Job searching is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.
Recruiters and hiring managers see it all. One-size-fits-all rules don’t work for everyone. But there are some common mistakes we see time and again.
The good news is you can prevent simple mistakes. Checking all the boxes on this checklist won’t always be enough to get you the job. But it will at least get you started on the right foot.
What’s my name? — NAME and EMAIL
1. Do you keep your name consistent across your application?
Keep your name consistent. Whether Alexander is on your birth certificate, and you go by Alex, it’s up to you to run with one during your job search. We don’t care which you go with, but make it easier on hiring managers to search for you in their database, email, or on the web.
2. Does this consistent name match your email address from a reputable provider?
The best practice: Firstname.Lastname@gmail.com Again, it’s easier to search for when trying to reach out. University, business, or cute alias emails usually cause more trouble and confusion than they are worth. It’s easy to forward emails from one account to another. Make the one you share be public-facing and ready.
Who am I? — RESUME
If we could abolish the resume, we would. We know it can’t tell your whole story. And while it has it’s major limitations, when done right it’s a major asset in a job search. Doing these things will help:
3. Have you remembered that the resume is but one part of the process?
Your goal is to get to the next stage. First, get the reader’s attention. Then add more detail and dimension to your readiness as a candidate as the process goes along.
4 . Are you aware that your specific goal is to get an interview?
You don’t need to win the job at this point. You only need to advance to the next stage.
5 . Does your resume fit on one page?
Seriously, we mean it. It’s controversial. We know. If you have a multiple page resume, try cutting it to one. You may have created a better advertisement for yourself. Many think that you start with a one page resume in college, and it goes up in pages, ad infinitum, as your career progresses. What we’ve found is even C-Suite ready candidates can best sum up their experience in one page. We can get their full CV and detail later. Like Mark Twain said — probably apocryphally — “I was going to write a short resume but I didn’t have the time so I wrote you a multi-page one.”
6 . Have you made a simple design full of white space?
Be selective with the information you share. High density resumes give readers a headache. Be concise, clear, and clean. Make every word earn its place.
7. Have you gotten fresh eyes on it?
Often, other perspectives can help us see ourselves in a better light. At the very least, it will help you fix your typos. It happens to all of us, and sometimes we cannot notice the mistakes, no matter how diligent you may be. What may be hidden to us will stand out to fresh eyes. Ask your peers or collaborators to take a look.
8. Have you listed accomplishments not duties?
It’s conventional wisdom but we still see applicants refusing to follow this advice. It gets to the point where we start to question if there are accomplishments at all when only duties are listed.
9. Have you quantified those accomplishments?
Quantify. Quantify. People tell you this all the time. People rarely do it. This is the most surefire way to improve your resume in a matter of minutes.
10. Be backwards chronological. Is your education listed after your experience?
It helps a reader to see that you haven’t rested on your laurels since graduating from an impressive school. Instead, you’ve continued to build — and now feature — excellent experience and results. What have you been up to lately?
11. Is the year you graduated on your resume?
If you’re fewer than ten years out of school, then be sure to include this basic factual information. Don’t make hiring managers go searching for anything you can easily provide. If you’re more advanced in your career, then whether you display the year is up to you. It helps readers understand the full context and trajectory of your career, even if it’s been a winding path.
12. Have you signaled your reason for leaving your last job?
Help the hiring manager understand where you’re coming from. We all change jobs or directions. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Sharing a bit of context is always helpful. If you’re transitioning, or unemployed, it’s good to get back out there and applying. Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve been up to. Even if it’s tending to personal/family concerns, traveling, volunteering, or exploring a new career. Don’t let hiring managers project their own biases onto your experience.
13. Skip including your address but make it clear if you’re willing to relocate to the new city.
The hiring manager isn’t going to mail you anything — they don’t need to know where exactly you live, only that you currently live in or are willing to move to the city where the job is located.
14. Is it in PDF format with a proper filename like Firstname.Surname.Resume.pdf?
Hiring managers see a lot of resumes. If yours is saved as Resume.pdf, it will blend in with all the other Resume.pdfs out there.
15. Does it tell a story?
Can a reader see the arc of your career thus far? Don’t just make a list. Tie the thread of your experience together where you can. Share a sentence of context if you made an abrupt switch or there is a gap in your employment history.
How do I present myself? — PROFESSIONALISM
16. Have you included links to your public social accounts or portfolio website?
We don’t want to snoop on your social life, but it’s a big plus if we can see a well-presented Facebook and/or Twitter account.
17. Is your LinkedIn info up-to-date?
Does it include a professional picture? We don’t need to see what you look like. We want to see that you’re making an effort to project a professional, authentic image on the web.
18. Does it have listed descriptions and accomplishments for each role?
Take advantage of your hard work to make your concise one page resume and show off on the web too.
19. Is your voicemail greeting professional?
At some point a hiring manager is going to call. Be ready.
20. Have you defined some scope around your job search?
You’re qualified for lots of roles. But hiring managers get wary if you are applying to seemingly anything and everything across roles, organizations, and fields. You don’t have to have the answer but you need a sense of direction.