7 tips for designing and using business cards

Business cards can be an important part of the job-searching process.

You can’t always have your resume with you to hand out at unexpected business opportunities, and you don’t want to be writing your name and email address on a napkin to hand to a potential contact.

A business card can provide basic contact information and so much more – and you can carry business cards with you wherever you’re going.

Business cards don’t have to be a major expense. Some companies will print free business cards for you if the cards include their URL, or you can print your own with a laser printer.

Here are seven tips for designing and using business cards.

1. Beware of using your current work business card if you are looking for another job or for part-time or freelance work.

If you use your current work business card in talking with someone you hope will hire you, that person may wonder about how loyal you would be if hired. You’re in one job but seeking another. If you have an arrangement with your current employer that you can be doing additional work outside your current job situation, explain that. Or you may have been told that you could be laid off in a company downsizing in two months. Explain that.

You don’t want to appear to be using company resources (business cards, work phone, postage and time) to be looking for another job. So have your own business cards, separate from your current job.

2. Determine what information to include on your business card.

A business card can be so much more than just your name, phone number and email address. Including your blog, Facebook page, Twitter handle or personal website can provide a potential employer with a way of learning much more about you and seeing your online portfolio. That also means that any information you include on your business card about your online self should be appropriate for a potential employer to review.

A new way to share information on your business card is by including a QR code that can be read by a smartphone and will open your website or blog.

3. Think carefully before selecting a business card size other than the standard 2” x 3½” size.

Business cards that are larger that the standard 2” x 3½” business cards won’t fit in the business card cases that people often carry. The smaller ones (1” x 2¾”) may get lost in the shuffle of cards.

4. A business card of standard paper stock can be more effective for networking than a card with a glossy enamel finish.

I heard that tip at a panel of editors at the 2011 BlogHer Conference. One of the editors said that she used the back of the business card to write notes about that particular person and would refer to those notes later when back at the office. After hearing her say that, I could see that was true.

Especially at conferences and job fairs, people are using the backs of business cards to write notes. So make sure if you want a glossy finish on your business card that the card can be written on with a regular ballpoint pen.

5.  Consider whether to put content on one or both sides of your business card.

Based on Tip #3, you want to leave enough blank space on the card for someone to write a brief note. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use both sides of the card for information.  Part of your decision may be based on the price of printing the cards.

The business cards I receive from people who are promoting themselves in the context of their current employment have traditional business cards, with their business title and business contact information.

Those individuals who are job hunting typically have information on both sides of their card. As I said in Tip #2, you can include the name of your blog, your Twitter handle and many other sources of information about you that would be of interest to a potential employer.

6. Design a card that is easy to read.

I’ve received business cards that are very eye-catching and colorful but are almost impossible to read. The size of the type is too small or the font choice (script or italic) is difficult to read. The color of the business card and the color of the ink don’t provide enough contrast for easy reading.

To have your business card stand out, you may design a logo for your card or include a photograph (especially if you are trying to promote your work as a photographer), or you may select a template for your card that includes artwork. But don’t let the design overpower the readability of the card.

7. Always have your business cards with you.

Great business cards aren’t going to help you if you left them at home. If you are job hunting, you should always have several business cards with you, even if you are going out to dinner with friends. You never know when an opportunity will present itself.

I’d be interested in the advice you have about creating and using business cards. Do you have a story to tell of how your business cards helped you in the job search? If you are in a position where you are hiring, what do you think makes an effective business card?

5 comments

  1. Great tips! Thanks you.

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  2. What a timely post. I’m a graduate student, and I’ve been thinking about ordering business cards for myself before I go to a conference this fall. A question: As a grad student, my office address and office phone number may change next year. What contact information would you recommend I put on my card?

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    1. Paige,
      I’d suggest that you first talk with the graduate office in your college to see if your program provides free or low-cost business cards for graduate students. Some programs do, as they want to help their graduate students be representatives of their program when they are attending conferences. Those cards will have the university logo and may have specific info that’s included. In that case, go with those cards, even if some of the info may be outdated by next year.

      If you are going to be purchasing your own business cards for attending an academic conference, you will want to include your program and college/university. Grad students often indicate “Doctoral Student” or “Master’s Student” on their cards. You may opt to use your cell phone instead of your office phone if you think your office phone is likely to change by next year. The key for most contacts would be your email address.

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  3. […] As you are talking to people about your job hunt, you’ll get the sense of whether or not it would be appropriate to give them your business card. (Check my previous post about business cards.) […]

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  4. […] (JOU3109), an undergraduate course requirement for journalism and public relations majors. Check a previous post for more tips for creating business […]

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