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The 411 on Infographic Résumés

Jada A. Graves

A tough part about job searching is determining the difference between a trend and a fad. Do I really need to learn how to use Skype for interviews? Just how important is personal branding? Should I include a QR code on job materials, or have QR codes become extinct?

Career experts are divisive on what you should or should not do. One prominent thought leader might swear by video résumés; the other will tell you not to waste your time.

It's the same with infographic résumés. They certainly look good and catch the eye, but just how effective, and appropriate, are they?

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The definitive answer is ... it depends. Here's what you need to weigh:

Pros and Cons

Your trump card is aesthetics. "If your materials are sitting in a stack of who knows how many résumés, you really do have just an instant to stand out. The point of the resu-graphic is that it can get you that second glance," says Jason Orr, creative director for Art City Design, a design company based in Utah and the Czech Republic.

But an infographic résumé has to be logical and done well. Nonsensical swirls, shapes and shades won't give you the inside track, and the real bait for an employer isn't how a résumé looks, but what it says. "When you send out your résumé, it has to have two audiences. The hiring manager, who's going to work with you, and then the recruiter," says Elli Sharef, the co-founder of HireArt, an online jobs marketplace that vets applicants for employers through online interviews in which candidates are given tasks to complete to determine their preparedness for specific occupations. "The recruiter is often the gatekeeper. ... And she looks through hundreds of résumés a day, some only for 15 seconds," Sharef explains. "If she doesn't understand what's going on on your résumé within 15 seconds, she's going to move on."

A quality infographic is a boon for someone who works in design; the ability to create attractive and intuitive marketing materials is essential, so the résumé also serves as a work sample. But it's a stretch to find a correlation between this type of résumé and some fields--if you're working in a left-brain profession, you want to consider whether your carefully designed graphic will sell your qualifications or appear to be showboating. "There are many fields where you need to be really careful with using an infographic. It can seem distracting," Sharef says.

[See: 9 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out]

If you plan to go the infographic route, consider these tips:

Be serious. Perfecting your résumé is an investment akin to buying a new interview suit or hiring a headhunter. There are websites that quickly and cheaply convert your qualifications into an infographic, but think hard about how you use what you create with those applications. "Do not try to make these things at home," Sharef advises. "It's too risky, and your résumé is too important."

"Those sites give people a good starting point, but they're free to use and should be," Orr says. "They don't offer much value besides whittling down the most important things about you." Orr has designed résumés for people who work in an array of professions and who are as far-flung as Dubai. Starting an infographic project from scratch could cost between $3,500 and $12,000, with prices varying depending on design complexity. Asking for an infograhic that's based on a pre-determined template could deflate the expense.

Be patient. You're paying for quality, which will take time. Plus, it'll be a collaborative process. "You'd have to give me lots of information about you, the more the better, so that I can find out what's important," Orr says. "We'd do hierarchy lists, and discuss the things that seem important to me [to include] and the things that are important to you. We'd begin whittling those things down. And then I'd begin trying to organize that information in a logical way."

Orr says a basic infographic résumé could take up to five days to complete, whereas more complex ones may take as long as two weeks.

[Read: 10 Things to Leave Off Your Resume]

Be simple. "Bells and whistles can be really bothersome," Sharef says. "An infographic résumé still has to have readability and understandability. ... Show it to your mom before you send it to anyone. If she doesn't know what's going on, then it's a problem."

"The easiest way to go south is to have too much information," Orr adds. "You don't want it to be a big mess. The point is to grab attention. And also to give someone something to refer back to and access the key points about you easily. To do that, you need to keep it one page. Think of it as an illustrative cover letter. If you have more pages that you need to attach, then do so by attaching your original résumé."

Be flexible. Snazzier résumés won't work for everybody. Read the job description carefully for specifics on how to submit job materials, and keep a traditional text template handy for those times when an employer uses applicant tracking system software that doesn't accept infographics. Your text résumé is also necessary for those times when you need to tweak keywords and phrases to correlate with a particular job's responsibilities.

And remember ... An infographic is one way to stand out, but not your only option. "Do something that's related to the job, and that will prove how well you could get the job done," Sharef says. "[At HireArt] we were helping to hire someone in San Francisco for a health-related company to work as an analyst. She had the first interview with the manager and was worried it didn't go well. Afterward, she sent them a PowerPoint presentation about the state of health care in California. She got the job."

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