Let's Talk UX - CV Makeover

Karen Reilly speaking at Talk UX 2015
UX • Design
23 • 3 • 15

Talk UX is a conference that has something that so many other events take for granted, a personality. This "personality" probably comes from a selection of the following; the venue, the organisers, the speakers, the freebies, the comedians, the music and the social media activity. It is definitely a conference that I would attend again. Manchester City Hall was an amazing venue to speak in - probably the grandest I've presented in yet. As soon as we walked in the doors, I felt like we were in a scene from "Hawrryy Pottaa". Fortunately, there was no sorting hat on the stage - Slytherin would have been pretty awkward to explain. 

Video of Talk UX - 300 Seconds


The Premise behind my talk

I was at Talk UX to try to inspire people to put personality, design and at a very basic level, effort, into their CVs. Too often, we receive CVs from people who call themselves designers yet there is no hint of design on their CV... unless of course they are going for the minimalist look. Now, that's usually not because these people aren't great at design - some of them have amazing portfolios. It's because we have all been conditioned to create generic CVs that fit in with everyone else or fit in what the recruiters want, or fit in with what we've all been doing for years. Maybe traditional CVs worked when the marketplace was less competitive, when no one knew what UX designers were and of course there is still a place for those traditional CVs - it just doesn't happen to be the iterate postbox. When I was looking for a new career at a bad time in Ireland's economy, my old boring traditional CV wasn't working for me. So, I came up with an idea that I thought employers would either really love or absolutely hate.

There is no middle ground where I roll.  

Finding your Soul

There is nothing more influential than a good story with a beginning, middle and new beginning - we all fall for it, every time. So, I spent some time thinking about who I am, what makes me different, what makes me interesting and very importantly, what will make people empathise with me. Instead of shoving a load of qualifications and titles down potential employers necks, I decided to tell a story which was mostly truthful but partly fictional (to jazz it up!). This story included details such as the fact that I am from lovely Leitrim, that my brother bought a computer when I was 5 and that I can do so many things at once that sometimes I think I might spontaneously combust. You know, the important career details. It also included my past employment, achievements and where I want to go next.

Sharing your Soul

Empathy is a core characteristic of anyone working in User Experience, Customer Experience or anything that involves trying to identify people's needs and problems. In general, people don't want to see you fail... but if you can get them to empathize with you, they'll want to see you succeed. Now, putting yourself out there by doing something drastically different with your CV is daunting but it pays off. Did I want strangers to know that my brother never let me use his computer? Probably not. Could they empathatize with it? Probably, yes. 

Designing your Story

Once I had the story nailed down, I spent some time deciding on what the best format would be. I reviewed some very cool CVs online which included packaging designs, infographics, presentations, billboards and lots more. I decided a presentation would suit my story best. Charles Holland Duelle, a very smart man, was once misquoted to have said "Everything that can be invented has been invented” so we all know that I didn't reinvent the wheel with my CV. It's important to remember that the medium doesn't really matter as long as it provides a good way for you to tell your story. You can copy the medium but never copy someone else's story - it'll make for a very confusing interview experience. 

Some Screenshots from my Story

On one slide, I highlighted a user experience issue, made fun of myself and where I'm from and tried to show personality and sense of humour. 

It's not all about humor - on this slide, in a graphical way I tried to break down my daily work

It is mostly about humor though... and showing a side of you that potential employers would otherwise never see. 

Does it work?

Apart from the fact that it's an enjoyable experience to create a CV that's a bit different, it's also an enjoyable user experience for viewers. I was on a hunt for a dream job with a company that I felt understood where I was coming from and what I was capable of. So, for me, it definitely worked. And apart from the role I took with iterate, I had multiple other very good job offers. I met with directors of companies rather than HR departments because they took an interest in my CV. I felt like I had the power in the process because I could make a decision on who I wanted to work with, rather than whether or not they wanted me. 

I am legally required to say that this will not ALWAYS work. Don't sue me. 

At Talk UX and DEFUSE 2014, I tried to inspire people to take their job hunt into their own hands and do something different... so, go for it! Define, design and iterate.

My talk from Talk UX is available here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/nxj88vdxx75uvol/Talk%20UX.pdf?dl=0