CV & Folio; the first step on the ladder to getting a new role!

4th October 2016

OK; so we all have one. Some are better looking than others. Some are certainly bigger than others. What am I talking about? Your CV and Folio of course! When starting to look around for that elusive new and exciting role it’s kind of a given that you need one; and a great one at that!

So how can we ensure that yours is the one that the Creative Director or Managing Director talks about? How can we get them chomping at the bit to see you and get you in to interview before the other candidates that are equally as well qualified and perhaps even more suitable for the role that YOU want? There are some simple steps that after 10 years of doing creative recruitment I can hopefully help you with. Here are my Top 5 ‘dos and don’ts’ when writing a CV and compiling your greatest hits in your folio.


1. Size does NOT matter. Keep it two pages. Maximum. If you are a creative and you have a traditional CV to accompany that gorgeous Folio then I’d suggest a stunning 1 pager; no matter how experienced you are. People seem to have the same CV that they have had for 10 years and with each move add a new chapter to it; I’ve seen some CV’s run to 12 pages. I know books that are shorter… No one cares what you did back in 1992. The Internet was only just starting up and Bruce Willis still had hair. Things move on. Loose the waffle and keep it snappy. Bullet points. Keep the detail for the past few years or last two roles. This should be what will make you a suitable candidate and allow the interviewer to focus on the most recent achievements that you can bring to an agency. Education can be kept simple. Degree; University, level achieved. No one needs to know what your thesis was on 15 years ago. If you are just starting out and have only an intern-ship to shout about this is an opportunity to brag a little RE education; after 4 / 5 years however this should be simplified.

2. Style. So you work in an Ad Agency? Or maybe a Design Agency? You have an idea of what looks good, sells, or is on trend? Of course you do! But please remember that the CV that you send out may be read by the HR Director, or the ECD of an agency has a very different view point on style. If you are working in client service or strategy or new business keep it slick. You want the CV to look good when its on screen or pops out the printer before the content is even read. Think of going to an interview. You wouldn’t turn up wearing Doc Martins and ripped jeans even if that is ‘your look’ for an interview; or maybe you would. Wait until you get the job for that. Think clean and crisp and if in doubt; Ariel or Calibri will be your best friends in point 10/11. Think about positioning on the page, layout and sizing. Designers putting together a Folio… If you are great you really won’t need me to tell you how to convey your ideas in a clear and beautiful way however I see lots of Folios be dismissed for the following reasons so hopefully these pointers will help. Take us on a journey! What was the original packaging like for that drink? What concepts were created? What was the final design and how does it look in situ if appropriate? Clear white backgrounds and careful high-res images placed thoughtfully on the page. No clutter please; we’re designers! Think of your target audience. If you have a folio full of FMCG don’t expect to be considered for a brand agency. Add variety. If you are applying for a generalist agency; have a Folio that has a mix of print and digital. Try and include the following three areas to discuss (this is the same for client service)… A project that you LOVE so that you can gush in an interview and show your passion. A project that was tough. How did you overcome that awkward brief/client and what was the end result. Finally a recognised brand that everyone knows to add a sense of familiarity.

3. CV content. So you have your 2 pages? Laid out in a way that looks neat and tidy. Blur your eyes and it looks great! So what about the content? So many CV’s that I read are essentially job descriptions copied and pasted into a time frame of employment. WRONG! I know that if you are an Account Director that you ‘deal with clients face to face, strategically advise clients, grow accounts and increase revenue’ if you didn’t do these things then something has gone terribly wrong. I want to know what you have SPECIFICALLY done with a brand or within the agency that makes you stand out and makes you unique. The best way to do this is use numbers, and stats. Don’t worry; you are hardly giving away trade secrets of you say ‘Grew the Pepsi Co. account by 130% over 12 months and increased profits by $500,000 in this period’ If you managed a team; how many? How are they performing under your leadership?

4. Make it personal! Your CV & Folio is YOU. Clients should get a sense of who you are before you walk in the door just from the way you write your CV or construct your Folio. A personal profile is a good start; and make it just that; ‘personal’. Keep it to around 3 lines; snappy and fun that says who you are, what you do, what you are wanting to do (without being so specific it alienates a whole host of clients!). Don’t write a long list of your key skill’s like ‘Photoshop, Alias 4D, Excel, Word’ etc. Its kind of a given that you can use Photoshop if you are a Designer, and if you can’t your folio should clearly demonstrate that you are a sketch artist or don’t use Photoshop. No one needs to know that you have a clean driving licence with no points… Unless you are applying to be a long distance truck driver. DO add languages. If you are applying for a role outside your country of origin add the languages that you know and the level that you are able to use them. If you are from Hong Kong it can be easy to assume that you are fluent in Cantonese; this isn’t always the case. Interests are a fun way to end the CV and again add some flavour of who you are that allow for talking points in an interview. Go on; have some fun!

5. Know your content! I’ve seen it happen where people either misquote their CV in an interview or utter the words ‘oh did I say that?’ Big no-no. Know the content and be able to build on the information there with the client. If you have stated how you have grown a brand be expected to be quizzed ‘how?’. The truth is very important. Its a small world and the likelihood is that the person interviewing you may well know more about your agency than you do. Don’t tell fibs, be honest, and if you don’t know – say so. There is a lot more respect from being honest than trying to (and usually failing) to pull the wool over the eyes of the interviewer. You have got this far so don’t blow it now…!


Good luck; and I look forward to getting some very slick CV’s and Folio’s shortly!

DMCG Network Offices