This post, 5 Tips for Building a Better (Visual) Resume, is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those who are job seeking. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

Portfolios have long been a critical job search component of people in Creative positions.

But I think they are an effective tool for anyone looking to sell themselves.

Pictures do paint a thousand words.

And many people in today’s visually oriented society simply respond better to images.

My advice is to create a visual resume.

There are two ways to do this.

One is an online service. I haven’t actually used this but it looks interesting.

The other, which I use, is to create a portfolio that acts as an accompanying piece to your traditional resume.

It simply brings your traditional resume to life in images.

Here’s 5 Tips on how to create this kind of impactful visual resume:

#1 Start by bringing your personal brand to life:

The first page of my visual resume talks about my background. So it’s a montage of images of people, places, and events that are important to me and help define who I am as a brand.

It’s got pictures of the town I grew up in, an emblem from my University, logos of a few of the brands that I am passionate about, and even a snap shot of my family.

It even has a picture of a pet rock.

This last image is a great conversation starter and allows me to tell a story about how I first got inspired to go into marketing at a very young age (more on that in another post).

The montage is colorful, upbeat, fun- all personality traits I want to make sure come through.

#2 Put your work experience into pictures as well as words:

The next section of my visual resume brings to life my work experience.

For example, when I talk about the accounts I worked on in advertising, I show the logos and even some of the ads.

While I worked on these as an account person (not a copywriter or art director) the images still help to ground the conversation.

I think they make it more interesting when I talk about the positioning and strategy work on these products.

This work was critical in driving the end result (the ads) and showing the images helps make the experience real.

The same goes for my work in brand consulting and now on the Client side at Virgin.

#3 Don’t assume people are familiar with the brands you’ve worked on:

There are a lot of great brands out there, but not everyone you meet will be familiar with them.

Even now when I talk about my experience at Virgin in presentations and key note speeches, I always start with some images of the Virgin portfolio brands or a reel of our history.

These images help put everyone on the same page.

They help ground my audience in the specific categories (media, aviation, financial services etc) so that I know we are starting from a common place as I move on to make my points I don’t have anyone stuck in the audience thinking “wait, Virgin, I’ve heard of them but I can’t remember what they do exactly?”

Also they start the presentation on an interesting, visually impactful note.

A job interview is a lot like a presentation, except the audience is usually one or two people. You need to make sure your audience is following what you say and is engaged.

# 4 Visualize results and outcomes:

When talking about past client experience it’s also great to include not just logos, but snapshots of the work (E.g. a screen grab of a web page, even a jpeg of the front cover of a research report you’ve written).

Make sure to include brief bullet points of key challenges or objectives of the project.

And then it’s very important to include any results (e.g. grew web traffic by 11%, reduced costs by 10%, research well received by client/senior management and drove changes in strategic direction etc.).

If you are talking about articles you’ve written or press interviews put logos of the media brands and if possible excerpts from the articles.

If you are speaking about awards or honors you’ve received, include snapshots from the events. Or a logo of the award (e.g. Effie).

It’s never too late to start on this, make sure you have a digital camera with you at all times and ask people to take snapshots of you at conferences, key notes, outside of HQ’s of clients.

Think of your day to day work life as a journey that should be documented and shared at the right moment.

If you are working on a package redesign project or a brand identity refresh, make sure you are documenting some “before” images and make sure to include the before and after shots in your visual resume.

#5 Pay attention to form and formatting:

You can do this presentation in PowerPoint.

But pay attention to layout and design.

Keep it clean and simple. With phrases that are short and punchy.

Think of the text as headlines which you will be further explaining in your voice over.

If design is not your forte, create a draft and then ask a creative friend to finesse the layout.

You can show this presentation on a laptop. But I always think this is slightly too salesy and a bit awkward to know when to fire it up.

I advise people to print out the visual resume, and include it in a nice, high quality portfolio binder .

I  have had people show me their work in drugstore photo albums.

If you are going for a marketing job (in any department) this doesn’t send the right message.

If you have a nice book, you can simply place it on the table at the beginning of your interview and when someone says tell me about yourself, it’s more natural to say “if you’d like I can walk you through some examples of my work.”

A book (vs. computer presentation) also provides a greater sense of human contact. You can sit next to your interviewer and flip through.

I interview a lot of people and I always welcome the opportunity for a little show and tell. It breaks up the monotony of all the chit chat.

Whether you’re interviewing for a position as a CPA or a brand planner…

I think that painting a picture with images, not just words, will help bring your experience to life and set you apart from the crowd.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Have you had good results with a visual resume?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


  1. My twist: I 100% agree with the visual/portfolio approach to presenting oneself. Showing that you can innovate, inspire, intrigue and be connective without being in the room will always get you an interview–and give you lots to talk about that’ll set you apart from the pack. It will say as much about you as it does about the employer…do you really want to work at a place that doesn’t think you/your approach is appealing?

  2. Julie – I totally agree. I consider a visual resume critical in today’s job search market. One thing I did was lauch my website – Building your own website has served as an alternative to a resume in many social situations and professional situations. It also give the organization an idea of your professionalism and creative perspective. It has been a HUGE success.

    Great posting.

  3. My belief is that a visual resume should accentuate your “hardcopy” resume. It should be simple and straight forward offering additional info and be able to offer audio, images and video. Since the resume you send, by email or snailmail, should only be a page or two. That’s why I just launched
    It’s simple, easy and fun to create your visual resume (on one page)….and it’s free!

    See ya there!

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