The steps you should take when job hunting: Insights from the person who receives your resumes

Guest post by Maggie A
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Even though I’ve worked hard, it’s still somewhat surprising to me that I’m a real grown-up, and that I have a job where I make hiring and firing decisions. I work for a really fun and progressive company, where we work really hard to have a great culture and be as inclusive as possible.

I’ve spent the better part of the last three months hiring people for openings in my department. I’ve been looking mostly for entry-level candidates for marketing and writing positions, and have reviewed thousands of resumes (from online postings, job fairs, LinkedIn and referrals).

I’d like to offer some general advice from a management perspective for getting your resume seen and getting an interview.

Applying for the job: Who you know, and the words you use

With the economy being the way it is right now, when an employer posts a job, they’re getting thousands of resumes (especially if its entry-level). You want your resume to be the one picked.

  • Try finding someone who knows someone, so your resume gets handed to the person hiring. I love hiring referrals, and I always ask my people for them before I post a job publicly.
  • Let everyone you know know you’re looking, especially your friends and people you’d want to work with. (It’s cliche but true that most jobs don’t ever get to the point of needing to be advertised.)
  • Also make sure your resume is keyword optimized (e.g. if you’re looking for a job in social media, have “social media” on your resume several times). In large applicant tracking systems and if a recruiter is searching LinkedIn or a resume database they’re going to use a keyword location search (it should make sense in the context of the resume, and not just be a hunk of keywords at the bottom).

The Resume: Re-think including the details of your drug use

  • Keep it short, unless you’ve been in the workforce for longer than a decade, your resume shouldn’t be longer than one page. There is almost no instance where your resume should go three or four pages. (True story: A recent grad sent me a 16-page resume that included an excerpt from her self-published autobiography.)
  • If you’re entry-level and you’re applying to any job that interests you, have a few resumes — one that highlights the applicable skills for each type of job you’re applying to.
  • Only send samples of your work when requested.
  • Don’t include biographical information you don’t want considered in your employment. For instance, if you’re sending me an excerpt from your autobiography don’t send me the part that includes references to your excessive drinking and drug use. As a hiring authority I don’t get context from you. I get the first impression your resume makes, and if that’s included I’m not going to look much further.
  • Also, for the love of god, don’t just trust spell check. Have someone proofread it! If you’ve got some money consider a resume writing service (it’s tax-deductible). They’ll get you to an appropriate length and optimize your language.

Your online persona: No one wants to hire “bigswingingdick”

I Google everyone before I call for an interview. I was mostly interviewing recent college grads and I’m pretty flexible, so pictures with a red solo cup or alcohol aren’t really deal breakers for me, but for a lot of companies they are.

  • Learn the Facebook privacy settings and use them!
  • Get yourself a LinkedIn account. Make sure what you put on your resume matches your LinkedIn account, and use a professional picture (your eyes should be visible).
  • Regularly Google yourself (or set up a Google alert) and your email address, to see what employers see when they’re looking at your online footprint.
  • Get an email address you only use for your job search (you can forward it to your main one). I have two reasons:
  1. No hiring manager wants to type the screen name you thought was cute when you got your email address. (True story: [email protected] didn’t get the job.)
  2. If you use one address for all of your online accounts, and it’s your screen name for everything, when I Google you I will see everything. Every comment on youtube, your Adult Friend Finder profile, and (my personal favorite) your emo diary/blog from high school or middle school. I don’t want that much insight.

Your Voicemail: Who the fuck is this?

While you’re applying for a job, assume every number you don’t know is an employer calling for an interview.

  • You know that awesome thing you can do where when someone calls you and you can pick a song that plays for them? Don’t use it (at least not if you’re actively hoping an employer calls you). And especially don’t use a song that has profanity or is highly suggestive. On the flip side don’t choose something that’s particularly religious or that makes any kind of political statement. It wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but if I worked for a more conservative company, or couldn’t get past the fact the you made me listen to “Wrecking Ball,” I would have just hung up and tossed the resumes.
  • Your voicemail should be professional (no adorable pretending to answer and then saying PSYCH!).
  • You should listen to the voicemail before you call back instead of calling and saying “Hey, someone just called me from this number” (I had one guy call back and say, “Who the fuck is this?” I didn’t hire him).

It’s a difficult balance to stay true to yourself and get a job at the same time. These are the compromises we make when we have to work for “The Man.” Happy job hunting!

Comments on The steps you should take when job hunting: Insights from the person who receives your resumes

  1. I have to totally put a positive word in for LinkedIn. I had a hell of a time finding a new job after moving states, but got a LinkedIn profile, added a few details, and had an interview in two days after looking for more than 2.5 months. (Got the job, too!)

  2. I also make hiring decisions for my company – mainly I hire college students. Which leads to some REALLY clueless people when it comes to resumes. I’ve thought of starting a webpage highlighting all the stupid things people put on their resumes. Some favorites:

    “Attended middle school spelling bee 5-8 grade” (You didn’t even win? Why are you telling me this?)
    “Poll attendant in the historical 2009 elections” (I’m just going to assume he meant the 2008 elections)
    A two-page resume entirely in capslock.
    “Influent in English” (No, really?)
    One guy included his sister’s and parents’ jobs at the bottom of the resume. (WHYYYYY?)

    I don’t know if all hiring managers like this or if it’s just me, but I like to see a “Highlights” section at the top of your resume instead of some sort of statement. Include a few bullet points to make it obvious that you are qualified for the positions. If a job requires you to be a college student, have a driver’s license, and have 2 years experience in administrative tasks, give me bullet points telling me all of those things right off the bat! No guesswork, and then I can go to the rest of your resume for more info.

    • Yes!! I hate “Mission Statements” and/or “Objectives” at the beginning of a resume. I get it, your mission is to get the job / your objective is to get hired. The shmoozy language in these things is always a turn-off, and it’s the first thing on the resume you read! The highlights are a clear winner for me.

      I wish applicants would keep their objectives/mission statements where they belong — the cover letter. In a cover letter you get to explain yourself without trying to make some kind of quotable catchphrase for why you want the job. Much more grown up, and hopefully significantly less cheese-ball.

        • I actually find that really reassuring.

          I was once filling in an application form late at night and was incredibly relieved I’d decided to re-read it the next morning before sending when I realised I’d forgotten to delete a line under “Why do you want this job” which said something like “Because I need money to live and want to do something which isn’t completely soul-destroying to get it.” Maybe I should have left it in!

    • Good golly am I glad to hear that! I can make a bulleted highlights section, but an objective statement, forget about it. I hate the one that’s on my resume now.

      I’m not currently looking for a job, but I’m going to add this to my To-Do list to update this part of my resume.

    • So are you saying that a cover letter isn’t the best place to highlight my most relevant experience on the resume? I always thought a cover letter was to 1) introduce myself, and 2) explain my resume, highlighting why my experience matches the job opening.
      Or are you mainly looking at resume only applications, without cover letters?

      • I can’t speak for the author, but I will say that I (shamefully) sometimes don’t get around to reading cover letters, so the summary of qualifications at the top of the resume is really helpful for me. More often, I have at least glanced at the cover letter once, but I may not print it out and put it in the pile of best-and-finals – or I may not have the time to re-read it when I’m comparing to others that are in the running. So it’s good for me to be able to glance at the top of the resume to remind myself what your great cover letter said. Also, when I’m writing my own cover letters, I find that my Summary of Qualifications at the top of my resume helps me craft a cover letter, acting kind of like an outline. So, they are not mutually exclusive – they should be mutually reinforcing.

        • I almost always had e-mailed resumes. No cover letter (i.e. Email content) means I never even got to see the resume. Why open an attachment if they can’t follow directions like “email cover letter and resume”?

          Bullet points are awesome. I’m no longer in the work force but I’m so glad we switched my partner’s resume to a bullet summary instead of objective or goals statement (even bulleted goals). Portland (OR) was nuts with requesting oddly specific resume styles, but the industry couldn’t decide on a standard – and every person spoke as if there was a standard and people were dumb for not following it.

          Now his resume (for 12 years as a server) looks like a menu. If they want an objectives statement they can kiss my ass or read the career goals under “desserts.” But right up top is his “appetizers” with a summary (bulleted years of experience in various positions and a career goal) and bulleted list of certifications. By the time they get that far, he’s already beat out 50-60% of applicants, and that’s if they haven’t noticed the creative resume style yet.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I found it very insightful and immediately set up Google alerts for myself. After a year of job searching with no success, I appreciate any tips which may lead to my success in finding a job.

    • If you’ve been looking for a year I’d look at rewriting your resume – most automated resume searches don’t return “old” content and the recruiter searching can set a date range on how old the resume can be – most use 3 or 4 months. I also think a resume writing service is very helpful – I had mine redone and got 7 or 8 interviews.

  4. I would have liked some advice for more atypical job hunters. Not everyone is a recent college grad with solo cup pictures and a silly phone ring (I didn’t even know playing a song for your callers was a thing!). How about tips for those trying to switch careers or fields? What if you have gaps in your resume? How have successful applicants creatively or productively addressed these kinds of issues? The advice here is useful and important, but I was hoping for information that I couldn’t have found elsewhere.

    • Maryr – I agree and love your suggestions. I recruit in engineers and other professionals in the Automation industry and am always on the look out for job tips/trends for my candidates – none of whom are entry level or college grads. Would love to see another Offbeat article incorporating your suggestions and tips for atypical job seekers.

      P.S. I really like this article from Matt Youngquist about how to Handle Employment Gaps and have forwarded it on to many of my candidates. Hopefully you will find it helpful:

      • Depending on the field or profession you’re in, you may find that universities have helpful job-hunting/resume-writing guides on their websites. Most law schools and business schools do this, and I would imagine that engineering schools, med schools, etc. do the same. For me personally, informational interviews have been one of the best tools for building a network and learning about new opportunities.

        I really like Ask A Manager for general advice on how to get/find/keep an adult job. I’ve also noticed that a lot of new or young professionals (I am one, so I’m not knocking anybody) aren’t sure how to dress appropriately in every situation. I’ve found the Corporette and Cap Hill Style blogs really helpful. Like everything online, the comments need to be taken with a grain of salt, but lurking for a while can be instructive.

        • Also, the university library at which I work–and I presume many others–is subscribed to a number of business databases, some of which are available for community members to peruse while in the building, which will supply a lot of useful information about specific companies and about various fields in general. We also have a set of databases available to alumni, and our librarians will help anyone who have specific questions, whether or not they’re current students or alumni. Public librarians will do this as well, but may not have access to the sort of resources that a university library does.

          Certainly worth contacting your alma mater, or a local university, and seeing what’s available, and trying the local public library to see what databases they have access to. Our city’s library system is in a consortium with other libraries statewide that bargains for subscriptions and access to databases that individual libraries wouldn’t be able to afford by themselves.

        • Another vote for Ask A Manager, that site is brilliant! I like Corporette but mostly because it reminds me what the stereotypical dress standards are expected of women in corporate workplaces. I’m the girl that shows up in jeans and everyone else is in their favourite spring dress. I still won’t do heels or skirts but they have good suit recommendations.

      • Thanks, Megan. I don’t actually have gaps, but I am considering a field-switch so I find myself looking at a lot of jobs for which I’d have to be seriously creative about how to present my credentials. Any stories about how applicants successfully get around the ways they don’t fit a particular mold (including but not limited to resume gaps) are inspiring and useful.

        • This would be an awesome article. I had the hardest time building my resume when I was job hunting (I’m not looking at the moment because I took a managerial job at the company that I already work for). My problem is that I’ll graduate in May with a degree in Chemistry (and no practical experience) but have 3+ years experience in the data communications field (but no Computer degree).

          The only way I got around it was pushing my soft skills, and heavily leveraging the contacts where I work to get my foot in the door. I interview well so I wasn’t worried about that part, just the getting to the interview part.

    • For any gaps in employment, make sure you list any other activities, like self-employment, coaching kids’ sports teams, volunteer work, on your resume. If the gap is due to staying home with kiddos, that can be addressed in the cover letter.

      I guess the big thing with changing careers would to somehow become involved in that other field. Take classes. Volunteer, if the career is appropriate. And then explain explain explain it in the cover letter.

      I am all about the cover letter. To the point, explaining anything from the resume that needs it, stating what position applying for. I would even put bullet points in a cover letter to make it easier to digest.

  5. I cannot agree enough with the proofreading, even if spell-check hasn’t underlined anything. Case in point: I accidentally sent out at least one cover letter with the salutation “Dear Sir of Madam.” Sadly, I didn’t catch it until it was too late. Needless to say, I didn’t get a call, though I do hope it at least gave someone a laugh while sorting through all those resumes and cover letters.

    • Seriously with the proofreading! I have an unusual name, and I was applying for jobs during finals week at college. I definitely misspelled my first name, and I was applying for jobs as a writer and editor! Definitely didn’t get called for that one!

  6. Regarding the picture in LinkenIn, it feels a bit like a way to get around the old attach-your-picture-to-the-resume thing we got rid of before due to potential and real discrimination (age and race being two key issues). I’d love to say that we are beyond discrimination, but that is not true and I hate that people have to make social experiments with their careers and livelihood. I wish the photo wasn’t an option.

    • I honestly wouldn’t hold someone not having a Linked-In picture against them – I look more at the picture they chose IF they have one – is it even remotely professional.

    • I have my photo on my personal business card. I included this with my resume. When I went in for an interview, the VERY FIRST question I got asked was why I put my photo on my business card. The housing discrimination lawyer interviewing me didn’t find it very endearing. He gave me a good talking to about it, because this is apparently a tactic discriminatory realtors use to find only white homebuyers.

    • I’ll be frank, I have a disability you can see in a head shot and I don’t need to have potential employers concerned about it or wondering what accommodations I might need (which is none). I feel like it’s unnecessary to know my medical history before even getting a phone call. On the flip side, even if they are awesome and totally not concerned about any disability, I pretty much look super pissed or stoned in every picture (facial paralysis will do that to you). I can very well see a hiring manager thinking I just look unprofessional, instead of having something medically wrong.

  7. My husband is a CFO and has been in the hiring position many times. I put him in charge of my resume when I went hunting for an internship/first time job in my REAL field after being an admin-weenie for 10+ years. (Career change!) Here is what HE likes to see as a hiring manager:

    1) Bullet point your skills and accomplishments in one list

    2) List the jobs you’ve had under them with dates, etc, but leave off the long winded description about what you did at each job. This is especially useful if you spent multiple years in 1 industry and did a lot of the same things from job to job. You don’t want to write it out more than once for each job performed, nor does a hiring manager want to see it spelled out umpteen times.

    3) List out your specific skills (software packages, programming languages, etc) as well so that way they know what you know. Also, as far as keyword optimization goes, you can put those keywords in your list of skills and accomplishments as you write about it.

    I think technically this falls under the category of “functional resume” vs. chronological. I think it might work for those looking to change fields, as a functional resume is better for those folks than chronological.

  8. Absolutely! I very much agree with all of this!

    And might I add, once you get the call for an interview – don’t ask the interviewer out on a date. The answer will always be no – to the date and to the job.

    I’m in HR at a manufacturing company, so I’m used to people dressing very casual for an interview, but please, pull your pants up, sit up straight, and make sure you shower beforehand. I’m not going to hire someone I can’t stand being in the same room with.

  9. I had a temp office job about 20 years ago, and when almost 100 resumes arrived in response to a 3-line blind ad for a manager that the company had run, my boss handed the stack of resumes to me and the other office assistant and told us to go through them and give him 5. I spent 3 days reading resumes, and out of other people’s mistakes came up with a number of rules that I applied to my own future job hunts and advised all my friends about, including:

    * If “attention to detail” is one of the selling points in your resume, do not also misspell words in your cover letter.

    * Do not print your resume in 8-point font on textured purple paper. (You’d THINK this would be obvious. That particular candidate also printed their resume up as a fancy gatefold thing with a rounded top. It looked like a large invitation.)

    * Do not rely on a computer-generated cover letter because other people have the same software and the person reading the resumes will notice that they are identical except for two keywords, and toss both of you.

    * Don’t staple letters of recommendation to your resume. Especially if you’re looking for your first job out of school and they’re all from your basketball coaches explaining how you’d be a really good basketball coach, and the job ad is not for a basketball coach.

    * Don’t talk about your children and their accomplishments on your resume.

    * I find the line “references available upon request” to be useless and taking up space that could be used to put more accomplishments in, because OF COURSE they’re available upon request. (I also started including a sheet of paper with my references’ contact information on it when I mailed in resumes, because I figured the less work the hiring person had to go through, the better.)

    My boss at the time also had a pet peeve in that he HATED resumes folded to fit into a regular mailing envelope, because they wouldn’t stack nicely and fell off his desk. From that day on, I have always, always sent my resume in a 9″x12″ envelope, so that it would be flat, in case it encountered someone else with that pet peeve.

    And something from my most recent experience on a hiring committee at my current job: make sure you mention EVERYTHING in the job listing either in your cover letter or on the resume, even if it seems silly, like if you’re applying for the head of a large department and the ad asks for candidate with knowledge of Word. You may think it’s obvious that you’d know Word from working in an office or a particular field or that it’s not very important, but you see…we have this matrix we have to fill out for every candidate that lists all the qualifications in the ad, and if you left Word off then you got ranked behind a candidate that had Word listed, all other things being equal. I’m sure it’s worse when you have HR people that know nothing about the actual job being filled other than what the job listing says.

    • The pet peeve thing sticks with me as well. An old colleague told me that once when he was hiring for a new member of staff he got so many applicants he needed an initial way to reduce the number of people to look at. He had a pet peeve towards brown envelopes because he thought white envelopes looked so much more professional so all applications in a brown envelope went straight in the bin. Ever since, if an application is to be posted, I have sent it in a white envelope in case someone else thinks brown envelopes aren’t as professional as white envelopes.

      • I try not to choose something so arbitrary – I can usually weed out just find with mistakes in the resumes and people who are just unqualified for the position.

  10. I am in job development for teenagers where we teach kids 16-21 a technical skill as well as how to get a job which relies heavily on how to properly fill out applications, what to wear on interviews, and how to write a resume. Whenever we are looking for instructors to teach the non-technical related classes, I get some crazy resumes and cover letters via email since that is how we prefer to receive resumes. I have had multiple people send me their resume within the body of the email which is one of my biggest pet peeves because it is hard to read no matter how neat the person thinks what they are writing is. This is automatically put in my inbox folder “do not hire.”

    • That’s a great skill to teach – I was stunned at how many college graduates I interviewed that didn’t have a basic understanding of how to act in a professional setting.

    • Conversely, I’ve applied to a few jobs that specifically requested you paste the text of the resume (& writing samples) into an email, not include as attachments. And sometimes, when attachments are OK, only certain types are OK (PDF not Word doc, for example).

      Moral of the story: Always read the job description & application completely & follow directions on how to apply precisely!

      • Related tip: address the email LAST. ATTACH THE FILES if going to. Paste in cover letter template, add anything you want to add or change keywords to some in the listing. Re-read the listing to make sure you didn’t skip the part where they said “include these three essay questions in your cover letter” or “attachments will not be opened.” THEN copy-paste their contact email and send. No risk of accidental sending before proofing!!

        I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made an ass of myself with a cover letter that says “attached you will find…” And no attachments. Every once in a while, if my cover letter really impressed someone, they would kindly assume that the internet ate it. Mostly I’m sure they just said “can’t follow basic directions, delete.”

    • Please could I ask your advice on a related point? If I am emailing my application, should my ‘cover letter’ be the body of the email they open or attached as a separate document? I have previously put it as the email because that’s the same format they’d get it if it was a postal application, but if applications are being printed off presumably it’d be easier/neater to print the whole lot if it’s as an attachment….? Any thoughts or advice?

      • I actually prefer it to be in both the body of the email and as an attachment. If the candidate is good, I print off the resume and cover letter to give to my fellow directors so that we can all look over the information together. It can be done either way though for me as long as there is a cover letter. We tell our members that if they want to in the body of the email to put a simple greeting referencing the position they are applying to and how they found out about the job with contact information so that it is not as wordy as their cover letter in most cases. We have met other HR hiring managers that absolutely hate cover letters though so we try to have our members follow what we know that HR managers are really wanting and needing and just have that information in an email format.

        • Thank you! I guess this is where it pays to have an insight into the mind of the person receiving the application, which ties in with one of the points in the post. Thank you for your advice 🙂

      • I’ve never had an email system including webmail that didn’t have a print button. Easier than opening an extra attachment. If all else fails you could say “I’ve attached my resume and a printer-friendly version of this cover letter” to cover both bases for everyone. Some may scoff at the redundancy, but i expect if i gave amy thought to it I’d be thinking how considerate it was.

    • And I’ve had times where the applicants sent the resume in a format that we were unable to open.
      My employer was a little slow to upgrade from .doc to .docx, so it was a frequent problem for a while…
      After that time, I started sending my resume at the bottom of the body of the email (referencing in the email why I was doing so) as well as attaching the resume.

      • There is a simple plug in that converts .docx to .doc, so it should not have been an issue. However, candidates should always send materials in the most readable format possible, which I would argue is either .doc or .pdf. (At least those are most commonly readable formats that still maintain formatting.) It does also help if the people doing the hiring specify a format, since an applicant never knows how technically competent and able to navigate various formats the person reading your submission is. If they ask people to send things in the formats they know how to use it makes it easier on everyone, and unreadable files become the fault of the applicant not the person doing the hiring.

  11. I thought this article was helpful (especially to people who are just getting started in their careers), and it has me wondering if anyone who is in certain honor societies has ever used their websites to post their resumes online when job hunting? And how helpful they felt it was? I’m in one and it is an option on the organization’s website. I’m kind of looking for a new job and have considered putting my resume on the website but I’m hesitant since I really have no idea who specifically will be looking at it and if it’s really worth my time to post it there :/

    • I think this depends on the field – I started with referrals from good people in my company and worked my way out. If its a difficult position to fill I do a lot more detailed search but most HR people and managers take the path that’s easiest to them – I don’t think it can hurt to post them there but I wouldn’t let it be the only place. Since I was looking for writers I did reach out to a few writing clubs at our local universities before we paid to post an ad.

    • I have used professional organizations websites to host my resume when I first started looking when I got finished with my PhD. It didn’t help as much as the cold calls, the do you know someone who knows someone.

    • The only reason I would do this is if it makes applying to jobs easier, such as importing your resume automatically into a form versus hand typing it very time. I’m an attorney, and my state’s bar association offers a similar kind of service, but then imports that materials right into my online job applications.

  12. Great advice for those starting out! I’d add to have your references lined up — ask ppl in advance (no surprises), & don’t use your friends or family members as references, UNLESS they legitimately were your manager at a real adult-style job (not just for babysitting, yardwork, etc.). And if it is a friend or family member, it’s extra-super important to ask them about being a reference & ask what they’d say. Make sure your friend won’t say “dude, my pal was totally awesome at that job!” or your mom would say “my little baby was the best cashier at our family store!” You want professional-sounding references. If you’re coming out of school, a professor or adviser can be a great reference. If you did an internship or work-study job or volunteering, pump those contacts for references.

    I’ve been working for 15+ years & changed jobs recently. My references get checked & one former manager is a good friend (we met thru work & have worked together 2x), so she always tells me when she’s been contacted. I know I can trust that she’ll be extremely professional & positive, which is great. But I wouldn’t use any other friends as references.

    • It’s really nice to have references that you know well enough that they would call you if they ever got contacted.
      It’s great when your references knows what you’ve been up to since working with them, and what your dream job is and how you would rock at it.

  13. Great advice! I’m going to be a grad in May so I’ve doing the hunt right now. I can’t believe (as I read through the comments) what some people do… like… really? Wow. Makes me feel a lot better about what I’ve sent out.

    Question I didn’t see answered, or maybe missed: Is it a faux pas to call the company and ask for the name of the HR person so that in your cover letter you can put “Dear Ms. Smith” instead of “To whom it may concern”? I feel “Dear Sir or Madam” is super impersonal but I don’t want to go around calling and be seen as foolish.

    • I have done this and have gotten good results. I felt super awkward doing it, but I felt like my application was better (I could research the person and tailor my cover letter).
      This is also advice that my grad school recommends to new jobseekers.

    • I’ve actually read that you can just write “Dear Hiring Manager”. It’s more personal than “To whom it may concern”, but saves you calling the company. Any sane hiring manager will not disqualify you from the running because you didn’t know his/her name at the beginning of the process.

      Also, if EVERYONE did this, the receptionist would be getting hundreds of calls, maybe thousands if they’re hiring for multiple positions.

      For TONS of advice on this subject, check out the Ask A Manager blog. Alison over there is so knowledgeable 🙂

    • I personally don’t mind either way – I think if you’re sending a resume unsolicited it can be helpful to address it to a specific person – before you call if you’re shy about that a Google search (most companies post the managers of each department somewhere) or a Linked-In search is a great way to figure out the name of the person you want to see your resume.

  14. What advice (if any) can you give to job seekers who CANNOT EVER use social media sites due to serious safety concerns (i.e. stalking, harassment, hiding from an abuser)?

    My personal situation finally forced me to “disappear” and hide in plain sight. Since I have been targeted by a very resourceful computer expert, this means I can’t use ANY social media. It’s not hard to locate someone, even after a legal name change, if you already know at least part of their work history – and the danger increases for people who’ve had unusual jobs or worked in special fields (or who have to maintain professional licenses – bus driver, doctor, locksmith, etc).

    Even if it were safe for me to post my resume anywhere, forget about posting a picture to go with it! I was able to ferret out an old picture of myself (on someone else’s Facebook page) simply by reverse-image searching a similar picture on Google. I have to assume any harasser (especially a tech-savvy one) would do the same.

    LinkedIn, by the way, is easily the biggest security risk for people like me ( – even though they finally agreed to create a blocking feature, it’s NOT foolproof (

    Before anyone suggests involving the police…those of us who have find out VERY quickly that there are limits to what they can do (especially in the case of a smarter pursuer who knows how to cover their tracks…), and that many police officers blow off or even laugh at victims who ask to file a police report or who request enforcement of a restraining order. (I currently live next door to a police officer and “someone” STILL managed to send me a suspicious package in the mail – which couldn’t be traced.) So, we can’t necessarily rely on law enforcement.

    Long story short…social media is not an option for some of us. Any tips on job hunting WITHOUT using LinkedIn?

    • Network, network, network. Attend social functions and professional lectures in your field, go for coffee with old coworkers, ask your best mentors for their contacts and references. Essentially, do things the old-fashioned way. Many people have good results with this, whether or not they use social media.
      In my field, around 60% of new grads report getting their first job by knowing someone.So as scary as going out may be with a harasser, do what you can to get your name & face out there.
      It may also be worth going through a head-hunter service, where they get job contacts and get your name & resume out there without you doing so much of the leg work. Often you have to negotiate the job through the recruiter’s office, and you may be a “third party” employee, but a paycheck is a paycheck.

      • I agree – do what you can do without social media – don’t open yourself up to the very real security risk. Chances are the harasser won’t be able to find you if you attend mixers, conferences and lectures and meet people the old-fashioned way. Just double-check to make sure that such events don’t post your name (I once gave a presentation skills seminar at a major textile and plastics conglomerate in Taiwan, and my name was all over their website as they advertised the ’employee training sessions’ which are benefits/perks for new employees. It may still be there. It doesn’t matter to me, but it will matter to you).

        Honestly, I’m a freelancer so my income depends on my name being out there, and most of my contracts didn’t come through Facebook or LinkedIn, they came through knowing people in real life who know people in real life!

        If someone at an interview etc. asks why you are not on any social media, have an answer ready that deflects and gives a vague answer like “I had a bad experience due to hacking” (what this guy is doing in order to harass you is, to some extent, hacking or close enough to it) “so I’m very cautious.” Or something light like “haha, you know, I’m just a hermit. I like my life to be led in real life, that’s all!” which will hopefully stop ’em from asking.

    • I don’t hold it not having social media against someone – unless they’re applying for a job working in our social media department. For me its about making sure there isn’t anything out there that’s going to hurt you – having a Facebook doesn’t help. As for not having a linked-in the counter to that is to attended professional events and network the old fashioned way – that’s all linked-in is designed to do anyway – link you with other professionals in the same area or industry – just do it in person.

  15. This article proves it’s about who you know not what you know. The whole first section is about knowing someone who works there. That’s a pretty disheartening point for people trying to get into new industries or starting work in a new town/ city.

    On another note, I too am of the “Wow, really, people have to be told this stuff?” train of thought. It’s all pretty basic.

    When I am job hunting I tailor my resume to suit each position I am applying for. I don’t lie, no way, I just highlight what I believe will be important for the position I want. The other thing I have done is try to cut down on the amount of jobs on my resume. I have a lot, not a good thing but having worked at two businesses that went bust, one that was sold with my position was made redundant and one that shut down for 6 months of the year with ‘lovely’ owners who carefully left that detail out when they employed me I have ended up with a lot for my mere 8 years in the workforce. I have had more than two jobs at once for most of my working life so in cases like the workplace that shut down for 6 moths, I just removed it from my resume, the experience I got there was not worth the black mark of yet another job on my resume.

    • There really is a lot to who you know – which sucks in a new city but we’ve had people go so far as to hang out at bars that our staff frequents after hours and make connections. I friend works in hiring for Disney and there are hospitality nights at bars around town and people do the same thing. The added bonus is that you make friends in the new town too and hopefully get an in. I also think for the most part I really respect someone who is willing to go to those lengths to get a job with us.

  16. “It’s a difficult balance to stay true to yourself and get a job at the same time. These are the compromises we make when we have to work for “The Man.” Happy job hunting!”

    This is unfortunately correct.

    However, I just can’t do it. I just…can’t. Or I won’t (I suppose I *can* do almost anything I set my mind to, that doesn’t mean I have the will or deep desire to carry it out).

    I had a really good job until recently – corporate and English training in Taiwan (depended on what the students wanted), great students, good pay (although it could have been better…but that’s true everywhere, yeah), flexible, no requirement to sit in front of a desk all day, got to go all over the city and visit corporate office (and take advantage of their amenities) wthout having to actually work in a corporate office.

    But I just couldn’t stay, because my boss was a classist, somewhat racist*, sexist, avaricious lying jerk, and not all that intelligent to boot.

    I looked for other jobs, but they all wanted to hire people who exuded something I could never be (it varied by company). Someone who didn’t care about political issues (I won’t discuss politics at work but I won’t pretend I “don’t care”), or who actually believed company profits were more important than working conditions and pay, or who wouldn’t speak up when a ‘leader’ or ‘key person’ said something horrifically sexist, or someone who was more ‘ladylike’ (I definitely talked to someone who said I’d be great, but that the company ‘preferred’ that women wear skirts, hose, light makeup and heels. You know, standard sexism. I thanked him for his time and exited the interview. NO THANKS). I’m not about to change the pictures I put on Facebook (all under privacy settings, if that means anything) or not write about sensitive issues on my personal blog because someone in an office somewhere considering hiring me doesn’t like them.

    So I struck out on my own and went freelance (mostly getting contracts from people who already know me and so aren’t inclined to mind what’s on my privacy-protected Facebook feed), because this is a compromise I am just not willing to make. My personal life is my own. Unless I am literally starving (then I might be persuaded), that will not change.

    *it’s hard to say: he hired people of all races and we had a fairly diverse staff for a company based in Taiwan hiring expats (most of whom are white), but at the same time he viewed people of Chinese ethnicity to be superior to any other race. I think you could call that racial prejudice.

    • I have to agree if you can’t find a way to work in a system you’ve got to make you own. I would have a lot of trouble if I didn’t work in a company that was as inclusive and progressive as far as culture and diversity. My advice if you weren’t already freelancing would be to seek out companies that have the values you’re looking for as part of their stated culture or mission. And to seek out companies that have a reputation for treating their employees well. It takes longer and requires a ton more research but when you land that job you know you’re in a place you’ll be happy with.

  17. As someone who is (too) rapidly approaching graduation, I’m curious to know if professionally designed, good looking resumes that may or may not include color or graphic elements are actually likely to catch the eye of the person who is hiring above, say, neat but obviously self-designed-in-Microsoft-Office resumes?

    • Don’t do this unless you are looking for a job in graphic design. Otherwise it either looks like a) you’ve outsourced your resume (begging the question “what else doesn’t she know how to do herself?”) or b) you’ve valued form over substance.

    • As someone who reads CV’s all day for a living, fancy graphics make me giggle (I hire mostly MS based IT techies).

      What I really want to know is: can you do the job? I like neat CV’s in word – pdf’s are difficult because you can’t search within them, (which if I’m looking for a specific technology I do to check it’s there before reading 10 pages), a summary at the top including a bit of a list of skills (bullet pointed or not) and not too many tables.

      Pet peeve? Text in columns. It’s a CV, not a newspaper.

  18. Any resume/cover letter suggestions for someone who has a Masters degree but is seeking positions that either require a HS diploma or AA? I’m having no luck at all and wondering if my education level is working against me? I know I’d be great at the jobs I’m applying for 🙂

  19. This may seem obvious to most of you, but hasn’t been obvious to a huge number of people who have been applying to jobs I either did the full on hire or the screen for, but make sure you give them what they ask for in the ad!

    We always ask for a cover letter, and usually get them from half; the half that don’t include on get dropped no matter how fabulous their resume, because if you can’t follow that simple instruction we can’t trust that you will follow instructions or pay attention to details on the job.

    Cover letters don’t have to be big fancy things, but I want to know why you want the job and why you think you would be good at it; even a couple of sentences in the body of the e-mail you are attaching your resume to, assuming a simple online ad (we were hiring mostly via craigslist ad) is usually enough.

  20. Thanks for sharing this post. I’d love to see more of these on offbeat home!

    Random question for anyone out there: I share a name with other people. So when I google myself, a successful baby photographer floods the page! Not my LinkedIn, google+, or my publishings. I’ve tried googling myself with “-photography” but then a nude French actress appears!

    Does anyone have any tips for manipulating your own google search? Does anyone else have a common name that affects your google search?

    Maggie – did you ever google someone and bizarro stuff came up? Was it obvious when it wasn’t them?

    • This happens a lot – if I run into it and i’m pretty sure its not the person I’ll Google the e-mail address, the name with their college or last company too. An easy way to combat the same name as someone else is to include a middle initial or a middle name. Another thing that can help is set up a resume website buy the domain – and just post your resume on it so it comes up first in a search with other search terms from your resume. I have a guy named John Smith who works for me now and that’s how he got around it.

  21. Chiming in a bit late on this but this morning I was reminded that I read this on my phone last week and wanted to comment!

    I think the author’s advice is all great, and I especially support the LinkedIn bit (though, to the person above who can’t use LinkedIn for security reasons: don’t worry – not having a LinkedIn profile is not an automatic non-starter). However, there is one thing that I have to really disagree with based on my own experience as a hiring manager in the international public health field: it can be perfectly appropriate to have a resume that is more than a page long, even with less than a decade of experience. Some pointers/caveats on this:

    -I would agree that you don’t need more than a page until you have at least two jobs under your belt – and there is probably not a new grad on the planet that needs to spill into the second page. But from what I’ve seen, if you’re going to include a Summary of Qualifications (do!), education with more than one degree or certificate, at least two significant jobs with a few bullet points describing what your responsibilities/accomplishments were, plus any key skills like language or travel experience (important in my particular field), *and* you’re going to do all this in 11pt or 12pt font with reasonable margins…you’re going to be at the limit of a page. And that’s if you don’t have any publications to list. So, I would expect most reasonable candidates in my field to need to do use a second page before they hit the 10 year mark.

    -Also, if I see someone with over 2-3 years of experience/more than two jobs and they *don’t* legitimately spill over on to a second page, I kind of wonder what they’ve been doing or why they don’t have more to say about their work. That’s not to say that you should try to make your resume longer just for the sake of making it longer…but if you work/are trying to work in a field where the substance of your experience is going to vary widely based on the environment (working in different countries, on different types of projects, for different donors, etc), you shouldn’t be shy to show your range of experience. Mine is also a field where there are a few different ‘tracks’ that one might take (e.g. managerial vs technical), and I love to see people with experience in both – so I do need to see some details on what you did in your jobs, not just what your title was and who you worked for.

    -If you are connected to some pretty well-known people in the field who would serve as your references, go ahead and just include a references section at the end with each person’s position and email address. Paradoxically, my field of global health is kind of a small world sometimes, and if I see that you’re connected to someone I know and respect in a substantive way, I’m probably going to give your resume more consideration. Is that fair? No. But it’s reality – just a variation on what the author discusses about using your network. Anyway, this will take about a 1/3 of a page if you list 3 references (2-3 is an appropriate #). If you have the connections, don’t be afraid to use that space to list them.

    So, this is not to say the author’s advice is wrong, at all – I’m sure that in her field the over-one-page resume is annoying and may be thrown away (or at least the second page not read). But this is a reminder that things vary by field. If you’re applying for a relatively generic position as a newly minted college graduate, you probably are up against 1,000 candidates so keep it short and sweet. But if you’ve got five years of job experience across a few different jobs/countries and a masters degree and you’re applying for a somewhat specialized position, for goodness sakes go onto the second page if it feels right – you’re probably only up against 20 or 30 other candidates, and you do want to make sure you stand out by adequately highlighting your experience!

    • I agree.

      It also depends on the standards and expectations in the country where you’re applying for a job. For example in the UK most companies will request a CV (curriculum vitae) rather than a resume which is supposed to be a complete list of all your qualifications and previous jobs as well as any other relevant information. It’s virtually impossible to get that into a single page. 2 sides of A4 is the usual recommendation but depending on the job and your experience 3 or even 4 may be completely reasonable.

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