How to Sell Yourself in Your Resume

YOU GUYS. I'm so excited to introduce our guest pro for the week: Emily Hom, Director of Communications at Firstborn. Working in Communications, one of Emily's main responsibilities is managing brand reputation, meaning she's an expert at putting a brand's best foot forward. This comes in handy when writing a resume and positioning yourself in the best light, so this week, Emily's sharing her best tips to whip your resume into shape. Let's get to it—here's Emily.

You’ve signed up for your job alerts, networked the shit out of LinkedIn, and are now ready to buckle down and write your resume. Take a deep breath and channel your inner proud grandmother, because it’s time to get your brag on. Even if you have a killer portfolio, our industry can be extremely competitive, so here are some easy tips for polishing your resume and snagging the job you want. 

1) Cut the Fluff

If you're just starting out in the industry, your resume will likely lack a ton of ‘tout-able’ experience. So remember, it’s better to be more specific about each of your relevant experiences than to include jobs that are outdated or irrelevant to the position you're seeking. Be sure to tailor your job descriptions and collective skills to directly appeal to the audience you're trying to impress.

This also means being able to edit yourself by removing obvious skills or dated honors. For example, everyone born after 1970 knows how to use Microsoft Word, and being Homecoming King in high school isn't going to get you a job today. Hang up the crown, re-read the job description, and play up the qualifications you do have. You don’t need to inflate your resume, but try to incorporate the same action verbs and key words from the job description when describing your past accomplishments.

2) Add the Impact

This is the biggest mistake I see across all resumes. It’s easy to say what you did, but no one focuses on why they did it. Instead of simply writing, “Curated content for social media,” it’s important that you have an understanding of the reason you did it and how that influenced or benefitted the larger team or business. For instance, you could reframe this to be “Curated content for social media to attract inbound new business leads resulting in a 200% increase in social followers.” Recruiters love numbers, so add them if you have them!

It can be more challenging to quantify accomplishments for more creative roles, so you have to push yourself beyond just seeing the craft. “Designed websites, banner ads and print collateral” versus “Designed websites, banner ads and print collateral to raise brand awareness for holiday campaign that drove 12% lift in sales.” See the difference? There are plenty of ways to spin an experience to your advantage, so get creative.

3) Make a Good First Impression

Time is money and hiring managers sift through dozens, sometimes hundreds of resumes a day. They should be able to tell if you’re a good candidate with a simple glance at your resume, so make sure it’s skimmable.

First, keep the good stuff above the fold. Your most impressive accomplishments should be on the top third of the page, and your education should drop to the bottom (no offense, college degree!). Also, keep the format clean, concise and easy to read by aligning text on the left and dates on the right. For each role, rank the most important accomplishments first, since they'll be the first to be absorbed.

Finally, since our industry values creativity, there’s an ongoing debate as to whether that should also extend to your resume. You want to stand out, but you could actually annoy recruiters, or even worse—their Applicant Tracking System can straight up ignore your flashy resume, taking you out of the game before your resume even reaches human hands. Better to be safe than sorry, so keep your resume simple and let your portfolio do the heavy lifting when showing off your fancy design chops.

At the end of the day, whether it’s an idea or a product, our industry is about selling. It’s best to embrace that sentiment and see your resume as a chance to sell yourself as the perfect fit for the job you want. 

Keep Hom and Carry On,


Follow Emily and the rest of the Firstborn team on Twitter at @firstborn_nyc. We Are Next has more guest pros lined up from agencies everywhere. If you're a pro with something to share, reply to this email and become a guest contributor.