Creative directors are the visionaries behind the look and feel of films, magazines and newspapers, advertising campaigns, video games, clothing lines and other enterprises. And as in any field, an outstanding resume is their starting place to finding the right job.
This guide to preparing your own creative director resume will cover everything you need to know about the topic:
- What does a creative director do?
- Salary and job outlook for creative directors
- How to write a creative director resume
- Creative director summary, work history, education and skills examples
- Choosing the best resume format for a creative director
What does a creative director do?
Creative directors are the big-picture people responsible for the overall “look, feel and atmosphere” — the visual impact of their product, in whichever field. Creative directors manage teams of designers, artists, photographers and content writers to create products with an attractive and coherent look.
At a larger newspaper, for example, a creative director might oversee the management of the design, photography and art departments — with a design director, photo editor and art director reporting to him or her.
On a movie set, the creative director is usually called a production designer and is responsible for the overall look of a film, working with the various teams that create the all-important visuals that keep our eyes glued to the screen.
Salary and job outlook for creative directors
According to Glassdoor, creative directors earn an average of $122,644 in the United States. According to another source, Salary.com, the median creative director salary in the U.S. is $125,851, with a range typically falling between $105,038 and $149,745.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not classify creative directors separately but does provide statistics from a similar occupation, art directors, for whom the 2020 median pay is listed at $97,270 per year.
The BLS says there were 99,100 art director jobs in 2019. A 2% loss of jobs is projected through 2029, primarily because of the decline of traditional print publications. But prospects are better than ever for art directors and creative directors specializing in multimedia design for websites and mobile platforms.
So the jobs are out there, but there will be plenty of competition for top positions. The best way to position yourself for the job you want is to broaden your digital skills, and to compile a job application package consisting of an outstanding resume, a persuasive cover letter and an impressive portfolio.
How to write a creative director resume
How do you write a successful creative director resume? Creatively!
But before you get too creative, you should understand the basics. Your CV should contain the following elements:
- The resume header
- The resume summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The resume skills section
- The education section
As an expert in visual design, you must give your resume a striking, eye-catching look. This starts with a well-designed header that contains all your contact info, including your name, occupation, address, phone and email. This header should set the stage for the visual brand of your resume, making it look attractive at a glance. See the attached resume example.
Under the header, you need to provide a summary, also known as a profile, that describes your professional qualifications and aspirations in compelling, original language.
Below that, you need to list your employment history, educational credentials and job-related skills in an easy-to-follow, informative format.
What else do you need? Nothing! Once you’ve provided the above information, stop writing. In most cases, a creative director resume should be one page only, and this page shouldn’t be so packed with text that it looks crowded. Good information design requires brevity and an appropriate amount of white space.
As in many creative fields, a portfolio of published or produced work can also be a big asset for creative directors in search of employment. But to avoid submitting multiple attachments, this portfolio should be hosted on a website elsewhere, with a link provided in your resume or cover letter.
How to beat the ATS bots
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software programs that most large employers use to electronically filter resumes in or out of contention depending on their use of keywords relevant to the job.
Employers with open jobs first enter crucial job qualifications into their ATS software, and then as resumes start flooding in, the resumes are fed into the ATS to see if they mention these same job qualifications. Resumes that don’t contain these vital keywords are likely to be automatically rejected, without any review by human eyes.
So the key to beating these computer bots is ATS optimization, which means peppering your resume with the precise words the employer is looking for. In this case, if you have all the skills mentioned above, and you mention them all on your resume, it’s likely to rise like cream to the top of the ATS pile.
This is one of the reasons it’s important to customize your resume for each employer. A resume is not a one-size-fits-all document; it’s an adaptable, editable job search tool that should be tailored to each job you’re seeking.
Choosing the best resume format for a creative director
We know you want to get creative here, but your best bet is reverse chronological order. This effects your employment history section most, where you will list your jobs from most recent to earliest.
Other resume formats, such as the hybrid style may be options for you if you are changing careers, are a more mature worker or are entering the job market for the first time.
Avoid the functional resume format (recruiters are not fans) unless you are trying to show off your specialized technical skills.
Creative director summary/profile resume example
The summary, also known as a profile, contains two or three sentences of text under the resume header that describes the professional you — specialization, passions, skills, objectives.
As in the summary example below, the word “I” is usually omitted, and complete sentences are not even necessary. Use an economy of words to describe yourself briefly but provocatively. What do you do, what are you good at, and what are your aspirations?
The summary/profile is sometimes called a job objective, as it should specify what kind of job you’re looking for. However, if it exclusively mentions your experience as a creative director, there’s usually no need to say explicitly that you’re looking for a job as a creative director.
Most of the rest of this resume will be a collection of lists — of jobs held, schools attended and job skills — with little room for creative expression. But the summary/profile is different, allowing you to describe yourself and your professional qualifications in your own words. Think about the words you choose here carefully, and make them count.
You can review examples of well-written summaries for art directors, magazine editors and many other occupations on the resume.io website. Here’s a sample resume summary for creative directors:
Passionate Creative Director with vast experience managing the creative process from conception to completion. Adept in leading and directing creative teams to achieve standards and goals.
Work history resume sample: create a story of success
For job seekers in any field, nothing tops experience to get hiring managers’ attention. This is why the work history section, also known as the employment history or work experience section, usually comes first.
You should generally list your current and past employers in reverse chronological order (last job first). This is because you might have started your career as a barista at Starbucks but ended up as creative director of Time magazine — so you don’t want to lead with your experience in preparing cappuccino mochas. In fact, you’re not obligated to list every job you’ve ever had, especially if some have nothing to do with your current career.
Under each employer, mention where it’s located and the years you worked there. (There’s no need to provide exact start dates or departure dates.) Under this, provide bullet points highlighting your most impressive accomplishments at each job. Be specific about your achievements, listing facts and figures wherever possible, and use strong action verbs (“Created,” “Managed,” “Coordinated,” “Led”). Avoid saying “Was responsible for,” which describes what you were supposed to do but doesn’t actually say how well you did it.
If you are looking for more ideas for your creative director resume, try these resume examples and guides in the field of marketing:
- Digital Marketing Manager resume sample
- Marketing Manager resume sample
- Social Media Manager resume sample
- Marketing Associate resume sample
- Art Director resume sample
- Digital Marketing resume sample
- Event Planner resume sample
- Marketing Consultant resume sample
- Blog Writer resume sample
- Content Marketing Associate resume sample
- Advertising Director resume sample
- Content Acquisitions Director resume sample
- Marketing resume sample
- Brand Ambassador resume sample
- Brand Manager resume sample
- Public Relations resume sample
- SEO resume sample
- Marketing Coordinator resume sample
Here’s a good example of how to present your creative director employment history (bullet points of achievements/duties):
- Oversaw the work of the creative department to ensure goals were met.
- Remained highly involved in the hiring and training of creative staff.
- Reviewed the work of the creative team and provided constructive feedback.
- Developed and implemented creative strategies to achieve new goals.
- Supported company growth through creative vision and a focus on excellence.
What if I have no experience?
There seems to be a Catch-22 for job seekers in some fields: You can’t get the job without experience, but you can’t get experience without the job.
Take this concern with a grain of salt, as every creative director in the world began their career with no experience. Or were they supervising all their classmates’ finger painting projects in preschool?
Obviously, if you have zero experience in a related role, it would be very difficult to land a job making north of $100K supervising creative teams. Generally a creative director will be promoted from the ranks of those whom creative directors supervise, like art directors or production design assistants.
If you’ve never been a creative director but you’re looking to become one, remember that fortune favors the bold. Explain in your summary/profile, for example, that you’re an experienced advertising art designer, intimately familiar with collaborating across departments, who is prepared to take on a supervisory role over the entire creative process of producing ad campaigns.
You may have slim work experience because you’ve been busy earning an advanced degree in your field, such as a master of fine arts in graphic design. If you just graduated from a top university with an impressive degree in your field, but you put yourself through college selling used cars, then you probably want to list your educational credentials before your employment history.
Resume sample skills section: Boast a little
Creative directors need a unique set of skills, including, well, creativity, but also design, art, management, communication and interpersonal skills.
The skills section of a creative director resume will often include a mix of soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are “people skills” that indicate you play well with others — you’re an effective manager, a great communicator, a good listener, a trusted mentor, and you’re skilled at coordinating efforts across creative teams to implement a coherent vision.
Hard skills are more like things you can do all alone: graphic design, photo-editing, illustration, 3D animation. Expertise in relevant computer applications (like InDesign, Photoshop or Autodesk) are often mentioned in skills sections. Although creative directors don’t spend much of their time “getting their hands dirty” — i.e., doing the actual design work — it’s reassuring to an employer to see that they know how to do it. Proficiency in the tools of the trade makes creative directors good at proposing strategies and tactics for getting the job done.
The BLS lists the following as important qualities for art directors, which are not exactly the same as creative directors, but the same job skills apply:
• Communication skills: Able to listen to clients to understand their needs, and skilled at giving clear direction to creative staff.
• Creativity: Creative directors should be consummate brainstormers and innovators, able to find original design solutions to any challenge.
• Leadership skills: Creative directors must be able to direct: to organize, inspire, mentor and manage a diverse creative team.
• Resourcefulness: The capacity to come up with novel approaches and solutions using the latest technologies.
• Time-management skills: The ability to juggle multiple projects and clients, to set priorities and meet deadlines.
Here’s an example of the skills section on a creative director resume:
- Creative Direction
- Communication Skills
- Innovative Thinking
- Agile Project Management
- Detail Oriented
Education resume example for a creative director
In the education section of your creative director resume, list the colleges, universities or trade schools you went to in reverse chronological order: their names, where they’re located, the years you attended, and the degrees you earned.
As with your work experience, you can also provide bullet points under your schools to highlight any unusual achievements, such as a dazzling grade point average, any special academic recognitions or membership in honor societies.
If you hold any certifications in your field, or attended job-related seminars or workshops, that’s also something you can list in the education section of your resume.
You can also include where you graduated from high school, although this is not generally considered necessary if you have a university degree.
Here’s an example of a creative director education section:
- September 2010 — May 2014, Communications Design, BFA, Pratt Institute, New York
- September 2006 — May 2010, High School Diploma, St. John's High School, New York
Best layout and design formats
If you’re a creative director, your resume/CV format and design must land a great visual impression, and so it’s important to choose the best design choices. (And in case you’re wondering what a CV is, check out our informative guide on the differences between a resume and a CV, which are often nil.)
Paradoxically, there are two basic rules:
- If it looks bad, it’s bad.
- If it looks good, it’s good.
As a creative director, you already have great taste and vast visual experience, but do remember that resumes are their own separate beast and follow some functional rules that pertain to hiring manager psychology and employment practices.
Resume.io offers multiple resume templates and formats, divided into four types: Simple, Creative, Professional and Modern. Stop us now if you’ve already guessed that we’re going to suggest the Creative format for a creative director.
Creative resume styles might be described as a bit more “splashy,” a tad more colorful, decorated, eye-catching. The appropriate resume template is not the same for a Wall Street investment banker as it is for a Madison Avenue creative director.
If you’re a visual design whiz in your own right, you may need little advice here: You can format and design your resume in a way that reflects your unique creative vision. But not all design jobs are created equal — you may be an expert at designing Ralph Lauren ties, but not so much at choosing the best fonts to use in a resume.
All things considered, we recommend choosing a field-tested resume template where all the design work has already been done for you. Scroll through the many resume examples we offer, find one you like and make it your own.
- Creative directors are highly paid professionals who are facing a slight job decrease in the decade ahead, so to stand out in this field, you need an outstanding resume.
- Creative director resumes should be expertly designed with a striking header to get hiring managers’ attention.
- You need to write a summary that makes you sound perfect for the job you’re seeking.
- Follow the proper structure to present your work history, educational credentials and job-related skills — and when you’re done with that, stop there.
- Get the format and design right so that you’re not just talking about your skills but demonstrating them with the look and style of your resume.
Resume.io is a leading global provider of occupation-specific resume and cover letter templates, as well as professional guidance on how to prepare them. Our step-by-step builder tool makes it easy to customize any template. Review our samples, find one you like, make it your own, and you’re on your way to your next job.
Best of luck in your job search!