Recently I was on the receiving end of over 1,000 (yes, one thousand) resumes for a position I was helping a company hire for. I couldn’t read all of the resumes (I have a life) but of the emails I did get to hack through, the plump majority raised a cause for concern.
And I know these resumes weren’t from you (well I can’t really know that), and that a good number of you have your own companies and don’t need to submit resumes anymore, and that you would never submit anything but your best anyway, and that this post isn’t directed at you, but still. There are some goodies in here that can help you, including some advice from Eddie Van Halen.
Ok, where was I? Right, these 1,000 resumes.
Most resumes looked as if a child had exactly 3 minutes to get something on paper using software only introduced to him mere seconds earlier. I wish I was making this up. Some people had 4-page resumes for junior/mid level jobs (my resume is still one page long). There were formatting issues, typos galore and just a general disinterest in presentation.
Some of my favorites were the emails with no text in the body but the subject had something like:
- “See Attached” – Ok sure! I’ll get right to it, Sir Galahad.
- “dan smith resume” – Didn’t have the energy press the Shift key 3 times, did you?
- “Resume Attachment Please Open!!” – Maybe he was a Nigerian Prince.
If you’re looking for a job and you don’t want to read the rest of this post, remember this nugget: Just because you find a company with a job posting doesn’t mean that you are in the position of power. Just because I have a doorbell and I’m a little hungry doesn’t mean I’m going to buy the cookies you are selling – especially if the box is torn apart, and the smashed cookies are falling out of the plastic wrapping that has seemingly been cleaved open by talons.
Rules For Submitting A Resume
First off, I’ve been there. I’ve been unemployed for months on end before and have sent out hundreds of resumes. I know it’s frustrating but that is why now, more than ever, you have to differentiate yourself from the herd. You have to do everything right on your end before you can begin to be frustrated by the job market, the economy and such. I learned the hard way. You don’t have to.
Your resume is not a leaflet. You can’t just blanket the Internet with your generic resume hoping that if you throw enough out there, things will eventually end in your favor. You’d do yourself a better service by thoughtfully applying to 10 jobs instead of raining down your resume on every company that’s hiring.
Pay attention. If you’re emailing your resume and/or cover letter in, you MUST put the job title, company name and your name in the subject line unless otherwise instructed. And do make sure you check and see if there is an “otherwise instructed.” People put certain instructions in how to submit a resume not because they want to be asses, but because they want to see if you took the time to read it. It’s your first job assignment. It’s just like why Van Halen said that brown M&M’s had to be removed from their dressing room. It proves diligence that you read the posting
Get my attention. Add at least a little something in the body of the email (unless specifically instructed not to). A hello, a thank you, a dose of your personality if possible. Remember, that job you are applying to has 999 other people applying as well. Imagine what my inbox looked like. Be memorable. One of my favorites:
“Good afternoon, Bassam. Without the risk of being boring and adding another email blocking your sure-to-be overflowing inbox, let me say your straightforward and out of the ordinary posting was a breath of fresh air. Now, how can I actually help you fill the void you have, make your job easier, and provide growth to _________, Inc? Glad you asked. My cover letter and resume are attached to help answer that. I look forward to hearing from you and I thank you greatly for the opportunity. Have a good day.”
Send your cover letter and resume in mail form to the office you are applying to. Yes, it takes a hell of alot more work but it also makes you a hell of alot more interesting. No one does this. As my friend and colleague, Antonio Neves says, “Don’t be deletable.”
Your Cover Letter
Prove that you are human. Give me some sort of indication that you at least read the job posting. I took a lot of time and care creating it so I expect the same amount of care in its response. Call out the name of the position and double check that the company name is in your cover letter. And it won’t help your cause if you write, “I saw your posting on indeed.com” when it was never close to being posted on indeed.com
It’s not about you. Hiring managers don’t care what you’re passionate about, outside of their needs. Your cover letter shouldn’t be a glorified blog post about YOU. I want to know how you and your skills are going to help ME. Look, I know we all copy and paste the majority of our cover letters, but do some research into the company you’re applying for, check the job description and make sure that your “I believe I would make a great fit” sentence makes sense and why it does
Framing. If you don’t write a cover letter, then your resume needs to paint the picture of you that you are intending. Your resume is a story you create. Look at your own resume for 10 seconds and tell me what picture you get of yourself. Would you want to interview you after that 10-second peek? I think Ramit Sethi has the best advice on that front so I’ll let him explain.
Double check. No, triple check that there aren’t any spelling or grammatical errors. If you “assisted the project manager’s.” then you’re not getting the job. If your grammar is as pitiful as mine, have a friend or colleague review it
Presentation. Before you can present yourself in person, your resume is your stand in for how put together you are. The more disheveled the presentation of your resume, the less and less I will feel like trusting you. Be sure to check that your resume file doesn’t have a ghost page. You know that blank 2nd page on a word document or pdf that hangs like a piece of toilet paper out of your pants because you forgot to hit backspace on your keyboard. A blank extra page, misaligned bullet points, or different sized fonts make me think that you are lazy, inconsiderate, late more than not, and have a few too many holes in your socks. Not a good start for you
The name of your file matters. Let’s say I can only interview 1 of 2 people but all I get to see is the name of the file each submitted. I have “joeyresume(3).doc” in one corner and I have “Sarah King Resume.doc” in the other. Who am I interviewing? Of course no one hires off the name of a file but presentation matters. It all matters. If it’s something you can control, make it the best it can be
Have more than one resume for different kinds of jobs. I know it’s hard getting a job but I used to have an engineering resume, a writing resume, a sales resume and so forth. Yes, it takes more time but it’s worth it and it will keep your resume from being longer than a diner’s menu
Support Your Verbs. “Improved” “Assisted” “Researched” “Supported” “Created” are all vague verbs that don’t tell me anything. Can you use numbers somehow? Improved what? How? Assisted whom? How? Researched what? Why did that matter? Don’t list a bunch of features of your job, tell me why you were beneficial to your company.
For the love of everything sacred, please know what company you are interviewing for. I had one woman come in for an interview and she said, “Hey, I know this is a little embarrassing but can you tell me what you guys do? I don’t even know what kind of business you are in.”
Sorry Miss, that thing that just hit you in the foot was my unhinged jaw. Could you hand that back to me.
You can’t control the mood of the hiring manager, an accidentally deleted email, or someone else having the inside track but you can make sure that the virtual you looks like a damn stunner. While you don’t have a job, that’s your only job.