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Resume Writer Certification:

Certified Graphic Resume Architect

Build dynamic, visual resumes that stand out.

CDI resume writer certification logo: Certified Graphic Resume Architect (CGRA)CDI is proud to introduce a new resume writing certification to our credential portfolio: The Certified Graphic Resume Architect.

This credential was designed specifically for professional resume writers who love giving job seekers the invaluable edge of dynamic, visual resumes that make them stand out from the competition.

What is a graphic resume?

A graphic resume is one that in which the resume writer/designer goes beyond a well-written and laid out resume to embrace graphic elements such as color, images, graphs, charts, and call out boxes to better draw the eye and highlight content.

You can see samples of this style and its evolution by viewing Toast of the Resume Industry (TORI) and World’s Best Resume Writer (WBRW) winning resumes from the past 19 years. Here are examples from the 2019 TORI winners:

Since graphic resumes aren’t the everyday norm, why would I want to earn this credential?

The answers to this are NUMEROUS:

Because it gets you clients and profits while getting your clients results.

We’ve seen time and time again that TORI award winners get to pick and choose their ideal clients, raise their rates, and not worry about selling. Gorgeous, graphic-rich resumes sell themselves. Whether you’ve won or been nominated for a resume writing award, a certification in this specialty will tell job seekers you have what it takes to help them stand out in a unique and powerful way.

Because employers expect graphics in every other aspect of their decision-making and will embrace them here.

In fact, we know every second counts with resumes and the average review time by a human is 4-7 seconds.

Despite this, today’s employer is bombarded by resume submissions for open positions that adhere to old standards of B&W presentation with little changing in style or layout in decades.

That’s where professional resume writers have turned resume content into CAR stories and hard-hitting metrics, branding and unique selling propositions to help their clients stand out.

But today’s consumer demands visuals because they are the norm in every other part of their lives. From tablets to smart phones, everywhere you look on social media, marketing and advertising, images and videos are king. Whole stories and impulse-based decisions are made based on images.

No matter how well you write, when you are dealing with precious seconds in an attention deficit world, content presented with visuals is king.

Because HR is shifting and issues like blockchain could rewire the entire resume writing game.

As if this weren’t enough, graphic design in the resume of the future may be the only thing igniting interest in the documents job seekers may use as blockchain takes deeper root in human resources and hiring.

Projections around the blockchain phenomena position the resumes we know to migrate into a different type of personal branding document. If this shift takes place, resumes will still talk about achievements but won’t be relied on in the way we now experience. Since blockchain will already have access to those keys, we could see the resume become more focused on showcasing personality vs. past history.

Even if blockchain doesn’t impact resumes in this manner, we are already seeing a shift toward heavier graphic use and design/style that appeals to millennials and linksters (generation Z).

Being a multi-certified resume writer, I’m well aware of the power of marketing a master-level, executive or specialist certification to reach my desired customer base. Words are critical, yes, but it is elegant and sophisticated formats, that compels a reader’s eyes to a page.

My philosophy throughout my thirty years in the industry, has always been to provide a full-package service far beyond the talents and experience of my clients. The aim is to get that immediate ‘wow’ factor; an acknowledgement that the resume achieves the level of professionalism they have. Creative formats matched by powerful language has provided a differentiation that has allowed me to target the client base of my dreams and in parallel secure 56 TORI resume award nominations and 30 wins along with two awards in the CDI World's Best Resume Writer competition. 

That’s what has been missing from certifications until now: the Certified Graphic Resume Architect (CGRA). While words are indeed the centerpiece of a resume, it’s the panache of a superbly crafted document that wins referrals and customer loyalty and now with the GCRA, writers can prove it, market it and achieve that next tier customer base.

- Gayle Howard, Top Margin Executive Resumes and Coaching

I’ve heard resumes with graphics aren’t ATS-friendly, so why would I want to create them?

For the longest time resume writers have had to walk the line between either a graphic-rich networking resume or a more traditional plain resume for a variety of evolving scanning systems.

However, there are simple rules to follow which can ensure that content can still be read while capitalizing on the necessities of ATS scannability with keywords and keyword phrases. CDI members can access CDI's free video master class, How to Design ATS-Friendly Graphic Resumes with Marie Plett, to learn these techniques.

But remember, networking is still the BEST way for job seekers to get their foot in the door for interviews!

Not only can you make a graphic-rich resume ATS-friendly, here at CDI we still embrace the networking resume complemented by a more scannable resume when you “just don’t know” what the situation requires and haven’t learned how to blend the two.

We greatly encourage applicants to learn how to blend graphs with the ATS-friendly style.

Don’t I have to have sophisticated, expensive software to create graphic resumes that then won’t be compatible with employer needs?

Nope. You may be surprised to learn that 85-90% of all TORI-wining resumes are designed simply using MS Word. Anyone can do this with just a little patience and effort. You shouldn’t be afraid to learn from all forms of advertising and marketing, including the print media that still shows up in your mailbox, magazine ads, and other winning resumes.

Of all the resume writing credentials I’ve earned throughout my 15-year career, I am most proud to hold the designation of Certified Graphic Resume Architect (CGRA).

I am beyond thrilled that CDI has created this certification, which acknowledges the importance of visual creativity in modern resume development. Resumes are evolving into beautiful pieces of branding art that will provoke emotional responses for generations to come.

As a graphic resume writer, I consider it my life’s mission to get my clients the interviews they want. I work hard to ensure that every single resume I produce elicits a sense of urgency and excitement from all gatekeepers, whether it’s applicant tracking software (ATS), an overwhelmed resume screener, or a discerning top executive charged with making the final hiring decision. For this reason, I create stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces that never blend in with the rest of the zebras.

To be the greatest help to job seekers, I design singular graphic documents that excel through electronic applicant tracking systems and easily populate online application boxes. Now that ATS systems have become more sophisticated, this is something all elite resume writers should be capable of accomplishing for their clients.

With the CGRA Credential, resume writers can let the world know they are capable of creating beautiful and unforgettable resumes that ensure job seeker success in the 21st century.

- Marie Plett, Aspirations Career Services, Inc.

If anyone can design them, why would this certification give me the edge?

There are two sides to this:

Because not every professional will choose to do them.

Trends take time to catch on, and in every shift, many get left behind as market demand and acceptance shifts. (Think Blockbuster vs Netflix and Kodak film vs Digital Cameras vs Smart Phones).

While every client you work with won’t need a visually intense resume, it’s important to harness this skill and have the agility to meet market changes as they rise. Visual design isn’t going away. Instead it’s rapidly growing over as the way we consume content.

Because the best graphic designers out there don’t possess your resume writing skill.

Yes, anyone with a computer and a word processor can design a beautiful document, but can they make the content sell them?

The answer remains the same as it has been for resumes throughout the last two decades: NO.

Just being able to make something gorgeous and visually dynamic won’t check the boxes to getting an interview. If a talented graphic artist designs a beautiful resume filled with standard, generic resume-speak, it will tank.

We see it all the time in the TORIs – you never even get to see some of the most gorgeous, show-stopping resumes that are submitted because they are not balanced with strong enough content including dynamic word choice; keywords; unique selling propositions; branding; or challenges, actions and results.

Most job seekers know to tell and not sell. Just adding visuals won’t improve their chances.

But a professional resume writer who combines writing and branding expertise with dynamic layout is a force to be reckoned with!

We are at a time where making the leap and being recognized as a Certified Graphic Resume Architect is a step that will uniquely position you for more revenue, more clients, and more raving fan success stories.

When I began my practice, it was unusual to see resumes that were as attractive as other business communications; think brochures, annual reports, and websites. More and more, when I speak to prospective clients, it’s becoming the cost of entry for high-end resume writing.

Most of our clients don’t understand everything that goes into creating a compelling career story and are trusting us to do that part for them. But design, even if it’s not their area of expertise, is a part of resume creation that they, and hiring decision-makers, can evaluate immediately.

A resume is visually pleasing and immediately draws your eye to branded, compelling information—or it doesn’t.

I’m thrilled that CDI is now offering the Certified Graphic Resume Architect (CGRA) credential and proud to display my CGRA so that clients and colleagues alike immediately know that design is integral to the work I do.

- Kimberly Robb Baker, This Little Brand

What does it take to become a Certified Graphic Resume Architect?

The process is simple:

Step One: Ensure you meet the prerequisite and will be able to submit proof you have already earned a recognized resume certification (e.g., CDI: CARW, CMRW, CERM, CRS+X or outside of CDI: MRW, NCRW, CPRW, CMRS, CRS, MCRS, ACRW).

Step Two: Pay the credential fee of $297 US.

Step Three: Follow the instructions to submit five (5) resumes you have created. Each should be for a different industry/specialty or situation. In other words, if you only write for executives or new graduates, they can all be for that category but should be for different positions at that level.

(a) At least one resume must have an originally designed page header. That means not just text but some kind of design, which could be via a stock image, design vector, layering of shapes, or use of patterns.

(b) At least one resume must have an originally designed chart or graph that matches the document presentation and does not rely on the MS Word default, pre-defined chart style. (In other words, change colors, add gradients, patterns, shadows, etc.)

(c) At least one resume that demonstrates the use of MS Word Smart Art.

Yes, you CAN include all these in one resume.

Step Four: Select one of the resumes you plan to submit as the one you will showcase with project details.

For this resume you need to add a final page to the document with a paragraph, bulleted list or short essay that explains your design choices. Topics should cover software used, design inspiration, how you feel it is a fit for target job and industry, why you chose the specific design elements that were included, the outcome for the job seeker with the resume IF it has already been used in a job search, and ways in which you made sure graphical content was also represented within the document to be ATS friendly.

A period of 4-6 weeks will allow the certification committee to perform a blind review of the portfolio to ensure a balance of strong certification-worthy writing has been balanced by solid design.

Should more than one additional submission (recognized as a second portfolio) be required to fulfill the needs of the CGRA credentialing process, an added processing fee of $95 will be applied.

Upon committee approval you will be conferred and awarded the CGRA designation, which will include use of the logo and an e-certificate, both appropriate for print or web use.

Do my resumes have to be as graphic-intense as recent TORI-awarded resumes to earn this credential?

The answer is a solid NO.

TORIs should definitely play an influential role in understanding what works, but are in no way the standard we expect for the CGRA. It is important to consider factors such as:

  • Appropriate colors and design for the industry.
  • Use of some advanced visual design factors, which could be pervasive in numerous elements of the resume or limited to resume section headers and a single call out box, graph or chart.
  • Maintenance of existing resume certification standards of grammar, punctuation, appropriate sentence length, dynamic wording, focus on storytelling, metrics and accomplishments.

You don’t have to be a TORI winner to attain this credential!

Should all the resumes in my submitted portfolio be ATS-friendly?

This is also a NO. If you have earned the mandatory pre-existing resume certification, we know you can create resumes with appropriate keywords and phrases. The goal of the CGRA credential is to show that you know how to make a strong resume a stand-out crowd pleaser by incorporating visual elements.

While we encourage you to continue honing the craft of making your graphic resumes ATS-friendly, it must be demonstrated in only one (1) of your submissions. Click on the free video training above if you are currently unsure what simple steps this entails).

What if I’ve reworked former resumes to be graphic-focused but have not done them for real life clients yet?

We recognize that it’s common to practice this art on existing, well-written resumes before launching the service to the public. Earning the CGRA will also give you the stamp of approval, acceptance and confidence to know you are ready to take this service live.

Thus, we do not ask for the origin of your submitted resumes or base granting certification on the success rates of the candidate. In fact, your resumes will be reviewed blind by the certification committee, so they will not even know who the author is.

So, if you can prove the skill in your resumes, you can earn the credential!

If resumes are reviewed blind by the committee, can I submit former TORI-winning resumes?

Yes, we will accept your TORI-winning resumes. While this may remove the blind review factor, a TORI win in the last three (3) years is basically deemed an immediate sign of approval on that specific resume.

You can submit winners from as far back as the competition goes, but they may not all meet the instant approval criteria and your portfolio will still be given a thorough review.

Can I use a design service to create the visual elements of my resumes?

No, you cannot use a third party to create any part of a resume for a CGRA submission. All resumes are expected to be 100% authored and designed by you.

Where can I view samples of appropriate resumes for this credential?

You can see best-of-the-best examples in the TORI resume award winning resumes at CDI's Resume Award Winner's page. However, do refer back to the section above, “Do my resumes have to be as graphic-intense as recent TORI-awarded resumes to earn this credential?” This level of resume graphic design is not mandatory to earn the CRGA but represents the gold standard of what qualifies.

Here are a few more examples of 2019 TORI winners:

Who will review my sample resumes and will they know who I am?

Your samples are viewed by a panel of CMRWs (Certified Master Resume Writers), some of whom have won or have been nominated for TORI awards. The Director of Certification handles the distribution of your documents and is the only person who knows your identity as the key contact point. This process includes giving your candidacy a unique number, renaming documents and “scrubbing” all samples and submissions of metadata—which means that all personally identifiable document properties have been removed—ensuring your anonymity to the entire panel.

Hand-picked to represent the best-of-the-best of the industry and its various resume certification procedures, the committee's current members include:

Certification Chair: Gayle Howard, CERM, CGRA, CMRW, MRWLAA, MCD, MCPLAA, MRW, CPRW, CCM, BIC, HRCC, CWPP, CARW – Top Margin Executive Resumes & Coaching, Melbourne, Australia

Patricia Duckers, CMRW, CPRW, CEIP, CWPP, CFRW, CFRWC, MFCC, MFCC/T, MMRW – CareerPro Global, Inc., Edison, New Jersey

Barb Poole, CERM, CMRW, CARW, CCMC, CPRW, PHR, BS – Hire Imaging, Maple Grove, Minnesota

Gillian “Jill” Kelly, CERM, CMRW, MRWLAA, CARW, ATSC – Career Edge, Queensland, Australia

Erin Kennedy, CERM, CMRW, CPRW – Professional Resume Services, Lapeer, Michigan

Darlene Dassy, CERM, CMRW, CARW – Dynamic Resume Solutions, Sinking Springs, Pennsylvania

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, CERM, CMRW, MRW, CPRW, CEIP – CareerTrend, Gordonville, Texas

Annette Richmond, MA, CMRW, CARW, CEIC, CCLEW – career intelligence Resume Writing and Career Services, Norwalk, Connecticut

Dawn S. Bugni, CMRW, MRW, CPRW – The Write Solution, Atkinson, North Carolina

Carolyn Whitfield, CMRW, CERM, CARW, CEIC, CP-OJSRM – Total Resumes, Tasmania, Australia

Are there any other costs associated with earning this credential?

If you are a CDI member, then there are no further associated costs beyond the $297 registration fee. If you need to submit a second portfolio as the first was not approved, there will be a $95 fee. To date we have not had to institute that on any of our advanced credentials (CMRW, CERM, CRS+X).

Non-members will need to first become CDI members and can choose the non-member package when checking out on this page to add one year of membership with a savings of $80. You can also explore adding membership in monthly or annual form at our Join page.

There are renewal fees, which are explained below.

Does this credential require renewal or CEUs?

In order to demonstrate your commitment to staying abreast of industry changes, the CGRA credential must be renewed every three years for a fee of $95.00. For consideration you must submit three sample graphic-rich resumes of your choice.

Update requirements and active membership are a prerequisite of retaining the CGRA credential. CDI reserves the right to revoke this credential if these requirements are not met and maintained.

Why is renewal necessary? Because the craft of resume writing is dynamic and is swiftly changing. We need to see that you are keeping your graphic skills up-to-date to best serve the clients of today and tomorrow.

Can my CRGA credential be revoked once I have earned it?

All requirements of CRGA certification, renewal, and CDI membership standards must be maintained in order to earn or retain a CDI credential. CDI reserves the right to revoke a CRGA credential for any of the following: Renewal requirements are not maintained and completed within required timelines. Membership lapses due to non-renewal. Individual is found guilty in a court of law for a grievance within the industry (unprofessional, unethical, unlawful conduct and/or business practices).

For more information on the CRGA credential, contact CDI at info@nullcareerdirectors.com.

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