Career Advice

Announcing “The Easy 5-Item Checklist For Any Good Resume”

Last month I wrote about The Top 7 Reasons Your Resume Sucks – I received a bunch of excellent feedback since then (thank you for the comments…and thank you for allowing me to take the negative stance!).

Let’s turn around and focus on the positive — I only pursue resumes that contain all 5 of the following items. 

1) A Cover Letter

This sounds obvious, right? Yet about one-half of the resumes I get from Craigslist postings have no cover letter at all.

Hot Topic Media HR Manager Pam Tyles told me this:

“A cover letter is still an important item when applying for a job.  It gives the recruiter a chance to learn more about you — and set you apart from the 200 other resumes they have received.”

Every resume should be accompanied by some form of a cover letter.

The cover letter could be a page separate from your resume or it could also be a paragraph or two in an email that has your resume attached.

That said, don’t include a cover letter document and another cover letter in the email – that’s redundant.

2) A Proper Greeting

My sister Elizabeth Kelly of Urban Assembly told me that many emails/cover letters she receives from job candidates begin with:

“Hey there…” or

“To Whom It May Concern”

You can do better than that!

Do yourself a favor and be professional in your salutation.  Proper salutations include:

  • “Dear Mr. Trump,” (if Mr. Trump’s name was listed in the job posting) or
  • “Dear Hiring Manager,”

3) A Reference Of Where You Saw The Job Listed

The HR person/hiring manager posting the job you are applying to may be posting the job in many places.

You need to reference how you heard about it.

For example, if you saw it on Craigslist, then you write:

“I am responding to your job posting on Craigslist.”

If you saw the job on an employer’s Web site, then you write:

“I am responding to the job posting from”

4) Relevant Certification/Background Only

Omidyar Network recruiter Lisa Kolenda – they recruit for a lot of awesome “Save The World” type jobs — says she’ll scrap an application if it has a bunch of certifications that aren’t relevant to the position.

For example, if you are applying for a job as a Director of Marketing for an Internet company, you can leave out your credentials as a “Swimming Pool Lifeguard” or “Registered Nurse.”

5) A Good “Story”

Your resume should tell a good story, according to Jason Webster of Social Recruiting Report .

“All people, including hiring managers, love stories so the structure of your resume should support that story.”

Author Aaron Shepard has some good tips on what makes for a good story.

Here are some ideas on how to structure your resume/application as a story.

  • Characters:  The most important character is you (the applicant); but feel free to mention other characters (like mentors, leaders, founders, etc.).
  • Setting:  That could be the industry/geographic area you’re in (e.g. Silicon Valley) or a new emerging technology (e.g. Mobile).
  • Theme:  The theme may be your niche/title (“Business Development”).
  • Plot: Your different job roles/projects should unfold like a good plot, which typically includes tough challenges you conquered (and even some failures/setbacks).

Remember, your “good story” can utilize both the resume and the cover letter.

If you’re story is clear about those elements and relevant to the job opportunity, you’re more likely to make it to the next step.

If you can nail this 5-item checklist, you’ve got my attention for a job opening.