There are many tricks and tips that can help you create a successful resume…but some of the most important moves—the ones that help your resume make the biggest impact—don’t involve your resume at all. Think of this document as the star of your job search show. It takes center stage, and most managers will focus on it and build their hiring decisions primarily around the information it contains.
But like any star, the resume can’t get the job done alone. Your primary document needs a support system, a network of satellite players that can bring it to life, help support its claims and contribute to your complex, three-dimensional profile. Here are some of the most important secondary members of your job search team.
Your resume may be a kind of list, a set of bullet points and a collection of raw data that summarizes your key credentials and lets managers skim through in order to make sure the most important boxes are checked. Three years of experience? Got it. A bachelor’s degree in finance or journalism? Got it. But a cover letter takes this raw data and weaves it into your personal story. It gives your datasheet a voice and a personality and helps mangers form a connection with you and understand how this job might fit into the larger arc of your career ambitions. Use your letter to explain any details of your resume that might seem confusing, and use it to introduce yourself and share what you’re about.
Some managers will directly ask for a few work samples or a portfolio of your previous projects. If they do this, they’ll usually make their instructions and specifications clear. But if they don’t ask or provide clear instructions, consider this a golden opportunity to offer your portfolio on your own terms. Include a link in your resume and cover letter that takes managers to your personal website or blog. Use this site to showcase photos, short videos, graphs, charts, testimonials and other information that highlights your professional successes.
Don’t offer references unless (and until) you’re personally asked to do so by these employers. In this day and age, it’s inappropriate to provide the contact information of your references to total strangers with no specific entre. (And you don’t need to add a line to your resume that says “references available on request”, since this is implicit.) But when you ARE asked, make sure you have your list at the ready. Get permission from your contacts and make sure each person on your list is someone you’ve worked with closely, someone you can trust, and someone who isn’t a member of your family.
Short of the resume itself, your follow-up strategy may be the most important item in your job search toolkit. After you submit your resume, cover letter, and any supplemental materials, wait for two or three days and then deliver a polite email or phone call to the HR staff or hiring managers for the company. Ask if your materials were received, and ask if there’s anything else you can provide that might support your candidacy.
Visit LiveCareer for a resume and cover letter builder that can keep your entire message at the center of your employer’s attention.