of past employers and icons to denote hobbies such as home renovation and watching movies.

Job seekers have been striving for years to make their résumés stand out from the pile. While earlier generations played with eye-catching print fonts and horizontal lines, today’s tech-savvy young people have a new arsenal of tricks. Many throw in headshots. Some add bitmojis, the personalized avatars used in text messages and on social media.

Stephanie Webster, an industrial and product design student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adorned one version of her résumé with a color photo of herself clutching a coffee mug and gazing out the window. In her experiences section, she included icons of a paw print and a swimmer to illustrate previous jobs as a dog day-care worker and swim instructor. “Résumé design has been getting way more diverse and way more exciting,” she says.

Fitness startup Mirror, based in New York City, recently received a résumé for an engineering job that had a series of photos splayed across the bottom, says Brynn Putnam, Mirror’s chief executive. There was the candidate in a suit, hiking, walking a dog and standing on the street.

The résumé “looked more like a Tinder profile,” says Ms. Putnam, who is hiring for 20 positions. She passed on the candidate.

Other employers say they like the personalization. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams LLC, a gourmet-dessert chain based in Columbus, Ohio, received a résumé for a finance job earlier this year that included an avatar of the applicant sweating.

“That was to show they hustle like no one else,” says John Lowe, the company’s chief executive. “That is an important attribute that we prize.”

The applicant didn’t land the job, but Mr. Lowe says he has hired others who displayed creative flair on their résumés. It helps him discern whether they would pass the “airport layover” test—whether he would want to be stuck talking to them in the terminal between flights.

“Sometimes merely education and job experience on a white piece of paper doesn’t get across the person’s best attributes,” he says.

Today’s résumés exist mostly in digital form, emailed as attachments or uploaded as files in job applications, although sometimes they are printed.

Hiring managers say they are seeing résumés in Instagram-friendly palettes of mint green and pastel pink. Some come spiral-bound like full-color corporate brochures. Others feature elaborate illustrations of half empty—or is it half full?—glasses, representing a candidate’s experience with Microsoft Excel or their organizational skills.

One recent applicant for a marketing and communications position at Jeni’s included a moody black-and-white photo of the job seeker in a cafe, overlaid with personal details, including “spin aficionado, dog lover, foodie, outdoor enthusiast.”

“People are clamoring to get another person’s attention,” says Gary Burnison, chief executive of Korn Ferry , the executive-search giant, and author of “Lose the Resume, Land the Job.” Mr. Burnison is decidedly antibitmoji. “You want to be taken seriously,” he says.

The flashy résumés are colliding with efforts by employers to strip down CVs to their most basic elements—coding skills, college degrees, work histories—to reduce bias in hiring. Many companies run résumés through tools called applicant tracking systems that remove photos and other design embellishments. Others are looking for ways to blind out even names and addresses, which could reveal gender, race or socioeconomic status.

Katie Burke, chief people officer of HubSpot , a software company based in Cambridge, Mass., says she doesn’t want recruiters to see photos during the earliest screening stages.

“Photos belong on your personal social-media accounts and online-dating profiles, not your résumé,” she says. “What you look like has zero impact on what you can do in a role, so photos, bitmojis and other gimmicks often detract from someone’s candidacy versus adding to it.”

At a high school near Indianapolis, Ind., an applicant this spring sent a digital résumé for a teaching post with his bitmoji waving and the word “hi” at the top, says Erica Posthuma, a chemistry teacher at the school. Ms. Posthuma learned of the résumé when an assistant to a top administrator saw it, laughed and told Ms. Posthuma: “There’s a freaking bitmoji on the résumé.”

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Ms. Posthuma describes her own CV as “dry as hell.” The school ultimately felt the bitmoji résumé was inappropriate.

“We’re not a lot of crotchety old people who don’t understand how bitmojis work,” says Ms. Posthuma, who is 41. “It looked very juvenile.”

In July, the job and recruiting website Glassdoor held a workshop at its Mill Valley, Calif., headquarters for two dozen summer interns. Jamie Hichens, a talent-acquisition manager, advised them to nix the résumé photos and soft sections highlighting their love of international travel or cooking, unless such information is relevant to a job. “You don’t want that to be distracting,” she says.

The résumé of Kayla McCullough, a 21-year-old rising senior at the University of Oklahoma, has her name in script lettering and a color photo on a teal background. She says an instructor in a public-relations course emphasized the importance of personal branding, including on résumés. The colorful CV helped her land multiple job offers, including an internship at an Austin public-relations firm this summer, she says. She has no intention of toning it down.

“I’m pretty confident that I’ll never go back to the black-and-white,” she says.

Source: The Wall Street Journal | Chip Cutter August 13, 2019