Resume Star Tips

How to Score An Interview With a Precision Targeted Resume

You need to get an interview in order to get that job, and the key to scoring an interview is a precision targeted and properly formatted resume.

If you've never written a resume before (or it's been a long time), this may seem daunting. It shouldn't be. You can write an excellent resume in less than an hour.

Here's the important thing to remember: A Resume's only job is to get you an interview.

That's it. It's not the place to tell your life's story, or to list every single thing you've ever done. It's just to get your foot in the door, literally.

How to Write a Resume That Gets You An Interview

Before writing anything, first think about the Hiring Manager, your target audience.

Imagine a tired and slightly stressed person at the end of a busy workday. She has one last thing to do: Read through a pile of 30 resumes to pick 3 people to interview for an open position this week.

On one side of her computer desktop, she has the job description she posted the week before. On the other side is the pile of resumes. Her job is to try to pick the top 3 that best match the job description, and that represent the person who would best fit that job.

If You Don't Aim For The Target, You Will Miss It

Having been in the role of a hiring manager before, I can tell you that it's really easy to tell if a job applicant has even read the job description before shooting in their resume.

It surprises me how many people apply for a job with a generic and bland resume. You know, another “motivated individual seeking a position at a fast moving company.”

This feels like getting spam in your email inbox, and we all know what happens with spam.

However, other people's laziness is your opportunity.

Filtering through a pile of resumes is a brutal process. If the resume doesn't seem to even match the job description, it immediately goes to the bottom of the pile, or tossed entirely.

Even seemingly close matches can be a miss. For example, if the job posting is for a “Quality Assurance Software Tester”, and the cover letter says “Looking for a position in Software Development”, it might get missed, because the first thing a hiring manager might think is “This person is looking for something else.”

So, the first and simplest thing you should do is carefully read the job posting, and use the exact job title and company name in the Objective section of your resume.

Match Keywords

The job posting will also contain a list of requirements, and describe what the hiring manager is looking for. These typically look like:

  • “At least 3-5 years experience in X”
  • “Prior experience in Y”
  • “Skilled in Z”

If you want to get picked, you should make it clear that you have exactly that level of skills or experience or better.

Does this mean you should simply copy the job posting? Of course not.

But on the other hand, if the company is looking for “3 years of experience with SuperCAD”, you don't want to simply say “3 years of experience with CAD software”.

If you haven't actually used SuperCAD, then say “3 years of experience with MegaCAD, a similar package to SuperCAD”. Don't make the hiring manager try to figure out if what you meant is the same as what she did.

What if You Don't Have the Required Experience?

This is a very common question. First rule: Don’t. Ever. Lie. That's guaranteed to end badly one way or another.

Hiring policies vary greatly from company to company. There are byzantine laws that govern how much leeway a manager has in hiring someone who doesn't have the exact experience posted.

Here's the thing: Unless it's explicitly stated in the job posting, there's usually some room for the hiring manager to make a judgment call.

So having 4 years of experience instead of 5 may not necessarily be a deal breaker, if you can make it up elsewhere. However, don't try to cover up or gloss over clear discrepancies.

There May Be Other Opportunities Available

Even if you are missing one or two things, it may still be worth applying for a job if you are otherwise a good fit for the company.

Companies, especially larger ones, always have other job openings, some not even posted. So if you don't qualify for the Sr. Sales Manager position, there very well could be a Jr. Sales Person position opening.

Often times (again, depending on company policy), a hiring manager can even convert the position to a more junior or more senior one if she wants to hire a good candidate.

What Goes in the Resume?

Let’s talk about writing the actual resume itself.

We'll assume you are using Resume Star. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can also get the App. You only need to pay for it when you get the interview. And we are very confident that you will get it.

Resume Star guides you through the best practices we discuss here, and is guaranteed to save you a lot of time vs. using a word processor or other Apps. However, the tips here apply equally well whatever software you use.

Before we dive into the parts of a good resume, here are a couple of things that shouldn’t go in it:

“Creative" Formatting

It seems a little weird that in this day and age, people are still using a somewhat boring format for resumes that used to be printed on paper.

Here’s our advice: Unless you are going to do something dramatically better, stick to the format. It works.

It may seem like a good idea to add a dash of color, or attach your photo even if they didn't ask for one, or try to make your resume look like a brochure.

Unless you are applying for an industry that requires a specific format, or has a different set of expectations, this extra formatting can backfire.

For starters, it can send the wrong message. It may be very hard to judge the cultural expectations at a particular company, unless you have worked there in the past. What might look fresh and creative to you, may be seen as non-serious by the hiring manager.

The standard resume format is proven and universal. So stick with it unless you have a really good reason not to.

Photos and Personal Info

Be aware that there may be laws in certain jurisdictions that govern things like equal opportunity employment. Employers are always worried about being sued for even having the perception of unfairly hiring or rejecting an applicant.

Hint: This is one reason you generally don't hear back if they didn't pick your resume.

By and large, hiring managers do genuinely want to pick the best candidates. That’s what makes their job easier, and their company more successful. However, if you include your photo or unnecessary personal information in your resume, it can present a dilemma in unexpected ways. E.g., the hiring manager might think to herself:

“This resume is great! Wow, we even have similar backgrounds. Uh, but if I pick it I may be seen as being biased, judging it unfairly by this extra information, at the expense of other applicants."

Remember, the manager has a pile of resumes to sort through, in very little time. Any extra bit of worry can send a resume to the “out" pile without an extra thought.

So, unless they explicitly asked for one, keep your photos on your Facebook profile.

The Resume Sections

You are probably already familiar with the basic structure of a resume. Here are the most common sections:
  1. Cover Letter
  2. Objective
  3. Summary of Qualifications
  4. Work Experience
  5. Education

That's the core of every good resume, and pretty much all you need. Resume Star automatically uses this structure for new resumes.

Let's look at each one:

Cover Letter

People are split on whether you need this or not. Here's what we say: A good cover letter can enhance an already solid resume.

A cover letter basically says “I really want this job, and I took the extra effort to write you a personal note.”

The cover letter should be properly addressed and dated. The worst thing you can do is address it to the wrong company (it's happened).

What goes in the body of the cover letter?

It's basically what you would write in an email directly to the hiring manager. It gives a slightly more human feel to the more formal resume.

In general, the cover letter has similar contents to the Objective section (discussed below). It emphasizes that you want this particular job at this particular company. It might contain an extra note or two about your personal experience, e.g. “I've used products from BigCorp. inc. my whole life, especially XYZ.”

Don't go overboard here, keep it short and to the point.

You can find examples of cover letters (and the other sections) in the example resumes included in Resume Star.

However, if you do start with a template, be sure to customize it for each company. That's the whole point of including a cover letter.


The purpose of this short section is simply to say what job position you are looking for.

Hiring managers use this to quickly weed out candidates who are applying for the wrong job.

Again, our advice is to state the exact position at the exact company here. That gives you the best chance that the rest of your resume will be read.

Key Qualifications

Here is where the hiring manager looks to see if you are actually a qualified candidate against the job requirements.

There are various ways to write this section. Either as a couple paragraphs, or as a list of bullet points. The important thing is to make sure the key requirements are clearly satisfied.

Typically, state your years of relevant experience here, and any required certification or skills.

This section summarizes what you then go into more in-depth below.

Work Experience

This is the meat of the resume.

The format is pretty universal: List your previous job titles and positions, with the most recent first.

Write the exact job title you had (companies will check this), and the exact year and month you started and ended in that position.

Under each section, list 3-7 bullet points about your key achievements in each job.

Most hiring managers are mainly looking for two things:

  • You cared about and mastered each job, and
  • You showed continued progression through each position

There's a lot of variation to the contents here depending on the industry you are in. The example resumes cover some popular ones. In general, our recommendation is to highlight what you accomplished in each role.


“Increased sales revenue by 20% over a 9 month period with a targeted online marketing campaign.”

“Had the lowest bug count out of all developers by adopting agile processes, now used company wide.”

“Maintained a perfect 100% on-time rating for my work, a division first.”

Basically, these are headlines for things you want to be asked about in the interview. They are a teaser.

You can be sure the hiring manager will ask you to elaborate on them during the interview, so come prepared. This also means don't try to tell the whole story in the resume itself.


This section is generally pretty straight forward. Simply list your 2-3 most relevant degrees or diplomas.

Only list awards and activities that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

E.g., it's good to say you did projects in Finance or Accounting if you are applying for a Financial Analyst position.

It might be worth listing activities you are genuinely passionate about, e.g. being a member of the school band, or being a cross-country runner. These can show commitment and discipline. Again, be prepared to be asked about anything you list in your resume.

How Long Should A Resume Be?

The rule of thumb is 1-2 pages. Remember, the resume as a whole is a teaser to let you sell your talents during the interview. It doesn't substitute for an interview.

What If I Don't Have Enough To Say?

New graduates in particular are usually concerned about their lack of “real world” experience. What happens if you don't have a Work Experience section for example?

Don't panic. Go read this article on Tips for Fresh Grads.

Before You Submit Your Resume

Ok, you've entered all your information, and carefully targeted your resume at the specific company. What to do before you email it?

Always Proof Read

Always, always, spend at least 5 minutes carefully proof-reading your entire resume at least once.

Yes, Resume Star has an integrated spell checker that works pretty well, but spell checkers don't catch everything.

Make sure company and school names are spelled properly. Double check your dates.

Make sure your resume makes sense when you read it from beginning to end. i.e., make sure the information is in the right order, and that you aren't repeating the same thing multiple times.

There are probably a couple of bullet-points that are redundant, and can be combined. Try to make every one count.

Final Formatting Adjustments

Resume Star takes away the burden of having to worry about complicated formatting options. There's just a simple panel to tweak the text and margin sizes.

You don't want to change this too much. Generally only to make your resume fit into either 1 or 2 pages. We made the range larger than you probably need, just in case. However, you will want to keep the font size close to the default (10-14pt), to avoid it being unreadable on certain screens, or being comically large.

Get Your Ducks All Lined Up

Congratulations! You've sent your resume! But wait, it's not time to stop just yet.

Here’s another pro tip: You want to set up as many interviews as you can, one after another.

This not only increases the chance that you will get an interview, but also that you will get multiple offers!

Multiple offers are what you want: Where you can pick the best one, and even have employers outbid each other for your valuable services.

It's very important that you try to line up interviews close in time to one another, because once an employer extends an offer, they are not going to wait long for you to make a decision.

You definitely don’t want to have to forfeit one offer in the hopes that you might get a better one following another interview. Who needs that kind of excitement?

This means that you will want to apply for as many positions as you can at the same time. The other benefit is that you are already in the groove of writing your resume, and can easily tailor it for several companies in the same sitting.

Use Resume Star’s duplicate feature to copy an existing resume. Give it the name with the company you are applying for, and edit the contents for that company. Take a minute to make sure all the names line up, and send that one in too.

Good Luck!

We've reached the end of our little guide. I hope that you've found a few useful tips. We built Resume Star because we want to make an appreciable difference in how people successfully apply for, and get jobs. I hope it makes a difference for you.

Please Share This Guide!

If you've found this guide useful, please share it with your friends. It might just change someone's life. Like this on Facebook, or share it on Twitter.

If we've helped in any way, please let us know.

Wishing you all the best in your journey,

— Andy and the App Makers at Qrayon.

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Interview Tips Insiders Know

Congrats! You've written and sent a killer resume, and now you've been invited to an interview. What can you do to make sure you nail it?

Turn the Tables on Your Interviewers

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” -- Louis Pasteur.

If you just waltz into an interview cold, you'll be at a significant disadvantage. The interviewers know everything about you (you just sent them your resume), but you'll know nothing about them.

That's just how it was for everyone 10 years ago, but there’s no reason for flying blind anymore.

Read the company's website again. Recruiters sometimes give you the interviewers' names, but you can at least figure out who the hiring manager is from the job posting or website of smaller companies.

Google each of the interviewers to see their background. You can usually find a lot of info on LinkedIn. Check the profiles of all the people who work with the hiring manager at the company. This helps you get an idea of the kinds of questions they will ask.

For example, if you are applying for a technical position, they may throw in one or more non-technical interviewers, such as business or marketing managers. If you see this on your interview loop, it's a strong clue to prepare for some marketing or sales-related questions.

Also Google for “<Company Name> interview tips”. There's usually a lot written for larger companies.

Get Your Story Straight

Study up on your own resume. Prepare to go into detail on every item on it. Remember all those highlights you wrote? The interview is where you will be asked to recount them in depth.

Practice talking about each job you have had, particularly your responsibilities, impact, and growth over that time. Prepare a short story in your head for each one. A good structure to use is:

“When I started at <the job>, the situation was _____, and the main challenges were _____. I had to _____ in order to overcome them, and the result was _____.”

Eliminate Mishaps

Double check the address, and parking info if you're driving. Plan to get there 10-15 minutes ahead of time. Being late is obviously a no-no, and so is getting there too early. It might be awkward to hang around the lobby of a small company. It’s better to go grab a drink at the closest cafe if you're too early.

Speaking of coffee, make sure you pace yourself. You do not want to be hyper for the first interview, then crash by the second or third one.

Clear your schedule. If this is the “full interview", expect it to take 4-5 hours, including lunch. It's not unusual for interviews to take longer due to last-minute scheduling conflicts, so make sure you can stay longer if necessary.

Be nice to the receptionist. Introduce yourself and tell them you are meeting with so-and-so for an interview. Checking-in might take a few minutes. Remember, the game is on from the moment you walk in the door. You need to be in professional-mode even when sitting in the waiting room.

Bring extra copies of your resume. It's usually a good idea to carry a thin folder with them, a notebook, and a pen. Don't bring a big bag or anything else you don't need.

How to Survive Marathon Interviews

Different companies have different styles of interviews, but the most common one is a series of 1-on-1 interviews where you'll meet with 3-5 people throughout the day.

This can mean 3-5 hours of non-stop questioning, so it's important to know what to expect, and to mentally prepare yourself.

You want to be alert and engaged during your interviews. Try to be enthusiastic, but not overly-excited. I realize this is easier said than done. It's perfectly normal to be a bit nervous if this is your first interview in a while. One trick is to think of it as a series of stimulating conversations, where you get to discuss topics of professional interest.

Remember that each interviewer is a person. Make sure to talk to them as people, not talk at them like it's an interrogation. People remember how you made them feel long after they've forgotten what you actually said.

Each interviewer is typically looking to test you on a different angle. They will also have differing levels of experience interviewing. It's common practice for companies to include some more junior employees in interview loops to let them practice.

More junior interviewers typically go earlier, and focus on the technical aspects of the job. Do you have the right experience? Can you do specific things?

As the interview progresses, you may be asked higher-level questions. Do you understand the impact of your work on your previous companies? Where do you see your industry heading?

Some interviewers may also be focused on behavioral questions. How well do you get along with other people? How do you deal with conflict? Can you handle tough situations? Do you keep your cool under pressure?

That last one is worth keeping in mind. Interviews are meant to be tough, like a test. But remember, you don't need to get everything right. At some point during the day, you may be faced with what seems like an impossible question, where you are out of your depth.

If that happens, keep your cool. The interviewer may just be testing how you deal with tough questions. The worst thing you can do is to crack and melt down.

The Right Way to Answer Interview Questions

Each interviewer may start with some pleasantries and general questions. Keep your responses to these friendly and short. You don't want to ramble on and eat up your interview time.

Wait for the interviewer's cue. They have an idea in their head of how a good interview should go, and they are the one driving the interview. Pay attention to their body language to see if they are expecting a long or short answer.

Interviewers may start with a few short, rapid fire questions, like they are checking off items on a list of requirements. Do you know this? Have you done that? What do you know about X? Give a short answer first, then see if they are waiting for you to elaborate. You can always ask “would you like more details?”

The interviewer will generally have 1-2 longer in-depth “case-study" questions. These generally don't have one fixed answer, but are meant to see how you would deal with real-world problems at the job.

For many professional-level jobs, the interviewer may ask you to work out the problem on paper, or on a whiteboard. If you have access to one at your local school or library, it's a good idea to practice working on a whiteboard ahead of time. Literally practice thinking on your feet.

Listen carefully to each question. Ask for clarifications if necessary. Do not just dive into giving an answer until you understand the question fully. That's a common mistake of nervous candidates. For longer questions, a great trick is to write down the main points of the question on a notepad or the whiteboard.

It's a mistake to be completely glued on working through the answer, because you can easily end up at a very different place from where the interviewer had in mind.

As you answer each point, turn to look at your interviewer to see their reaction. If they have a confused look on their face, it's a good idea to pause and ask if they want any clarifications before going on.

Even if they are unconsciously nodding in their chair, it's a good idea to regularly ask if they “would like more detail here?” Their responses can give you clues as to what they are looking for.

Don't Mess Up the Close!

After you answer all the questions, it's customary for the interviewer to ask you if you have any questions for them.

Be careful here!

More often than not, they are just being polite, and are not expecting any in-depth questions. This is an opportunity for you to show interest in the company and job, NOT to show how smart you are.

Here are examples of good questions to ask:
  • So how long have you been working here?
  • How do you like working here?
  • What's this team like?
  • How would you describe the company culture?

You might save more specific questions for the hiring manager:
  • What's a typical day like on this job?
  • What would you say are the most important things about this job?
  • What does this team's organization look like?
  • What are the typical weekly, monthly, annual routines like at this job?

Be respectful of the interviewer's time. They have their day job to do as well. Be sure to end on a positive note, and thank them for the interview.

Under no circumstances ask about the salary or how well you did!

First, unless the hiring manager is the owner of the company, he or she will need to check back with the other interviewers and HR before an offer can be made. They typically won't know how you did on the overall interview, and unless it's on the job description they almost certainly won’t know what your salary should be.

Asking how well you did can also come across as a sign of desperation. Maybe you aren’t that confident about your chances, and maybe the interviewer missed something?

More importantly, remember that the interview process is a negotiation. Probably the biggest negotiation of your life. Until you get an offer in writing, you are at a big disadvantage. They are in full control. Your only objective at this point is to get the written offer.

If you start asking about salary and benefits beforehand, you are sending the message that you might be too demanding, which reduces your chances of getting an offer against other candidates.

Now, I'm not at all saying you shouldn't demand more. In fact, I strongly believe everyone should, but the time to do that is after you get the offer, which I talk about here.

How To Beat the Waiting Game

Most companies will get back to you within 2-3 days (maybe longer if it's over the weekend). If you don't hear back after 2-3 days, send a short note to the recruiter thanking them for the interview and saying you continue to be “very interested in the position, and looking forward to following up."

Do not contact the individual interviewers directly. Remember, they just work there and probably don't even know what’s happening in the process.

If you still don't hear back after a week, send a similar note to the hiring manager.

By the way, the most important thing you should be doing while waiting is to keep on interviewing with other companies. If you want to negotiate a higher salary, the very best thing you can do for yourself is to get multiple offers.

The only way to get multiple offers at the same time is to apply to multiple companies at the same time. You ideally want to set up back-to-back interviews 3-4 days in a row.

It Ain't Over Until It's In Black and White

This is so important, I need to repeat it again: Do not stop applying and interviewing until you get a written offer you want!

Verbal promises aren't worth much. Don't “wait to see" what your favorite company comes back with. They may end up disappointing you. Sometimes, your second or third favorite company may turn out to be better than you figured, and even give you a higher offer.

There are a lot of factors that are out of your control when you apply for a job. Companies go through cycles, and it's impossible to predict how individual hiring managers will feel on a particular day. Getting a job also depends a great deal on who else is applying for it.

Interviewing is a ultimately a numbers game.

At a minimum, expect to apply for 10-15 jobs, and go for 4-5 interviews to get a job that you want.

Man, that sounds like a lot of work!

Not really. If you are writing one resume, it doesn't take much more time to write 10, with the right tools. We're talking an extra 30-45 minutes here.

A few minutes to potentially get thousands of dollars more and a much better job?

It's the deal of a lifetime. Don't pass it up!

Go Get Your Dream Job!

I hope you've found these tips helpful. Please drop me a line to let me know what you think, or if you'd like to share other tips that might help others.

Oh, after you've gotten an offer, make sure to check out this guide on how you can get them to raise it. Spoiler: You might easily get an extra 5-10% raise with just one email.

Good Luck!

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How to Negotiate for More Salary on a Job Offer

Or: How to make thousands of dollars more each year in just 5 minutes.

It pains me to know that very day, millions of people around the world are cheating themselves out of a free raise.

Here's a secret most people don't know: Other than for entry-level jobs, every job offer can go 5-10% higher just by asking.

Here's why: First, professional recruiters expect seasoned candidates to negotiate, so they just set the initial offer a bit lower to give room for it.

Some candidates also need extra expenses, such as for relocation, or a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for folks who live in more expensive cities. The fact that there's an acronym for it should clue you in.

So, why don't most people ask for this?

The main reason is fear. They are afraid that the company might “take away" the offer if they ask, or they might somehow insult the hiring manager, or be seen as “pushy”.

That's completely unfounded.

Remember, unless this is a mom-and-pop store, the recruiter and the hiring manager just work there. It's not their money. They are just following the hiring procedure in the company handbook. Most companies keep salaries secret, so it's almost certain that no one else at the company knows or cares either.

Ok, so how do you ask for more money?

The easiest, and best way is to have another offer. You did apply to multiple companies didn't you?

A simple message like this can work like magic:

“Thank you for the offer. I really enjoyed meeting everyone, and this just reinforces why <your company> is my top choice.

Everything looks great and I'm ready to sign on, except that I've received a better offer from <your competitor>. Their package is better, but I much prefer to work for <you>. Can we adjust the starting salary up by $X? I'm prepared to forego the other offers and accept today if we can do that.”

Once a company extends you an offer in writing, the recruiter has only one objective: To get you to accept it. Remember, she is a busy person. The faster she can get you to sign and accept, the better it is for her.

When you make a counter-offer, you must always say that you are ready to accept and move ahead if they agree to it. Basically, “do this and your job is done.”

When you make a counter-offer, you must ask for everything you want, and be prepared for them to accept it! Once they do, that's it. Don't go back and forth after that.

Again, the trick is to make it simple for them to say yes.

There is absolutely no good reason not to ask for more with an email like that. The worst that can happen is they will say no, and the more likely possibility is you will make a few thousand dollars extra every year.

Not bad for one email!

What if I don't have other good offers?

Remember, it's possible that the recruiter has the authority to increase the offer by 5-10% without having to check with anyone else. However, any professional recruiter won't give that away for no reason. But the reasons don't have to be that great.

The simplest thing to do is start by just asking for more:

Everything looks great and I'm ready to sign today, except that the salary is a little lower than I expected. Can we adjust the starting salary up by $X? I'm prepared to stop my interview process and accept today if we can do that.”

At this point, they may just agree and you're done. More savvy recruiters may ask you what other companies you are applying to. Part of their job is to know what the salary ranges are in your industry.

You might then say you are in the recruiting process with <competitor A> and <competitor B>, even if all you've done is submit your resume (ideally you would be further along at this point).

Another approach is to say that the starting offer is lower than what you would expect to earn if you stay at your current job, given the annual bonuses and raise.

Finally, you can simply say that you need more to cover your family expenses. The advantage of this is the recruiter can't argue with it.

Other Things you can Negotiate

What if they tell you that they simply can't pay more? Don't give up just yet! There are a lot of other equally valuable things you can negotiate for.

Extra vacation: Most companies have an annual vacation plan. It usually goes something like: “10 days a year, which may increase by 1 day for each year of employment”. If you have 5 years of working experience, you can simply ask for 5 extra days of vacation to start with. Some companies even pay you for unused vacation each year.

Review cycles: Most companies have an annual performance review, where everyone gets their bonus and raises. There's a chance that the next one is 6 months or less away, and new employees may not be eligible for it. You can simply ask to be eligible for that next review. Doing so will save you several months before your next raise, and the bonus itself could be worth several thousand dollars.

Your title: Finally, the cheapest thing an employer can give you is a better title. Bigger companies typically have a harder time with this, but it's pretty easy to do at a smaller company. If you're joining a startup or company with less than 20 employers, you can probably call yourself whatever you want.

Even though it's free to the company, a better title can be worth a huge amount to you in the long run, especially when you apply for your next job. After all, everyone expects a Sr. Specialist to be paid more than a Specialist right?

Good Things Come to Those Who Ask

I hope you've found these tips helpful. Please drop me a line to let me know how things worked out for you.

I hope I've convinced you that it's not that hard to get a better offer, and that there's no good reason not to ask.

All the best in your new career!

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5 Resume Ninja Techniques

Here's the thing about resumes: Most people obsess over the wrong things. They think fancy formatting, the right color, or a different font will help set them apart.

These things won't help. Did you know that many companies even use software that automatically strips out formatting?

It's the content of your resume that matters.

Instead of wasting your time, here are 5 things that will actually make a difference:

1. Be Precision-Targeted

Here is such a simple and powerful thing that it almost sounds like a hack: Write the exact position and company name in your objective and cover letter.

Imagine you are a hiring manager at Starbucks looking to hire baristas. You see one resume that starts out with:

“Seeking a retail position at a local coffee shop.”

vs. another that reads:

“Seeking a barista position at Starbucks.”

Which one would you read first?

The first one communicates: “I just want a job, and I don't really care too much about which company I work for.” whereas the second makes it clear that you want this job.

Everything else being equal, this one simple change will give you a huge advantage over applicants who are less specific.

2. Check All the Boxes Up Front

The hiring manager’s first job is to make sure he or she selects qualified candidates. Every job posting has a list of requirements. Your resume must make it easy for the manager to quickly see that you are qualified.

A simple way is to add a Qualifications section which checks off every item listed.

Let’s say a Store Manager position requires “3 years of progressively responsible retail experience, an entrepreneur mentality, and prior sales experience.”

Assuming you meet the requirements, you want to convey this right away. E.g.

  • 3.5 years as Assistant Store Manager at a fast growing local coffee chain.
  • Worked closely with the owner on growing the business.
  • Experience in all aspects of retail sales for a coffee house.

Don’t make the hiring manager have to hunt for the information.

3. Show R-I-G

R.I.G. stands for the things hiring managers look for in your prior work experience: Responsibility, Impact, and Growth.

For each prior job, state what you were responsible for. E.g. “Responsible for the daily operations of a coffee house with over $12K monthly gross. Managed 3 junior staff, inventory control, and customer service.”

That’s pretty straight forward, but most people stop right there.

You also need to communicate what your impact was at the job. What was the difference that you made?

E.g. “Increased monthly sales by 15% over 1.5 years by testing different mixes of food offerings.”

This shows that you understand the business that you are in, and that you care about improving it.

Finally, make sure that it's apparent what your growth was across successive jobs.

Growth shows that your former employer was impressed enough with your performance, and is a key signal hiring managers look for. You don't want the hiring manager thinking you were stagnating in a job for too long.

Sometimes this is clear from a title change, but not always. Even if your title stayed the same, add new sub-items whenever your responsibilities grew substantially after 2-3 years.

Mention how your responsibilities were expanded, and what your new impact was: “Responsibilities expanded to include supplier management. Successfully negotiated with multiple suppliers for better payment terms, saving the company over $5K annually.”

4. Match Tone

The tone of your resume is important. In general, you need to show that you care about your career, your organization, and your customers.

For the most part, maintain a professional tone. However, you can dramatically boost your chances vs. other candidates by more closely matching the tone of the hiring company.

What does that mean?

Just like how some people are more emotional and some prefer cold logic, companies have different cultures with distinct communication styles.

For example, a consumer lifestyle company like Disney generally cares about the customer experience above all else, whereas a technology company like Google might emphasize being smart and efficient.

Even for less well-known companies, a quick look at their webpage should tell you what communication style they have, and what their values are. Tip: These are usually spelled out in black and white in the “About Us" page.

So, if you are applying to a company focused on customer-service, like Nordstrom, you might want to emphasize that a little more in your resume. E.g. mention how you once “went above and beyond to help a customer”.

On the other hand, if you are applying at a product-focused company like Microsoft, you might want to drop in notes on how you once “went above and beyond in making sure a system was engineered correctly.”

This is why blindly sending the same resume to multiple companies is a fool's game.

Instead, create a custom version for each job you apply to.

Sounds like too much work? It's not. These days, tools like Resume Star make it easy to tailor a resume for each job with just a few clicks.

5. Keep it Relevant

This sounds obvious, but you won't believe how many people feel the need to include every little award they received, or interest they have.

A resume has just one job: To convince the hiring manager to invite you for the interview.

That's it. It's a teaser, not a chronicle of your life's story.

A common mistake, for example, is folks with college degrees list their high school details. Unless this is specifically requested by the job posting, it's irrelevant. If you have a B.S. in Marketing and 3 years of experience, no one really cares what your SAT scores were.

It's fine to keep a single line item just noting the date you graduated, but that's about it. Don't list all the clubs you were a member of, or what your thesis title was, unless they happen to be relevant to the job.

The worst thing is that this is usually the last thing in the resume, and can leave the wrong impression.

Remember: You want to convey that you are a professional. The last thing you want is for the hiring manager to have an image of you as a pimply-faced 15 year old (unless you are one) after reading your resume..

Aim for the Target, or You Will Miss

I hope these tips help put you in the right mindset to write a killer resume. Resume Star helps reinforce these points as you write your resume, but they work no matter what tool you use.

Good luck in your job search!

3 Rookie Resume Mistakes You Must Avoid

Your resume, or curriculum vitae, is the key to scoring an interview. It's a relatively straight-forward document, yet many people get it wrong.

We've collectively reviewed thousands of resumes over the years, and it is truly painful to see applicants make the same mistakes over and over again.

Here are 3 simple things you can do to make your resume or cv stand out from the crowd:

Mistake 1: Not Applying for This Job

The absolute worst things to read in a resume objective are generic statements like “seeking a challenging position at a fast growing company.” It basically says “I don't really care for your company, but I'm sending you my resume anyway.”

Take the 2 minutes to customize your resume for the specific company and job you are applying for.

If you want the restaurant manager position at the Stonewater Grill, then say you are “Seeking a Restaurant Manager position at the Stonewater Grill” in your objective section.

This simple change alone can dramatically increase your odds of getting an interview.

Mistake 2: “Fancy" Formatting

Look, all of us are at least slightly insecure when applying for a job.

Many people channel this insecurity into things like tweaking the fonts and styles of their resumes.

“Maybe a fancy multi-colored heading will compensate for my slightly light experience?”

No, I'm afraid to say, it won't.

And fancy formatting can backfire on you.

Here's why: Nowadays, the vast majority of online resumes are processed by a computer system before anyone even reads them. Some systems attempt to pull out relevant information, and may even filter candidates based on them.

If the computer has trouble extracting the information it expects, your resume may get rejected or “lost”.

Yes, the “standard" resume format looks boring and outdated, but there's a reason people use it: Because it's proven to work.

Mistake 3: Not Stating Accomplishments

We all know what companies want right? Experienced candidates.

But remember: Time at a job does not equal experience.

When reading the work history section, hiring managers are looking for two main things:
  1. Was the candidate reliable and engaged at their prior jobs?
  2. Do they demonstrate a clear pattern of growth over the years?

Stating your accomplishments addresses both of these questions.

For each item in your work experience section, answer the question “What was the difference you made at this job?”

There's no need to overstate your accomplishments either. For some jobs, just noting that you “had a perfect attendance record” is sufficient. However, even briefly relating one way you went “above and beyond” can turn an otherwise bland resume into one that hooks you the interview.

Stand Out and Get Hired!

Use Resume Star to build a precision-targeted resume using all the latest best practices, and dramatically improve your chances of scoring that next interview.

Tips for Fresh Grads

New graduates in particular are usually concerned about their lack of “real world” experience. What happens if you don't have enough material to full a Work Experience section for example?

Don't panic.

Remember, there's nothing to feel ashamed of. You are likely applying for an entry-level position, and both you and the hiring manager know it. No one expects you to have 10 years of experience, doing the same job.

So, feel proud that you are a newly minted graduate with energy and passion to make a difference in the world.

Instead of calling it “Work Experience”, you can rename the section “Relevant Experience”. You can use this space to list summer jobs, school projects, personal projects, and other relevant experience.

The key things to convey are: Passion, potential, and work ethic.


This goes for everyone, whether you are entry-level or have 60 years of experience: You better darn well be interested in the job you are applying for, and the hiring manager better know it.

If you don’t really care about this position, or “just want a job", you might be better off saving everyone's time.

Now, this doesn't mean you should try to show some fake level of passion for something mundane. Although in honesty, I would prefer to hire someone with that than someone with no passion whatsoever.

If you lack direct experience in a job, you can compensate somewhat by making it clear that you are very interested in it, and are willing to take the time and energy to learn it and do it well.

The world is changing more rapidly than ever. Companies need people who can pick up new things on their own. This requires passion. No one is going to learn something on their own if they aren't passionate about it.

Passion can be an edge, and a more important one that most people realize.


If you are a fresh grad, the main thing going for you is potential.

Here's something to keep in mind: You probably have valuable new skills that you’re taking for granted.

For example, you probably spend 4-5 hours a day on Facebook and Twitter, keeping in touch with dozens of people a day. Did you know that big companies employ full-time social media community managers to do this for them?

I'm not suggesting you necessarily apply for those jobs. Even if you are looking for a seemingly unrelated position, these skills can be very valuable.

E.g., the company you are applying for might have an employee initiative to handle Q&A and troubleshoot issues with their internal social media platform (yeah, that's a thing). By highlighting your online communication skills, you might be a able to help drive that initiative as part of your job.

Work Ethic

This might be obvious, but pretty much all companies are looking to hire people who are self-disciplined, committed to doing a good job, and dependable.

Look for examples where you've demonstrated these qualities in the past.

E.g., you may have been the leader of your high school band. It took a lot of work to make sure everyone showed up on time, with the proper instruments. That's management experience right there.

List difficult and long projects you stuck with to the end.

Think about when you showed dedication to a cause or regimen. E.g., call out how you cared about being on time every day for your 6am cross country run.

Describe situations where you worked with a team of people to accomplish something valuable, such as a fundraiser or to plan an event.

Don't Sell Yourself Short

Even if you are young, you've been alive in this world for many years, and you have certainly done interesting and unique things. The trick is to pick the things that are most relevant for the job you are applying for.

An additional tip: Ask a family member or close friend to list the key skills they see you possessing. It might surprise you to hear some of them.

Go forth and conquer!

Back to How to Score an Interview.

Top Paying Jobs in 2015

Here are the top paying jobs in the U.S. for 2015, by annual median salary:
  1. Surgeon: $352,000
  2. Psychiatrist: $181,000
  3. Physician, G.P.: $180,000
  4. Sr. Corporate executive: $173,000
  5. Dentist: $146,000
  6. Petroleum engineer: $130,000
  7. Orthodontist: $129,000
  8. Data scientist: $124,000
  9. Air traffic controller: $122,000
  10. Pharmacist: $120,000

Wish you had a higher salary? Your resume may be holding you back.

A Simple Trick

Here's a simple technique that will at least double your chance of being interviewed, that almost no one follows:

Write the name of the company and position in the resume and cover letter.

We've scanned through hundreds of resumes in hiring for our own business, and I can tell you that the worst thing is to read generic descriptions of what people are looking for. It sends the message that they aren't that interested in this job.

So, instead of saying you are looking for 'a manager position', say you are looking 'to fill the Sales Manager position at BigCorp inc.'.

Resume Star lets you create as many versions of your resume as you need. We highly recommend creating a separate one for each job you are applying for.

Like this tip? We wrote a whole guide on How To Score An Interview With a Precision Targeted Resume, free for all our users. Check it out.