Hiring Managers Tell All: 10 Resume and Cover Letter DON’TS

You know what I love about our team here at TalentWorks? We’ve been on both sides of the job search. We’ve been the job hunter who refreshed our inboxes more times than we care to admit, waiting for news, and we’ve been the hiring manager who has seen way too many cover letters addressed to…the last company a candidate applied to. We’ve talked about how frustrating the job hunt can be from the candidate’s perspective, but now we’d like to share what turns us off as hiring managers and can send your application to the “no” pile.

Here are 10 resume and cover letter DON’TS from the TalentWorks team.

Resume DON’TS:

1. Don’t let something as banal as an email address get in your way. We get it. Deathmetalharry666 was a great handle when you were sixteen—and maybe it still is. But it doesn’t need to be on your resume. Neither does your current company email address, your mom’s email address, or basically any email that has us asking questions you probably don’t want us asking. Keep it simple and professional.

2. Hardworking. Organized. Great communicator. Those are nice qualities, but those pesky applicant tracking systems don’t care. They want juicy keywords, like “Microsoft Excel”, “Google Analytics”, etc.. Don’t give us a list of adjectives that could describe anyone. Tell us what you do, what programs you know, what specific skills you have—and most importantly—what problems you’ve solved with those mad skills? As they say in the fiction world—show, don’t tell.

3. Don’t turn bullet points into bullet novels. Delete all adjectives and adverbs. Think of them like potato chips—delicious empty calories that hurt you more than they help you. We don’t need to know the events leading up to the achievement or what the weather was like that morning—we just need to know the end result (i.e. Developed a new onboarding program that improved employee retention by 42%).

4. Don’t share your love for long walks on the beach or knitting. Save that for the dating sites, unless your hobbies really are relevant to the role you’re applying for. Remember that hiring managers can get hundreds of resumes for one job. When we’ve got two hundred resumes to go through and 12 different projects we’re working on, we skim and look for relevant qualifications and achievements. The more you make us work for it, the crankier we get.

5. Don’t get all creative on us (yes, graphic designers, we’re looking at you too). Don’t get us wrong—we want to see your creativity on the job. But we want your resume to be easy to read and understand. So, please save the script fonts for your mom’s birthday cards and avoid using tables or complex templates that may look like a hot mess in another program. Tip: Submit your boring looking resume to the bots, and bring your fancy resume to your in-person interview.

Bonus: Don’t forget to proofread. Sometimes we miss a typo—it happens to the best of us. But multiple spelling and/or punctuation errors make us question your attention to detail.

Cover Letter DON’TS:

1. Don’t address your letter to the wrong person or company. This should go without saying and yet… This tends to happen when candidates are copying and pasting cover letters, and they hit send before changing the name up top. Oops. Yes, we notice and yes, it may just be the reason you aren’t getting that interview.

On that note…

2. Don’t send the same cover letter to every company. We can totally tell. Yes, your experience is going to be the same—but the reason you’re applying to a specific company should be different. Your opening paragraph should address the company you’re applying to and why you are passionate about their mission. Any achievement or skill you outline should be relevant to the role you’re applying for. In short, what makes us a match made in heaven?

3. Don’t apologize for yourself. There’s a difference between being honest about your skillset and focusing too much on what you “can’t” do. Your cover letter should be all about the positive. Your greatest achievements. Your strengths. The challenges you have overcome. If there is a skill you haven’t mastered, wait until the hiring manager brings it up and then be prepared to tell them how you plan on conquering it. For example, you can tell them you’d be happy to take classes or necessary trainings.

4. Don’t come off as too arrogant. Confidence is great. We love it when you know your strengths and can clearly articulate how you can help solve our problems. But avoid statements, like “I’m the best candidate you will ever find” or “I can move mountains in two seconds flat”. Nobody can move mountains in two seconds flat. You know it (we hope) and we know it. Also, don’t make presumptuous statements, such as “I look forward to working with you.” Considering we haven’t even talked to you yet, this makes you sound kind of, well, loony.

5. Don’t tell us your life story. And definitely don’t tell us your life story in passive voice. We think it’s fantastic that you volunteer at the local animal shelter and love your kids. And, if we decide to move forward with you, we’ll look forward to learning more about you. But right now we just want to know how you can help us solve our problems. So, make sure every word on your cover letter counts. Eliminate unnecessary adjectives or details and use an active voice.

Do you have any resume or cover letter tips to share? What worked for you and what didn’t? Feel free to share in the comments below!




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Job Search #IRL: It’s Tough Being a New Grad

If you’re a new grad, you probably already know this. Getting your first job requires persistence and a serious amount of hustle. I graduated with a B.A. in Cinema Studies and a B.S. in Psychology (variety is my jam), and I wanted to find a role that directly related to my degrees. Since being the next Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t in the cards just then, I tried for counseling, HR, and executive assistant roles, given my IRL experience in the latter two. But I quickly ruled counseling out because you need even more schooling (ugh), and I’d really like to contribute to society quickly rather than be in school…again. So, I came up with a better plan. Focus on human resources and executive assistant roles and look in two locations—Seattle and San Francisco.

Okay, so the “better” plan wasn’t perfect. Flying myself back and forth between two cities for interviews wasn’t a cakewalk, but it ended up being worth the hassle. More locations=more opportunities. I also treated the job hunt as a full time job, devoting a set amount of time each day to researching opportunities and improving my application materials. For example, if I wasn’t getting any hits off the current version of my resume and cover letter, I asked for feedback from my network and made changes accordingly. It’s all about the hook. What can you offer that most other candidates can’t? We all have something we kick ass at—hopefully something related to the jobs we’re applying for. I’m really great at being detail-oriented (perhaps to a fault) and multi-tasking. So, I made sure my resume, cover letter, and answers during my interviews reflected that.

After a long, tough search—seriously, I thought the day would never come—I got an offer from Vittana, a non profit that allowed people to lend money to students in developing countries via peer to peer lending. Part of my job was as Kushal’s Executive Assistant, and oh my god, we couldn’t be more different. Kushal was and is a total cowboy, full of wild ideas, and I’m the one that made sure things worked logistically and didn’t fall through the cracks. I grew and accomplished so much at Vittana, allowing me to gain more responsibilities, be promoted to Development Associate, and gain the confidence I needed in my early career. I definitely have all the lovely people I worked with at Vittana to thank for giving me that first chance.

When Vittana merged with Kiva, Kushal went the extra mile and helped me get a marketing/development role at Code.org. I loved the people I worked with and gained new experiences in a company that required its people to have some incredible amounts of hustle, and to this day, it keeps hitting milestone after impressive milestone. But I got to that point where I needed to do something different—I just wasn’t quite sure what that “more” was. So, I left Code.org and entered funemployment, trying to figure out more about myself and where I wanted to go next, what I wanted to do.

If it’s financially feasible, I recommend doing this to anyone who feels like they’ve hit a wall. Let’s face it. Many of us don’t have it figured out before we’re thirty and that’s okay! There is no law on the books that says you have to stay on the path you started on when you graduated. How boring would that be? Like nearly every job you will ever hold, life is all about throwing curveballs your way. We never stop figuring out who we are and what we want, because we are always changing. 

At some point I had come up with a goal: I wanted a job where I could lead a team/manage people before I was 30. So, what came next for me? Enter Kushal, part II. Yes, that pesky Kushal called up and pitched me on TalentWorks, an idea I loved and could relate to—helping other people find jobs. I met the team, interviewed with them, and I was a fit! I mean, you should see us together on Slack. It’s a good mixture of business talk, friendly banter, and emojis and it’s great. My role started off as Lead Talent Advocate (TA) where I supported people with their job search (resume editing, 1:1s, mock interviews, etc.), and I loved every minute of it. Helping people is my passion; to empathize with people’s struggles and provide solutions and make them feel they’re not alone? That feeling is priceless. What am I doing now? Well, because of aforementioned detail-orientedness and multi-tasking abilities, earlier this year I became the Director of Operations and Project Manager for the company. I still do some TA’ing on the side when I have time, but to be honest this is the role that I was looking for when I was “soul-searching” during funemployment, and I couldn’t be more appreciative for it.

One big thing I’ve learned over the course of my career is the importance of my network. I know we hear it a lot. Network, network, network. That’s how you get the good jobs. But I really have found that to be true—I know you introverts are covering your ears right now. I get it. I had a pretty limited professional network when I graduated, mostly from my part-time job during college. If you don’t have a professional network, don’t stress. You have other networks — peers, friends, family, etc.— take advantage of those relationships you’ve already got in addition to figuring out your strengths and using those to your advantage during your job search. Like I said, there is something we all kick ass at. Once you start your first job, your professional network will grow and take note to remember the people you worked well with. These are people you can hopefully reach out to again during your future job searches. Who knows? You may even have a Kushal hidden about who will help you find opportunities for years to come.

Keep persisting and don’t be afraid to take a chance or two. You never know where those jobs will lead you or who you will meet along the way.

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10 Signs That Say–You Probably Don’t Want to Work Here

We’ve all been on interviews that don’t feel right. Maybe we can’t quite put our finger on it. Maybe the hiring manager had glowing red eyes, but your rent is overdue and you stuck it out. No job is perfect. So, how do you know if you should proceed with caution or run away screaming?

Well, only you can decide what you’re willing to put up with—we all have different boundaries. But there are signs that should make you think long and hard before taking that job. In fact, you may be better off having the manager with the glowing red eyes.

1. They only give you one day and time to interview. If you can’t make it, too bad.

I’ve had employers call and invite me for an interview that day. Well, “invite” is too polite of a word. It was more like—here’s when we can meet with you. Take it or leave it. If an employer refuses to work with you to find a good interview time, especially if you’re currently employed, that may be the first of many unreasonable demands. Do they want to interview you or are they just going down a list? In my experience, employers who were truly excited about talking to me asked when I was available and did their best to find a time that worked for both of us.

2. Your potential hiring manager and/or coworkers are rude or seem indifferent to you.

I once had an “interview” where the hiring manager looked me up and down (from head to toe), gave me a terse greeting, and then sat me in front of a computer and told me to take a test. Only the directions were contradictory and confusing. When I asked for clarification, the hiring manager snapped at me. I walked out and didn’t look back.

If they’re looking at their phone while you’re talking, being demeaning, asking inappropriate personal questions, or making you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say—see ya! As candidates, we’re expected to bring our A-game to every interview. Why should it be any different for an employer wanting to attract the best candidates?

3. They keep mentioning how many other candidates they have over and over…

We get it. A gazillion other people applied for this job, and you have your pick. Yay you! If a hiring manager sifts through a stack of resumes in front of you, mentions how many interviews they have today, tomorrow, and next week, and generally can’t stop talking about how many GRRREAT candidates they have, you have to question the motivation behind it. It’s not like we don’t know we are competing against other candidates. I don’t know anyone who has gone into an interview thinking—I must be the only one they’re talking to. I’m just THAT fabulous.

So, why would any good employer need to constantly remind you how many options they have? If they’re a great place to work, it’s generally assumed they get a lot of applicants.

4. They put down other candidates or former employees

I’ve heard it all in interviews. We got 200 applicants, but half their resumes went in the trash. Another candidate did this or said that. One time a hiring manager even said—the person who used to be in this role could be a total b***! But you seem chill.

This is just straight up unprofessional behavior. And you know what they say. If they’re doing it to others….

5. They try to sell you on the benefits of working in a closet…with the copier and 4 other people.

Ah, lack of space in the office. That’s right up there with IT being overwhelmed and really bad coffee. Does playing musical cubicles sound familiar? It’s common to feel the squeeze, especially if you’re working with start-ups or smaller businesses.

But this is also a place where we have to spend 8-10 hours of our day…5 days a week. It matters. We can’t all expect the corner office with an ocean view, but you should have a space that is comfortable, sanitary, and your own. It should be a space you can be productive in, even if it’s not ideal. If they can’t provide you with that, ask if you can work remotely. If they say no, well…how badly do you want the job?

 6. Everyone acts like they’re stuck at a timeshare presentation.

An interview is a great time to scope out the culture and environment. You can actually tell a lot about a place in a short amount of time, if you’re paying attention. Are people talking to each other and laughing or are they all at their desks staring at their computers with zombie eyes? Do they look at your hiring manager in fear? Do they smile at you or stare at you with suspicion?

One question I always ask is—what do you love about working here? If they fumble with the answer or the best thing they can come up with is “I like the challenge of getting a lot done with little to no resources”, I know I’m probably looking at a not so great environment. You can tell when people love where they work. Their passion and energy is infectious and obvious.

7. They leave you waiting for fifteen minutes or more, and they don’t apologize.

Shit happens. Sometimes your dog eats your thumb drive, which has the only copy of the presentation you need to give in an hour. Sometimes your client’s website has crashed, and it’s all your fault. You knew you shouldn’t have installed that plugin.

But a candidate’s time is valuable too. We have places to be—like back at our current jobs. If a hiring manager leaves you waiting and doesn’t apologize or acknowledge the wait, don’t ignore that behavior. It might not be deal breaker the first time, but it’s concerning if it happens more than once.

8. They have bad reviews that point out the same issues. 

Isn’t it great that employers and toasters have reviews these days? Pay a visit to Glassdoor, Indeed, or other employer review sites before going on your interview. If you see multiple bad reviews that all point out similar or the same issues, take heed and ask questions that hit on some of those issues. For example, if people are complaining about micromanagement, ask the hiring manager what their management style is like or how projects get approved. If you don’t like their answers, that makes your decision pretty easy!

9. This role has been restructured.

I hate it when this happens. You think you’re interviewing for your dream job, and they sheepishly giggle and say – well, the role has shifted. You’ll actually be doing (something not even close to the original job). At best, they didn’t think the role through well enough. At worst, they have no clue who they need or what direction they want to go in next. Either way, they’ve wasted your time and that’s really not cool.

10. They pressure you into accepting the job offer immediately.

If an employer doesn’t want to give you time to think an offer over, which is in their best interest as well, consider that a huge red flag. Asking for a couple days is perfectly reasonable, especially if you have other offers to consider. You have to do what’s best for you, and if an employer doesn’t understand that, is that really someone you want to work for?

Remember: Interviews are a two-way street. They should be selling you on the job and company as much as you’re selling them on your skills. Listen to your gut, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.


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10 Reasons Why Applying For Jobs Sucks

It’s hard to keep your head up and stay strong when you’re job hunting. I recently saw this post on Facebook: Is there anything more humbling, and possibly humiliating, than looking for a new job?

I’m sure there are a few things. A wizard making your clothing disappear when you’re giving a speech to thousands of people, perhaps? Let’s face it. Sometimes a tooth extraction is less painful than a 120 question “assessment”.

So, heads up, employers. Here are 10 ways your job application process can discourage and frustrate candidates before they even get to the interview stage:

1. Long online applications aka your life story (and every address you’ve ever worked at) aka there’s a special place in hell…

Sound familiar?

Dear Minion,

Thank you for filling out our novel-length application four times (we know it’s buggy). Our robots will carefully review your qualifications, and we’ll be in touch if they think you’re a match. Otherwise, you’ll never hear from us again.

Look, I get that applications are needed for legal reasons. But can’t the application wait until after the first interview, considering only a small percentage of job seekers make it to that stage? I’ve lost track of how many employers have said something like: We got over 80 applications for this job and we’re only interviewing 3 of you. With odds like that, some job seekers just won’t apply to jobs that require online applications.

Fun Stat: You’re 8x more likely to score an interview if you apply within the first 96 hours. 

2. Include your salary history with your application. 

Sure, buddy. I’ll show you my salary when you show me yours. Deal? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

3. Don’t apply unless you’re willing to work for free.

Design a new logo for our start-up as a “test” of your design abilities. Send us an original 1500 word article with your application. Develop a marketing plan for our new product.

Sure thing! My hourly rate is $100/hr. When would you like to start?

4. Job ads that YELL AT YOU.

You know the ads I’m talking about.

We’re looking for someone with great communication skills and Excel experience. NO INTROVERTS! To apply, please send a cover letter and a resume. APPLICATIONS WITHOUT A COVER LETTER WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.

Can you imagine the emails you’d get from this hiring manager? I found my cookie jar empty this morning. FILL MY COOKIE JAR NOW!

5. Software Developer/Graphic Designer/Accountant with lawn care experience and at least 15 years of management experience who is willing to answer phones, greet customers, and take care of my dog. PhD preferred. $12-14/hr.

Just stop.

6. Give us your references immediately or ACCESS DENIED.

I’ve never been comfortable providing the contact information for my previous supervisors and colleagues to whoever is on the other side of a blind Craigslist ad—or even a company that appears to be legit. For all I know, you’re going to hit them up with emails or phone calls, asking them to try out your dog-shaped vacuum cleaner. IMHO, there is no good reason to ask for references before you actually interview the candidate.

7. Take this short 120 question assessment, and this one, and that one. Oh, one more!


8. Must love Star Wars, the oxford comma, and Lady Gaga. To apply, share ten Lady Gaga songs to listen to while writing a sci-fi novel.

You’ve got a super cool geek culture going on. I get it. But I’m not applying for a best friend. I’m applying for a job. My taste in music should only come into play if I insist on blasting this in my cubicle every morning.

9. Answer these 30 behavioral questions we should be asking in an interview.

This job opening probably has a hundred other applicants. Are you seriously going to read 3000 responses? Probably not. If you need help narrowing the applicant pool, try just asking one important question. That should make the process less overwhelming and time-consuming for everyone involved.

10. I know the ad said we’re hiring a marketing manager. But you’ll actually be handing out flyers on the street.

If they’re looking for a “director” with no experience required, chances are it’s too good to be true. Do a little research on the company and try contacting them by phone before agreeing to interview in-person.

In my experience, how you’re treated in the hiring process can be an indicator of how you’ll be treated as an employee. No hiring process is perfect—and that’s okay. You’re not perfect. We all have to make some allowances for each other. But we all deserve to be treated with respect. If an employer can’t give you that, move on and don’t look back. They aren’t worth your time.

What ridiculous experiences have you had applying for jobs? Share your stories below!


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Resume Makeover! Getting Riley a Digital Marketing Job.

This week in Resume Makeover, we’re featuring… “Riley” (*). (* Names changed to protect the innocent.)

Riley is a recent MBA graduate with an economics background looking to break into the digital marketing industry. In the newer age of marketing, skills related to online content strategy, SEO, social media management, etc. are in high demand, so why not gain those skills and be part of the hiring party?

With little luck after graduating (and consistently applying to 15+ jobs per week), Riley contacted us. We immediately saw how his resume might be stunting his job search. It had too much visual flair and was overwhelmingly dense. Resume-filtering bots are the first filter against your resume — they get easily confused.

Here’s Riley’s resume makeover:

We made three visual changes to Riley’s resume:

1. Simplify the formatting of your resume. These days most employers use an ATS (Application Tracking System) to do the initial candidate screen. Make sure your resume is free of images, tables, and even columns so it doesn’t trip up the software!

2. Avoid crazy colors and weird backgrounds in your resume. Many people are tempted to add color to their resume in attempt to be unique. Unfortunately, screen displays vary and ink can be pricy — keep it simple by sticking to black & white. Tip: Bring the fancier, more visual version of your resume to the interview instead.

3. Choose one classic font and use it throughout your resume. Unique or designer fonts can be visually intriguing but the risk when using them is that it doesn’t render correctly on someone else’s computer. So keep it all simply by choosing a classic font and using the same one all through your resume. Reminder: you can always bring a printed, fancy resume to your interview!

And, of course, content changes as well:

4. Make your skills section more prominent, readable, and comprehensive. Separate your skills into broader categories and make sure it lists all the tools/industry-specific skills you list in your experiences. Remember, recruiters only look at your resume for 6 sections and your skill set is going to be one of the first places they check — so make it good!

5. Group all your relevant experience together. Move your “Side Hustle” position under “Work Experience” as it’s just as relevant as your other professional positions and should be showcased as such. Remember, relevant experience is more important than whether or not the position was paid/an unofficial position.

6. Be more concise with your tasks/achievements (3-5 bullet points). Each experience shouldn’t have subsections or too many bullet points, especially if it wasn’t an executive position. Combine like items and get rid of any achievements that start with passive verbs or don’t display ownership/positive impact on the company.

7. Simplify your education and watch out for spelling errors! There’s a whole lot of honors societies (with greek names) out there, and truth be told, employers gloss over them; what matters is the raw GPA. Also, we all make silly mistakes, but it’s extra silly if programs spot our errors and we still don’t fix them.

8. Remove irrelevant (or less relevant) experiences. Unless your extracurriculars/hobbies are something you know the hiring manager will be impressed by or able to connect on (e.g. same frat/sorority), get rid of it. Often times recruiters will see this as filler on a resume, which they’re not too fond of.

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Ask Sarah: Why Do I Keep Getting Ghosted by Companies?


I don’t expect a response from every job I apply to, but what is up with getting no response after multiple interviews, even after I follow up. Do I suck at interviewing or are employers just that rude?

Feeling Ignored

Dear Feeling Ignored,

Some employers are just that rude. I mean, I can’t say if you suck at interviewing. Maybe you’re showing up in an orange tutu. Maybe you have no idea what the company does and biffed your way out of the classic “What do you know about us?” question. (If you’re not ready for this one, you really need to give one of our wonderful TalentAdvocates a call.)

Although it’s still uncommon to get ghosted after an interview, it’s happening more and more. But, what does happen all the time is getting ghosted after a job application. In fact, it’s pretty much the norm.

Chances are it’s not you. Most of us have the tendency to beat ourselves up about it. “I should’ve worn the blue shirt instead of the black.” “I should’ve smiled more.” “Maybe if I’d asked better questions…” “Oh, God, what if I had a massive booger hanging out of my nose? I knew I should have grabbed that Kleenex!”

We focus on the small, nit-picky things that might have made a difference. It’s easier to do that, because it puts a little control back into our hands. But, here’s the truth: we can follow every bit of advice out there — show up a little early (but not too much), dress up (but not too much), do our research beforehand, give killer answers — and still never hear back. There are so many things that can happen behind the scenes:

  • They already had an internal employee in mind (this happens a lot). Maybe the nephew of some VP needed a job at the last minute.
  • The hiring manager didn’t feel a connection. Personality is a huge part of the equation for a growing number of businesses. You’ll be spending more time with these people than with your own family — finding the right culture fit is just as important for your sanity and health.
  • Another candidate had fancy-schmancy experience. Maybe they worked for big, name-brand companies. Maybe you’ve got years of experience producing videos, but they made feature films.
  • Maybe you applied during the Resume Blackhole. After a job has been posted for more than 10 days or so, it’s almost not even worth applying to it. You’ll get ghosted (almost) every time.
  • They’re simply too busy.

And that last one? That’s the kicker.

Most of the time, it really isn’t you — it’s them. Let’s take a moment to think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective:

  • For every open job, there are often 100+ job applications. You have to review each application and pick 5-10 people to interview.
  • Even if you spend just 15-20 seconds on a resume and 2-3 minutes writing an email, that’s still nearly an hour.
  • The interviews basically take you a full day (assuming 30-60 minutes for an interview, plus notes, plus any other random emails and meetings you had).
  • Making the offer, writing it up, setting them up in payroll, getting them started on their project is probably a full day on its own.

Replying to 100+ job applicants is (realistically) never going to happen. Worse still, replying to every interviewee often falls through the cracks. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

But, honestly, here’s the thing: You’re going to drive yourself crazy with all the whys and what-ifs. Your time is precious — whatever the reason, don’t give them another moment of your time and energy. Instead, focus all of yourself on looking ahead and maximizing your job search.

There’s both an art and a science to the job search, and making sure you open enough (job application) doors is a big part of that science. The only way you can do that is by looking ahead — not at the closed doors behind you.

Look ahead, sister!



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Resume Makeover! Getting James a Software Developer Job at Graduation

This week in Resume Makeover, we’re featuring… “James” (*). (* Names changed to protect the innocent.)

James is graduating from college in December 2017 and was looking to get his first real, grown-up job: Software Developer. (Despite the shortage of software developers in many cities, it’s still very hard for any single person to actually get a job. Nearly 79% of college graduates don’t have a job at graduation.) After a few weeks, dozens of job applications and no interviews, he started getting anxious about his job search and stumbled onto TalentWorks. He wavered a bit initially (who are these new guys?) but, in the end, decided it wasn’t worth being a statistic and signed up.

When James contacted us, we immediately saw his potential but also saw why he might be having trouble. It was full of filler content! And all of that was hiding his real, demonstrable skills.

Here’s James’ resume makeover, as done (yet again) by our stellar TalentAdvocate, Erin:

We made 5 key improvements to his resume:

  1. Add a link to your online portfolio or website. Especially in tech, folks are looking for proof that a candidate’s a good software developer. How do they do that? By looking at past projects & code quality — be it a personal website or portfolio, or a GitHub profile with a bunch of projects, they want to see your skills in play. So show them!
  2. Remove the Objective statement. Just like Bobby’s Overview in our first Resume Makeover, Objectives are an outdated practice. This short sentence is pretty vague and fluffy and is better left off the page.
  3. Remove your Coursework. If you’re aiming to land a job in your field, it’s fair to assume that the recruiter/manager will know what classes took because core classes are uniform across schools (for the most part). Instead, translate what you learned in those classes into industry relevant skills/concepts to add to your “Skills” section.
  4. Add a proper “Skills” section. A lot of recruiters want to beeline to an easy to digest summary of your skillset to determine if you have the baseline skills/qualifications to carry out the job. So make it easy to find! Summarize 
  5. Remove the “Community Leadership” section. Though commendable for getting involved in your community and embracing leadership opportunities, we recommend only including this type of work if the duties are directly related to your career goals or if you are applying for positions within the nonprofit sector. Otherwise it could detract recruiters’ eyes to this section rather than concentrate on all the other areas of your resume that counts!

After James made these optimizations, he immediately started getting interviews through ApplicationAssistant, and in just 9 days accepted a job offer! Here’s what James had to say:

I’m really happy with how TalentWorks optimized my resume! Your suggestions on how to cut out the filler and make the key points stand out have made a huge difference. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to sign up!

No James, it was all you all the way — we were just a coach and a cheerleader. Go you!

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Introducing Resume Makeover! Bobby: Looking for a Project Management Job

This month, we’re kicking off a new series: Resume Makeover. Think Extreme Home Makeover meets the job search.

Every day, we see amazing, potential-filled people with terrible resumes. And we wonder, “If you made these 3-4 tiny changes, your job search would be so much easier! Why  are you making it so much harder for yourself?!”

Which brings us to Resume Makeover. Here’s how it’ll work:

  • Each week, we’ll feature a resume from a real person who asked our mentors to review their resumes.
  • We’ll then makeover their resume top to bottom, both visually and content-wise.
  • When we’re able to get the data, we’ll actually show you how much of a difference it made in their interview rate.
  • And, of course, as with all good makeovers, we’ll definitely have a before-and-after pic!

Our first volunteer is… well, we want this to be at least a little anonymous, so we’ll call him Bobby. Bobby was looking for a Project Management position, but after several weeks of searching on his own hadn’t gotten any replies from employers. When Bobby contacted us, we immediately understood why he was having trouble (no college degree) but also so the potential in Bobby’s unique experiences (FEMA!).

Here’s Bobby’s resume makeover as done by our Erin, one of our amazing TalentAdvocates:

We made 5 key improvements to Bobby’s original resume:

  1. Remove high school education.  Unless you’re looking for a college internship (and arguably even then), recruiters don’t really care which high school you attended. Instead highlight your certifications and include where you received them and when they expire.
  2. Relocate “Technical Skills” section. Would recommend moving it to right after your “Certifications” section because these sorts of industry skills are important and need to be more visible.
  3. Remove the “Overview” section.  Overviews are becoming an outdated practice because they’re often verbose, vague, and add very little value to the resume. Unless you’ve tailored that overview for a specific opportunity at a specific company, e.g. completely customized, you’re better off leaving it out.
  4. Start achievements with strong action verbs. Action verbs imply more ownership and clarity, e.g. provided project management vs project managed; provided cost estimation vs. performed cost estimation.
  5. Flesh out achievements with measurable impact.  Recruiters are looking for more than your job description in your resume — they’re looking to see how you successfully carried out those responsibilities and contributed to company success. Think of the specific tasks you performed and how they created a measurable, positive impact on the company, e.g. Ran cost estimation on company’s equipment, materials and labor which C-level executives used to adjust and reduce company’s overall costs by 11%.

And a few other small adjustments:

  1. Double check everything is filled out properly. Add the proper City and State to the FEMA role (right now it says “FEMA, CITY, STATE” with no location).
  2. Remove “Volunteer Work.” Unless the duties in your volunteer work are directly related to your career goals or if you’re applying for positions within the nonprofit sector, would recommend you get rid of it. Or modify so that your volunteering utilizes or hones skills that’d be an asset in your future job.
  3. Remove the line “References Available Upon Request”.  Similar to the overview, this is seen as an outdated practice. Recruiters will ask for your references if appropriate — they don’t need a written reminder of this on your resume.

We checked in with Bobby the other day. Here’s what he had to say to to his TalentAdvocate, Erin:

I’ve had so much activity since you helped me with my resume! I went from not getting any calls to getting 4 last week. I had 2 phone screening interviews last week,[and] I feel much better about my search now. Thank you! Looking forward to seeing what this week brings.

Want Erin to optimize your resume? Sign up for ApplicationAssistant and ask for Erin!

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