How to Write the Best Resume for a Job in Fashion

A six-step guide to getting your CV read by the industry's bosses.
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Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.

We've spent much of Career Week covering the ins and outs of both social media and clothing as they relate to landing the fashion job of your dreams. And while those elements are no doubt crucial in any application process, it's important to examine the old-fashioned stuff, too. While your Instagram and Twitter accounts may serve as windows into your personal #brand, there's perhaps no part of the professional sphere as paramount as your resume.

For something so important, you'd think there'd be a cut-and-dry guide to crafting a resume that will blow an employer's sock off. Not so. There's a lot to consider when attempting to list your life's work on one sheet of 8" x 12" paper. And while there's no such thing as a "perfect resume," per se, there are certainly rules you can follow when crafting and updating your CV at every stage in your career.

We spoke with editors-in-chief for both the print and digital realms, as well as top industry professionals, about what they look for when a resume lands on their desks or in their inboxes — and any red flags that might turn them off altogether. Read on for the most important takeaways.

First, make sure the document is clean and easy-to-read

"A resume is an indicator of how you think and how you present yourself and the first example of what an employer can expect of your work product," says Joyce Chang, editor-in-chief of Self. She also focuses on "clarity and succinctness" as expressed through their education and working experience. Most often, this translates to keeping your document one page — an absolute must for any resume, in any field, barring extraneous circumstances. Says Chang: "I'm not a fan of candidates who are in love with themselves and can't put their work into the context of one page."

If you find it difficult to trim down your word count, Michelle Lee, editor-in-chief of Allure, suggests scanning for any unnecessarily complex words and phrases. "I personally can't stand flowery language in a resume," she says. "Use active verbs and be succinct. Trying to puff up your experience with flowery language only makes it sound phony."

...And that includes keeping it 100 percent typo-free

This should go without saying, right? Apparently not. Christene Barberich, global editor-in-chief at Refinery29, says such mistakes can throttle the resume in question straight into the garbage. "If someone spells my name incorrectly or addresses me generically, like, To Whom It May Concern, it's usually an automatic delete or forward," she says. 

A single typo doesn't bode well for the editorial industry where accuracy, consistency and thoroughness are key. "Especially if you are applying for an editing job, this is a major no-no," says Lee. "But I've seen it. And it's pretty much a guaranteed trash-toss. I've also gotten cover letters in the past that were sloppily addressed to the wrong person or referred to the wrong brand because they were just a copy-and-paste job. That lack of attention to detail is not a good way to start off."

Highlight a well-rounded professional history

As is the case in most roles, it's increasingly important for your skills to be diversified, and showcasing a wide-ranging background can often work to your benefit. "I'm looking for someone who has made the most of their time — whether they are fresh out of school but with a great set of internships and activities, or a career that is well-rounded and interesting," says Chang. 

Should you sense that your work history lacks a common thread, Aliza Licht, a digital strategic consultant, offers a constructive solution. "If your work experience is a bit all over the place and it's not clear what skills someone has, a great way to highlight those skills is to categorize them into topics." While we've learned to put our work experience in chronological order, Licht suggests organizing it within distinct subcategories. "If you categorize your skill sets and within that, your work experience, your resume might [speak better] to what you can do and what values you have."

And for Lee, it's okay if you haven't worked at a flashy or well-known company. "I used to get immediately dazzled by someone who worked at a high-profile, successful company," she explains. "But I learned to look deeper. Just because someone worked for six months at the hottest tech startup does not mean that they had any lasting impact or gained any useful knowledge from that place."

Sometimes, less is more. Lee, for one, says that she's not a proponent of listing otherwise irrelevant hobbies: "If you're adding too many odd points, it makes it look like you're just trying to fill space."

Update it often to reflect the job for which you're applying

"You want the person reading your resume to feel like your story is uniquely suited to the job you're interviewing for and you've been building from the beginning," says Chang. "It shows that you have a sense of direction and an understanding of your place in the world." That extra effort, while potentially time-intensive, is sure to provide a notable return on investment. 

"Always tailor your resume and cover letter to the exact job that you're applying for," says Licht. "It's a document that should be constantly looked at. It's great to look at a job posting and pull out keywords that the brand is using and give those words back to the brands to which you're sending your resume and cover letter. It looks like a match when you use the same kind of language."

Lee recommends taking a solid look at your resume at least once a year. "And don't forget to update your LinkedIn profile," she says. "Many hiring managers are looking there first since it's an easier resource, so you're putting yourself at a disadvantage if you're not current."

Even Barberich tinkers with her profiles and social media accounts to reflect where she is in her career. "As you learn and grow and become clearer about what you want to pursue and achieve, your resume and professional profiles should definitely reflect that," she says.

It's okay to invoke creativity, but make it count

The so-called "creative resume" tactic has reached a fever pitch in recent years, with such over-the-top documents receiving viral recognition. There are even listicles touting the most "insanely cool resumes that landed interviews," but does this mean you should take it upon yourself to render your entire CV on a cereal box? 

Lee prefers something simple. "If you want to impress me with your creativity, let your work speak for itself in your portfolio," she says, though there are exceptions. "That being said, as an editor, we do often give edit tests to candidates. If someone wanted to produce something that went above and beyond the assignment there, I would welcome it." 

That extra mile, if thoughtfully executed, can help applicants stand out. "I'm not a big fan of gimmicks, but I do love a well-baked idea that's executed flawlessly — so if someone wants to pitch their talents to me or our team on a cake or in an imaginative digital layout, I'm open," says Barberich. "As long as it's done well and afterwards, I'm clear about what they could bring to the table better than anyone." 

 Chang remembers:

I once had a candidate at a previous magazine format her resume for our interview in the style of our cover star story. It was clever and very well done. She had submitted a conventional resume to HR so I already knew her skills and experience, but it was something she had done on her iPad and she showed it to me for reference at our interview. It left an impression; she got the job.

Finally, tell a compelling story

"Your resume should tell a story," says Chang. "That story should be easy to follow. The progression I want to see in someone in my field is that they started out serving others well, then they were responsible for their own work and pieces, then their own section or vertical, then managing other people and other larger projects. I also want to see they have impact and take pride in their accomplishments. You can sense when someone carries a sense of ownership. Assistants can own their jobs and successes as much as directors."

Have more resume tips? Please share them in the comments below.

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