Dr. April Willis, Principal Business Consultant & Coach at April Willis Consulting, LLC.
You’ve accomplished so much and you’re ready to take your career to the next level, but how can you look like a work of art on paper? There are several documents that every professional should have readily available to take advantage of that next big opportunity. Let’s take a look at the top five that can position you for a big win when someone offers you the opportunity of a lifetime.
You’ve been invited to apply for the perfect job, but they want your resume in the next 24 hours—are you ready? Chances are, you’re going to have to apply online with a resume that looks like this role was made just for you.
What do you know about Applicant Tracker Software, more commonly known as ATS? ATS is the platform that job seekers upload their resumes and work histories into when being considered for a job. It is an online platform and there are countless ATS systems. While no resume format can satisfy all ATS systems, there are some generally accepted guidelines that are sure to help you make the most of ATS-uploaded resumes.
ATS-friendly resumes don’t use color, charts, tables or fancy fonts—these don’t translate and may be changed to foreign characters or deleted by the system before ever being viewed by a human. Use this quick checklist to see how compatible your resume is with ATS:
• Only black and white text
• No photos/images/logos/watermarks; lines to separate sections are acceptable
• No charts/tables/designs
• Only Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri fonts are used; avoid using multiple fonts; use bold/italics sparingly
• Always upload the PDF version; never upload .docx, pages, .jpeg, .png or other formats
• Use language from the original job posting where appropriate
• Most resumes will be one page; if you have extensive awards, presentations, publications, affiliations, certifications, etc., then you can have a two-page resume; it should never be more than two pages
We took all the fun out of your ATS-compatible resume, but the visual bio is where you can showcase your incredible personality and impressive accomplishments. Visual bios are perfect if you have been invited to apply for a position and can directly email your resume or even personally hand it to the hiring team, meaning no ATS upload.
For your visual bio, include a professional headshot, up to two colors and columns to break up blocks of text. Always keep this document to a max of one page, including a summary of your professional experience, education, awards, affiliations and presentations.
ATS-Compatible Cover Letter
Cover letters are starting to be phased out by many companies, but if a cover letter is optional, always submit one to demonstrate your inclination for going above and beyond. Chances are, that cover letter will also be submitted on ATS, so be sure you follow the same checklist as listed above. Additionally, here are a few more tips on authoring an eye-catching, ATS-friendly cover letter:
• Create a uniform header to match your resume
• Use this format: Intro, Experience, Education, Closing
• Hit the high-level information and be concise
• Pull language from the job posting as much as possible while still being coherent
• Include their mission/core values/vision to show you did your homework and did not send the same letter with every application
• Never go beyond one page
• Don’t use bullets; this is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to write in a narrative format
• You will want to update this for each role you apply to
Speaking, Presenting And Publishing Kit
Have you been invited to present research or provide a keynote speech? Maybe you have been invited to co-author a chapter in a new book. All of these opportunities can be complete game-changers in your career, but before they officially make you an offer, they may want to see your experience in providing these services. Rather than scrambling at the last minute to pull together every gig you’ve had until now, be prepared with a full-blown kit.
In your kit, start with a cover page that is in full color, includes your professional headshot, your tagline and contact information. If you have a speaking reel, hyperlink it on the cover page.
Next, include a speaking/publishing resume in which you list your highlighted conferences, events, seminars, panels, podcasts, interviews, etc. Include the name of the hosting organization, the name of your presentation/publication and include audience size (if applicable).
The next page should be your professional resume or your visual bio. Be sure to use a different headshot than you used on the cover page.
Then, include a page on topics you are an expert on, how you deliver your content and other pertinent information that someone booking you would want to see (e.g., travel fees, speaking fees, book-signing options).
The final page can include testimonials and a list of other companies you have previously worked with.
Formatted List Of References
You’ve made it to the last round for an amazing opportunity and now they want to speak to others who have worked with you. Be prepared by having a formatted list of references readily available. Use the same header as you did for your resume and cover letter. Organize your references with the most powerful one first. Include three to five people and include the following for each:
• Full Name
• Relationship to You (should be all professional relationships unless specifically asked for personal character references)
• Years Known
• Phone Number
Be sure to let your references know they are on your list so they are not caught off guard if they receive a call/email.
With these five documents in your toolbox, you are prepared for that next big move. Based on this list, identify which documents you need to create or revamp. Remember to proofread all documents, save them in multiple locations (computer crashes are no joke) and update them each time you add to your list of experiences and accomplishments.