Raise your hand if updating your resume is high on your to-do list. Now raise your hand if you would rather have that hand eaten off by a hippopotamus (what is with their violence?!) so that you have an excuse to work on your resume another day.
Yea. I get that. Literally no one likes doing this. That’s because it feels overwhelming.
But it shouldn’t be. We consulted the help of a woman who does this for a living. Her name is Rose Keating, and together, we’re going to get you through this.
One pages or two?
According to Keating, most hiring managers prefer one or two pages. However, “page length isn’t the most critical thing,” Keating told me. “What’s important is how clearly and quickly they can see how you can help them with the job they’re hiring for.”
A general rule of thumb: If you have less than five years of experience, your resume should be one page. If you have over five years of experience, you can go to two. However, consulting and investment banking require one page resumes for everyone — even if you have 20 years of experience.
Where does “Education” go? Top or bottom?
The goal is to show what you’ve been doing most recently. If you are within a year of having graduated or you’re still in school, put your education at the top of your resume. (It shouldn’t take up a ton of page real estate.) Once you’ve been out of school for two or more years, put your eductation on the bottom. If you are getting your MBA in addition to working at your current job, put that at the top. Your resume should read in reverse chronological order, from most recent title to least.
What if I have a bad GPA?
Don’t put it on your resume. Your resume should present you in the best light possible. Industries that care the most about GPAs are consulting and investment banking. Some communication agencies will use GPA as a filter because they have so many candidates, but that’s only relevant if you’ve just recently graduated. Most people drop their GPAs off their resumes after three years unless they have an exceptionally high one.
What if I pulled a Bill Gates and didn’t graduate?
You can still write the year that you plan to graduate if you plan on finishing your degree at some point in the future. For example, if you are planning to finish your degree in 2018, dropped out in 2015 and decided to start Banana (the new Apple!), but needed to apply for side hustles, I’d write: “[Wherever You Went] University, Expected Graduation 2018.”
If you completed 3 years of college but have no intention of finishing your degree, write your university name plus however many years you completed of said degree. For example: “[Wherever You Went] University, X years of a bachelor degree in journalism.”
Another angle is to list the number of courses. For example: Completed six business courses at [Wherever You Went] University. Only do this if it’s been a year or less since finishing these courses.
Are cover letters antiquated?
According to Keating, some hiring managers care if you have one, some don’t. She knows how frustrating that sounds. She also knows that some hiring managers won’t bother looking at your resume at all if they don’t like your cover letter, so to play it safe, she advises her clients to write a cover letter every time unless the job description specifies not to include one.
…How the hell do I write a cover letter?
Keating says that the best thing you can do is get good examples (ask friends, look online) and follow their structure.
Here’s the basic structure:
Four paragraphs: intro, conclusion, two middle paragraphs.
The first middle paragraph should answer: Why you? Why are you right for this job?
The second middle paragraph should answer: Why them? Why do you want to work for that company specifically?
I am supposed to write one of these every single time I apply for a job?!?!
Yes. But think quality over quantity. Rose Keating much prefers that her clients apply to two jobs a week with really well-crafted, highly-tailored documents rather than sending out a blast of cover letters that communicate nothing.
Should I be adding color to make my resume stand out?
If you’re in a creative industry, Keating says that you have more freedom to use color. Google “Visual resume” for ideas. (Here are some that are really out of that damn cliché box!) If you’re not a graphic designer, there are websites where you input your information and the site helps create cool visuals, like timelines and pie charts. (She recommends checking out Smashfreakz.com)
If you’re applying to more analytical roles, keep it traditional.
Don’t: tell white lies, even though “everyone does it.”
It’s never necessary. Don’t misrepresent yourself.
Do: present yourself and your experiences in the best light possible.
Keating says to think about a resume like a first date: No one needs to know that your last relationship went up in flames.
Show off your qualities and the best parts of your personality. If you increased the social media following from 50 to 100, that’s a 100% increase in followers — so say that.
Don’t: use pronouns or write in first person.
Your resume should never say “I” or “me.” Instead of, “I worked for three months on x project,” you would write, “Worked three months on x project.”
Don’t: focus on tasks and responsibilities.
– Instead, focus on results and achievements that convey the impact of the tasks that you did and the responsibilities you had. “Tell me how well you did it,” Keating says.
– Your resume shouldn’t look like lists from your job description — the person looking to hire can’t learn anything from that. Instead, write the impact or the result of those actions. For example: “Increased office efficiency by providing accurate and timely file management. Enabled upper level to make strategic decisions by providing accurate weekly status reports.”
– Empty adjectives do nothing. Anyone can list “leader” or “hard worker.” Write something that demonstrates how you can multitask. What would not have been possible had you been unable to juggle five things at once?
If you meet about 70% of the qualifications listed, go for it. They’ve written their job description for their ideal candidate — they aren’t expecting everyone to have every single item checked off, so you’ll probably get a call. Besides, you can’t get a job you didn’t apply for.
If you have less than 70% of the required qualifications, don’t waste your time applying online, but do network your way into the company if you are passionate about what they do.
And I do this all online?
20% of your energy should go into online applications. The rest of your energy should go into talking and meeting one on one and doing informational interviews. Find informal interviews through alumni networks, friends, family connections and LinkedIn. Tell them you want to hear about their career-path. It’s one of the most important tools in your job search.
Alright guys — good luck!
Check out Rose Keating’s blog here for more tips and tricks to getting the job you want (among other things, like how to ask for a raise)
Elizabeth wearing NARS “Dragon Girl” Velvet Matte Lip Pencil; Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; gifs by Emily Zirimis.