You’re trying to craft every public portion of yourself for employers to want an interview with you.
Your resumé is an individually customized creative work that highlights your job experiences, not a list of everything you’ve done.
Some things will make recruiters throw out a resumé within 20 seconds of viewing it.
Other things, however, don’t matter to hiring managers.
Add industry-specific keywords to make sure the software doesn’t reject it.
Work obsessively on making it look perfect, since it’s an employer’s first impression of you.
Get business cards to enhance your public image.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, filled with relevant keywords, optimized for accessibility, and well-connected.
Use any other social networks that your industry expects you to use.
As life happens, keep updating your profile.
How should I look?
A job search is you, a product, marketing yourself to potential employers:
Social network presence is a critical portion of the job search:
- Even if you don’t use social networks, a void in your online presence will make hiring managers wonder why.
- Display great photos throughout your networks that enforce your “personal brand”.
- Bring your creative works into your public image.
Anything you’ve made public on the internet is available to hiring managers:
- Employers often pass on a candidate from what they find on a social network or background check.
- Look at your online image, even the portions you feel are private.
- Take some time to clean up your informal social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter).
It’s not about what you know, or who you know, but how you’re remembered:
If you’re changing industries, note any differences between them:
Keep an eye out for discrimination, since it’s a fact of life.
The resumé is still popular because it proves the most critical business writing skill: intentional conciseness.
A resumé is a living document, and should adapt and change across your life’s career.
Make a vast list of skills to pull from:
- Write out a gigantic list of every skill you have, even irrelevant ones.
- Specify which of those skills you love doing and are good at.
- Consider environments that foster those skills the most.
- Note any concrete skills for the job titles you want from your brainstorming.
- Find creative ways to make your seemingly unrelated skills from #2 enhance your resumé.
Your resumé is a creative work, not a list
A resumé frames your professional career like a photograph:
- Ask other people what they see when they read it.
- A resumé should showcase your education, accomplishments, skills, and goals in the order of your choice.
- That resumé is telling an unfinished story the hiring manager should want to finish by interviewing you.
Recruiters look at resumés all day long, so they’re trying to throw out as many as possible:
- Templates should be an inspiration, not the standard, especially since hiring managers have all seen them.
- What and how you choose to express things reflects heavily on who you are.
- Find ways to tastefully distinguish yourself and express your personality throughout the resumé.
- If your industry is open to it, make your resumé fun or unconventional.
- Logically break apart the resumé chronologically, functionally, or any other way the reader can understand.
Keep your resumé at about 600-700 words:
- Too many details will turn off a potential employer.
- Keep it long enough to avoid lots of white space.
- It’s too long if your focus is confusing or unclear.
- Every single word matters, so consult a thesaurus.
Every resumé is a custom-tailored marketing tool
The entire purpose of a resumé is to motivate 1 employer to ask for an interview:
- Precisely clarify what you can do for that employer.
- You must explicitly imply you know the job you’re trying to get.
- You may want to share your full career story, but you must wait for the interview.
- Since it’s brief, a resumé usually draws more attention to what you don’t say!
- Only add relevant information the hiring manager will want to read, then remove everything else.
- Hiring managers in some industries may find a conversationally-styled resumé intriguing, but it’s risky.
Modesty doesn’t pay in a resumé:
- You’re competing against everyone else who wants the job.
- Nobody can see your personality or character in-person.
- Most employers expect candidates to lie on their resumé!
- Spin the truth as positively as possible by omitting explicit details and getting as creative as you can with the facts.
Employers don’t care about how interesting someone is, and just want a few questions answered to find someone who can do a job:
- How well have you done your current and past jobs?
- What resulted from you doing your job?
- How did you benefit your past employer(s) when you worked there?
- Why should I hire you over anyone else?
Recruiters reject most resumés within 20 seconds from a few criteria
A. New graduate:
- No school accomplishments
- Little to no time in volunteer activities or unrelated work experience
B. Last job role:
- Whether they’re currently employed and why they want a new role
- Whether their most recent experience can meet the employer’s needs
C. Company recognition:
- The reputation of that company’s corporate culture
- Assumptions about the candidate based on the company
D. Overall experience:
- Trends of improvement or stagnation
- The look and feel of the person’s career trajectory
E. Keyword search:
- Looks for exact words directly tied to the job with the software’s word-finding feature
F. Time gaps:
- Must be sufficiently explaing somewhere
- Without an explanation, employers assume the worst
G. Personal online footprint:
- If the resumé has a web link, they will visit it
- Depending on the industry and how you do it, your political values can sabotage callbacks from hiring managers
H. General logistics:
- Location, eligibility to work in the country
- Mostly to figure out their story instead of “weeding them out”
I. Overall organization:
- Spelling, grammar, and ease of reading
- Length shouldn’t be less than a page or exceed two pages
Recruiters and managers often overlook other details
- Each industry and company has wildly different expectations for education.
- Employers will sometimes note the degree (e.g., BS, MBA) but are more interested in skill than formalized education.
- While a well-formatted resumé might be fun to read, it can’t compensate for someone having no apparent experience.
Specific personal details:
Outside of acting roles, photographs are a bad idea:
- Many employers may create prejudices about your appearance.
- If they see a photo, employers might fear legal discrimination and won’t offer an interview.
Add the correct keywords
Try to mirror the writing style and choice of words from job postings inside your industry.
Whenever possible, add relevant words into the body of the work instead of writing a list:
- You’re trying to get past a computerized system that looks for all the words, so liberally add industry-specific words everywhere.
- Avoid general terms for skills (e.g., don’t put “MS Office” when the job posting states “knowledge of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc.”).
- If it helps, make a list beforehand of all the words you want to use, then check them off as you insert them into the document’s sentences.
Speak as plainly as possible
As much as possible, avoid florid or cliché writing.
Pass up arbitrary self-promoting terms:
Avoid overused phrases, vague words or words that imply inexperience or inability:
- Experience working in…
- Myself, me, I
- Problem-solving skills
- Responsible for…
- Team player
- Anything that sounds like business jargon
Find more creative ways to label your titles than the standard “Objective” or “Work History”
Save time by making a “boilerplate” resumé to adjust to each employer’s needs, and keep at least two types available:
- One filled with the jargon that gets it past the applicant tracking system (ATS)
- Another one without the jargon to give to someone who actually knows what you’ll be doing.
Personal profiles must be neat and tidy because they’re the first thing the recruiter sees.
Use the first 1/3 of the resumé to show core strengths in an attractive and seamless format, then the rest should echo those strengths (like a persuasive essay).
Name and contact information:
- Include a website or social network handle if it showcases your preferred image.
- If you’re moving or applying to a job in a different town, use a local city and phone number.
- It’s an identity theft risk and not relevant to the employer, so do not give your street address.
Many people make the objective a general statement of what they want:
- Use prior facts to state how your skills can benefit the company.
- Your statement should directly address the hiring manager, not the industry or type of job.
- Avoid listing industries you’ve worked in.
- Clarify exactly what you want to do at their job, not simply a long-term desire or vague goal.
The truth will come out, so do not exaggerate your titles and responsibilities.
Recruiters can easily research the jobs you’ve had, so the work history shouldn’t be a list of tasks and responsibilities.
The work history should use common themes to tell an unfinished story that supports the objective and skills.
Specify each job’s performance in 2-3 bullet points by clarifying who, what, and how many:
- Describe the experience’s result, outcome or benefit, and use numbers whenever possible.
- You’re trying to direct your job’s achievements toward your general aptitude, not to brag about how well you did.
- The resumé should tell a story that you’ve already succeeded and will succeed with the next role.
Use action verbs to tell the story:
- Communication – addressed, advised, answered, apprised, arbitrated, assessed, authored, briefed, clarified, communicated, composed, conducted, constructed, consulted, contacted, conveyed, corresponded, counseled, critiqued, deciphered, deliberated, demonstrated, developed, documented, drafted, edited, educated, elaborated, explained, facilitated, familiarized, formulated, guided, handled, illustrated, informed, instructed, interpreted, interviewed, introduced, lectured, led, mediated, moderated, negotiated, officiated, planned, prepared, presented, projected, promoted, proofread, publicized, published, reconciled, recorded, recruited, reported, responded, scheduled, screened, spoke, solicited, summarized, synthesized, taught, trained, translated, updated, wrote
- Creative – acted, arranged, authored, composed, conceived, conceptualized, conducted, created, designed, developed, devised, directed, edited, envisioned, established, fashioned, formulated, illustrated, initiated, integrated, invented, launched, modernized, orchestrated, originated, performed, planned, presented, produced, revitalized, revolutionized, shaped, stimulated, visualized
- Helping – aided, assessed, assisted, attended, coached, collaborated, comforted, contributed, counseled, educated, empowered, facilitated, fostered, guided, helped, instilled, mediated, mentored, moderated, provided, recommended, reconciled, rectified, referred, rehabilitated, screened, settled, supported, translated, treated, tutored
- Leadership – administered, advocated, appointed, approved, assigned, authorized, conducted, consolidated, contracted, coordinated, counseled, defined, delegated, determined, developed, diagnosed, directed, disseminated, elected, enforced, enlisted, ensured, evaluated, examined, executed, explained, formed, founded, governed, guided, headed, hired, implemented, improved, increased, influenced, initiated, inspired, installed, instituted, instructed, integrated, launched, led, managed, mentored, mobilized, modeled, moderated, monitored, negotiated, operated, originated, oversaw, pioneered, planned, presided, prioritized, processed, produced, promoted, recommended, recruited, represented, reorganized, resolved, responded, reviewed, secured, spearheaded, sponsored, staged, started, streamlined, strengthened, supervised, taught, trained
- Marketing – arbitrated, attained, augmented, boosted, broadened, calculated, centralized, consulted, convinced, decreased, developed, dissuaded, documented, educated, ensured, established, exceeded, excelled, expanded, expedited, familiarized, gained, generated, identified, implemented, improved, increased, influenced, integrated, launched, led, maintained, marketed, mediated, negotiated, performed, persuaded, produced, promoted, proposed, publicized, published, purchased, researched, resolved, revamped, revitalized, secured, sold, solicited, strengthened, supplemented
- Organization – allocated, appointed, arranged, assembled, balanced, catalogued, charted, clarified, collected, compiled, consolidated, coordinated, detailed, developed, disseminated, distributed, ensured, examined, executed, explained, formalized, formed, implemented, indexed, initiated, installed, maintained, measured, minimized, monitored, operated, organized, planned, prepared, prioritized, processed, recorded, reorganized, routed, scheduled, set goals, sorted, surveyed, streamlined, strengthened, updated
- Technical – administered, analyzed, applied, assessed, audited, charted, classified, compiled, computed, concluded, conducted, consulted, deciphered, designed, detected, developed, devised, diagnosed, discovered, documented, drafted, edited, evaluated, examined, expanded, extracted, formed, formulated, gathered, generated, identified, improved, increased, inspected, installed, instituted, integrated, interfaced, interpreted, interviewed, investigated, launched, maintained, measured, operated, organized, programmed, reduced, researched, restored, reviewed, searched, streamlined, summarized, surveyed, systemized, tabulated, tested, wrote
- Teaching – adapted, advised, assessed, assigned, challenged, clarified, coached, communicated, coordinated, defined, demonstrated, designed, developed, diagnosed, educated, encouraged, enriched, established, evaluated, facilitated, fostered, guided, identified, informed, inspired, trained
Leave out work experience which implies you’re a bad fit for the role:
- Unless your work made a significant impact, omit anything less than a few months long.
- Only go back as far as 3-5 years, and avoid including old jobs that draw out the resumé’s length.
Put your education before your employment history only if you haven’t been employed before or you’re searching for a teacher role.
While a career-relevant hobby on your resumé will really set you apart, only list hobbies and volunteer information that directly apply to the job.
Don’t share anything that could bias a recruiter against you (e.g., your religion, age, marital status, children), and save those details for the interview if you want to share them.
Unless you’re still going to it or working for it, don’t include your high school:
- Any college experience heavily implies you graduated high school already.
- If you didn’t graduate high school, take 1 affordable college class to dramatically change your image.
You can share skills through your Work History, but some skills won’t associate with a previous job and you may need a Skills section:
- Only include hard skills (e.g., foreign languages, software programs) and avoid soft skills (e.g., leadership, communication) in a Skills section, since those should be part of your work history.
- If the job you’re applying to requires a skill you don’t have, spend a few hours self-educating on that skill and include it in your resumé.
Add all relevant “education”:
- You can typically add simple one-off online courses, even if you didn’t get an official certificate but had finished the coursework.
- If you need more, take a day or two to pass a few online which interest you and are mildly related.
If you have a few relevant volunteer roles, add a Volunteer Work section.
Cleaning up the resumé
Keep the resumé length no longer than 2 pages, but preferably 1:
- While a resumé can be more than one page, it should correspond with how much relevant work experience you have.
- You will likely need to pad out your 1 page at the beginning of your career, but after about 4 jobs you’ll probably need to drop a lot of information off to get to a page, and probably even more after another decade to get to 2.
Work hard on your formatting:
- Half of a resumé’s presentation is formatting and design.
- Imitate resumés in your target industry.
- Use easily readable serif fonts like Georgia over Times New Roman.
- Set line spacing to 120% of the font size.
- Since they make the reader’s eyes wander, avoid indentations.
- Make the formatting more visually appealing with visuals like timelines or graphic elements.
Add web links to other records of your success:
- Online portfolios
- Writing samples
- Professional social media profiles like LinkedIn or GitHub
- Consider a video resumé link to distinguish yourself:
- Keep the video short.
- Describe why you bring value to the position.
- Explain why you’re the best fit for the job.
- Use a storytelling format.
- Take the time to do it right before uploading.
Double and triple check for errors:
- Any writing with typographical errors or lousy formatting looks unprofessional.
- Observe present and past tense throughout the document.
- Ask people for feedback on your writing style.
Save your finished resumé in three file formats:
- PDF – Unless specified otherwise, always send PDF to avoid formatting errors from the reader’s side.
- DOC/DOCX/ODS – Many job portals can’t process PDF.
- TXT – Some job portals want the resumé copy-pasted into a text box.
Buy business cards
Business cards are cheap and the easiest way to appear networking-savvy.
Make the business card a consulting business card by sharing what you want to do instead of your current job title.
Include everything someone needs to preview your work and get in touch with you:
- Your name
- Contact information with an e-mail and phone number:
- Make sure your email is professional-sounding, either with your website domain or with your first/last name/initials.
- Don’t put your work phone number on the card because that will change when you find a new job.
- Links to any relevant work or websites
- Your website domain (if you have one) and/or a LinkedIn profile link
Your LinkedIn profile is even more of a living document than your resumé:
- LinkedIn expresses much more information than a resumé, so don’t copy-paste information from your resumé to LinkedIn.
- A resumé records the past, but LinkedIn profiles show a pattern through the present and future.
- A LinkedIn profile changes with career moves, new skills, life events, and accomplishments, so update significant career changes as they happen.
To show the multiple dimensions of your talent, fill out your profile as thoroughly as you can.
Since LinkedIn is a social network, frequently use the “I” pronoun and write a story with a personable tone that potential employers may want to see.
Employers can sift through LinkedIn profiles
Since they’re skimming search results, use proper keywords, industry-relevant terminology, and great resumé words throughout your profile:
- Accomplished, created, developed, improved, increased, on time, reduced, researched, under budget, won
Avoid overused and abused jargon:
- analytical, creative, driven, effective, expert, innovative, organizational, patient, responsible, strategic
- Since jargon words change over time, adapt your terms to avoid sounding stale.
Upload a good-looking profile photo
People are far more likely to visit a profile with a photo.
Pay for a professional photographer to take your photo.
Consider grooming, lighting, camera angles, and any camera distortion or editing that may affect your photo’s story.
Dress formally, take the photo by yourself, smile in it, and don’t wear sunglasses.
Customize your profile URL
Use a specific title like your name to make links more intuitive.
Make yourself reachable
Display your email address and links to other social networks or your website.
If you contribute to it, link to your company blog.
Accept connections with people you haven’t met yet.
Optimize your location
Clarifying a specific city lets local employers find you.
Use the ZIP code you work in or want to work in, not the place you live.
Title and introduction
Use a professional title:
- You have 110 characters in the headline to grab someone’s attention.
- People who view your profile are looking for solutions, not gimmicks.
The title and introduction should answer who and how you can help the hiring manager.
The summary should expand on your professional headline and, if done correctly, will close the deal.
You have up to 2,000 characters to sell yourself and the context of the profile.
Make a 3×3 summary – 3 paragraphs with 3 or fewer sentences each:
- Reiterate your headline’s purpose in the first paragraph.
- Specify your work in the second paragraph.
- Use your long-term goals to give a concise call to action that clarifies why someone should contact you.
The rest of the profile
Make the profile visually appealing to skim through.
Align yourself with your industry.
Fill in your work experiences:
- Describe in paragraph form how you impacted the organization.
- List about five of your key accomplishments or duties under your paragraph.
- Show three previous jobs in your work experience.
Show 2-4 examples of any work you’re proud of:
- Website content
- Test scores
- Awards & honors
- Certifications, college degrees, any other courses
- Volunteering and causes
- Languages you can communicate with
Round out your profile with other background elements:
- Interests and professionally relevant hobbies
- Knowledge about your industry
- Involvements with professional or personal organizations
Connect with many contacts
Search back to connections you know from the past, and make any real-life connections via LinkedIn.
Join relevant LinkedIn groups to open doors for networking:
- Add meaningful discussion to message boards and comment threads.
- At all costs, avoid any arguing or disrespect.
- Since public conflicts and prejudices are highly unprofessional, you’ll incur public shame and hiring managers will see it.
Manage your endorsements and recommendations
Add at least 5 skills connected to your desired job.
Add “soft skills” that fit your personality:
- Always punctual, creative thinker, critical thinker, easily adapts, friendly personality, good communicator, interpersonal communicator, social, team player, well-organized, quick study
Boldly ask for Recommendations from people who know your work:
- Endorsements are quick “likes” of others’ skills while Recommendations are searchable and communicate more.
- Don’t ask a Recommendation from a co-worker or boss you’ve worked with for less than 6 months.
- Ask clients who genuinely love your work.
Freely give specific, helpful Recommendations to people you value and have worked with.
Consistently update your LinkedIn status with appropriate industry-related news:
- The best time to post is in the morning on weekdays.
- Add links, images, and videos when applicable to improve the posts.
Only repost content if it has industry-relevant insights, new industry-relevant products and services, or your personal opinion.
Write about a career-relevant passion if you can communicate it well.
- Post less than 20 times a month.
- Don’t auto-post other social channels to LinkedIn.
- Don’t auto-post a website feed unless it’s industry-relevant.
Other social networks/sites
Use any job sites or social networks your industry typically uses.
At the same time, don’t spend time on any employment social networks or job sites with very few job posts.
The purpose of a social network is to communicate, so make sure you’re communicating the right ideas to the right audience.
Try to avoid misusing a social network outside of its original design (e.g., Pinterest for essays).
Keep your profiles current
Social networks change frequently and affects your image, so follow up on any alerts and notifications about your profile.
Keep your current position and accomplishments updated as they change.
Refer to your social profiles and websites in email signatures, web pages, business cards, and anywhere else it would make sense.
The creative nature of a job profile means it’s open to interpretation, so none of these are hard-set immaculate rules.
You’ll never be fully ready, and you’ll be tweaking your approach as you go, so when you feel you have a decent-enough image for presentation, it’s finally time to get job hunting.