From polishing your resume and cover letter to scouring the internet, finding the right job can become a full-time job on its own. In today’s fast-paced job market, standing out can help propel you ahead of the general applicant population. Through polishing your online reputation, improving your resume and cover letter, and learning specific skills to make your interview go smoother, you can improve your chances of landing your next career move.
How can I fix my online reputation?
Identifying their applicants is one of the main goals of employers. Beyond your resume and cover letter, are you trustworthy, diligent, and responsible? Everyone is at their best at a job interview, so hiring managers Google you.
According to a 2020 study by CareerBuilder, over 70% of employers “use social networking sites to research job candidates during the hiring process,” with over half of employers (54%) rejecting applicants because of what they found. “Because we tend to view our social media accounts as being ‘personal,’ there is a good chance that by viewing someone’s profile, you’ll get a glimpse into their personality beyond the resume,” says DeeAnn Sims-Knight, founder of Dark Horse PR. Having that insiders look into your personal life can help the recruiter determine if your values match the values and needs of the company.
Seventy percent of employers check the big 3: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but auditing every social media account before applying for a position is significant. Matt Erhard, the managing partner of Summit Search Group, says he checks the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, as it is the most relevant, recent, and can function as a second resume. Polishing your social media can be significant, as what you post can affect your job prospects. Of the hiring managers in the CareerBuilder study, the top reasons given for why they did not hire a specific candidate are as follows:
1: Posted provocative or inappropriate photos, videos, or information (39%)
2: Posted information about excess drinking or using drugs (38%)
3: Made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, or ability (32%)
4: Made derogatory remarks about a previous company or fellow employee (30%)
5: Lied about their qualifications (27%)
But do not completely get rid of your digital footprint. Fifty-seven percent of employers did not prefer candidates who were social media “ghosts” and called them in for an interview less likely than those with a presence. There are multiple practical steps that you can take to clean up your feed.
1: Google Yourself
It is incredible what you can find online about yourself—finding out what is out there and where can be a wonderful place to start. The first step is to go into Incognito Mode and log out of all your Google accounts. Put in your name and other variations of your name (Matthew instead of Matt), and look through the first few results, checking Images, News, Blog, and Video results.
2: Make your profiles private
Making social media profiles private can let you express yourself through an online outlet while keeping your online reputation secret. While not a fool-proof way,
3: Look at your profile through an employer’s eyes
Looking at your own social media profiles through an employer’s eyes can help you determine if the content on your account is appropriate for a professional in your field. If you were an employer, would you hire this person? Are there any questionable memes, pictures of you going overboard at a party, or anything too political for the workspace? Are the posts that you may have been tagged inappropriate as well? Is your profile picture professional, an actual picture of your face? If any of these apply to the content on your social media platforms, consider taking it down. Suppose you’ve been tagged in any inappropriate posts by friends and family, un-tag yourself liberally if necessary. If that is not possible, ask the original poster to remove the tag or the post altogether.
4: Post meaningful or substantial content
Having activities or causes on your social media that are important to you are great ways to show your employer(s) that you are a natural person who cares about certain things. This does not have to be an essay about human rights; it could be as simple as a poem or short story that you particularly like and why it is essential to you. On your LinkedIn, including stories of excellent customer service that you have provided would be an effective way to show how good you are at your job.
In that same CareerBuilder survey, where 54% of employers didn’t hire a candidate because of their social media, they found that 44% of employers have found posts on a candidate’s social media that have caused them to hire them. Employers liked seeing information that supported your professional qualifications (you graduate, diploma in hand), practical communication skills on display, a professional profile image, and creativity. Being careful at what you post online can help you stay in the race and put you ahead of the competition.
How to fix your Résumé
According to Kristi DePaul, founder, and CEO of Founders, a personal branding company, hiring managers take around 10 seconds to scan your résumé before deciding whether or not to keep it. DePaul says three pieces are important to get right on your résumé: 1. Your name and contact information, 2. Your most recent experience, and 3. Your skills and education.
Choose a Format
Before you fill in your blank résumé document, you must first think about how you want to stylize your résumé. Depending on your personal experience and education, you may choose a distinctive style.
The Chronological style puts your work experience up front. This style is best if you stay in the industry you already have experience in and want to show the many years of experience you have in various companies. You can also display your extensive education and advanced degrees in this style, showing that you have both the expertise and the knowledge required for the position for which you are applying.
A Functional style emphasizes the skills you already have and works well if you are switching industries. This style highlights transferable skills you have that can work for multiple industries.
Using a Combination of the Chronological and Functional styles can be great if you have both professional experience, extensive education, and transferable skills that would be an excellent fit for the company for which you are applying.
Make sure the font size, style, and color you choose are readable. 12pt font in either Ariel, Helvetica, Calibri, or Times New Roman is the best; avoid stylized fonts. Keep your margins simple; 1 to 1.5 inches. Make your name stand out by making it bold and slightly bigger; 14 to 16 points. When listing your experience, education, and other information, use bullet points so the reader can easily pick out critical bits of information.
Your Contact Information
Having up-to-date contact information is particularly important. Your name, email address, phone number, and mailing address should all be included at the very top of your résumé. Your name should be bolded and larger than the rest of the font on the page. If applying for a creative position, including a portfolio of your work or links to your social media pages would be a fantastic idea.
A Personal Headline
In the past few years, including a résumé summary or objective statement explaining your career goals has been a popular inclusion. Kristi DePaul, in an interview with the Harvard Business Review, says to “ditch the mission statement. It is taking up too much room on your résumé.” Instead, replace it with a headline that describes you and your specialty. This can be useful if you are trying to switch careers or industries.
Professional History and Work Experience
This section can be the most important one to many employers. Show that you have the expertise needed to meet the demands of the role for which you are applying. For this section, include the following:
1: Your title in the company, the name of the company, and the number of years you worked there
2: A small blurb about your role in the company
Altogether, it should look like this:
Sales Manager, ABC Software Company, (2002-2010)
- Increased annual revenue from $7 million to $9 million, a 28.5% increase, and led a team of eighteen other employees over five time zones
Make sure you use action words to describe your achievements, such as “developed,” “saved,” “managed,” “increased,” etc.
Showing your personal education will be valuable if you have limited work experience or are transferring industries. Include the following:
1: The university you attended, the degree you obtained, and the years you obtained it
2: Your GPA (if above a 3.0)
3: Any Leadership positions or relevant scholarships
Here is an example:
University of Georgia:
Terry College of Business
Master of Science in Business Analytics (2008-2011)
Bachelor of Business Administration (2002-2006)
UGA Presidential Leadership Scholarship (2002-2006)
President, UGA Club Debate Team (2005-2006)
If you have any relevant certifications, include them here. These may include:
Certified Personal Assistant (year achieved)
Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Scientist Associate (year completed)
Awards and Honors
Many employers often receive dozens of applications for a single position. Including personal awards and accomplishments on your résumé can help you stand out from the rest. These awards can show soft skills that many employers look for, such as teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, community service, and leadership. Include things like:
1: Awards and honors from High School and College
- Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America, The Gold Award from the Girl Scout of America, MVP from your sports team, etc.
2: Awards and honors from previous companies and employers
- Employee of the Month/Quarter/Year, any “40 Under 40” list, and the place on the list
3: Decorations earned through service in the armed forces
- USMC Commendation Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Silver Star Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Also, include a summary of what you did to earn the award.
Creating the perfect Cover Letter
A cover letter can be the most challenging part of applying for a job. Many people do not know where to start. The whole purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself and your skill sets to the hiring manager. In just one page, you should show your enthusiasm for the position, emphasize your value to the company, and discuss how your experience and credentials are something the company wants. This letter also displays your writing and communication skills, so a formal tone throughout is imperative.
Step 1: Make it One Page
Keeping your cover letter to one page could be the most essential part of this guide. No employer or hiring manager wants to read 3, 4, or even five pages of why you are an excellent fit for their company. Keep it simple; one page is plenty of room to explain your purpose in applying.
Step 2: Find out who you are writing to
Making your cover letter personal to the reader is crucial instead of addressing it to “To whom it may concern.” If you do not know who is monitoring the job posting, do a little sleuthing and find out to whom your application goes. If you can not find it, reach out and ask to whom to address it.
Step 3: The Opening Paragraph
Start strong. Do not include a basic, “Hi! My name is ______. I’m based in ______. I’m applying for ______.” “The hiring manager has a large stack of cover letters,” says Amy Gallo, an author with the Harvard Business Review, “so you have to write yours to grab their attention.” Instead, say something like this:
“I saw your listing on [where you saw the job posting], and I was thrilled to see it because it’s exactly the kind of job I was looking for.”
Step 4: Demonstrate your value
Do your research. Find the company’s mission statement or tones. These can usually be found on their website, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other online resources. Demonstrate that your particular set of skills can help solve the company’s problems. Remember, your resume demonstrates your past, but your cover letter should demonstrate your future and what you can do for the company.
Step 5: Show your enthusiasm, not desperation
Show that you want to work at their company and that you are going to bring energy to the team. Amy Gallo suggests that we “Write the letter you want to write, then share it with someone else, someone who knows you well, but someone who will tell you like it is.” Show that you want the job, but not so much that your over-eagerness works against you.
Step 6: Find a proofreader
A pair of eyes familiar with you and your personality can help ensure your cover letter makes sense. They can also check for spelling errors, typos, and other grammatical problems.
Applying for a job can be stressful and worrisome, but knowing how to put yourself in the best position to succeed can increase your chances of success. Today’s fast-paced job market can make standing out challenging, but through polishing your online reputation, improving your resume and cover letter, and learning certain skills to make your interview go smoother, you can improve your chances of landing your next career move.