Job-Hunting, Resume, and Interview Tips (With the Power of the Internet!)

January 19, 2015

Categorized: Non-Technical

Some tips for job interviewing and the like — on the Internet, using technology and job-search sites to search. I’m not an expert, but this is what I’ve gathered. I spent a lot of time on the Reddit r/resumes community circa early 2013 reviewing resumes. I interviewed for jobs in mid-2013 and late 2014/early 2015.

Job Search

Bare Basics

  • Use an understandable, professional e-mail address. sexymom2945558@gmail is not professional, nor is it understandable.
    • Be aware if you use Gmail forwarding and account linking, the “master” e-mail is visible on Outlook and possibly other e-mail programs (e.g., it will show “ [On Behalf of]” to the recipient). If your primary/master e-mail account is really poorly chosen, you might consider switching over to your more professional e-mail as the master account.
  • Don’t discard a job just because you don’t exactly, one-hundred-percent match the requirements. I tend to discard things that require degrees and don’t accept experience in lieu of them. This is usually not so flexible a requirement — but skill-based requirements, you can be okay applying if you have 7/10 skills they want. Maybe your experience in the first three skills is so deep they’re willing to train you for the last three skills?
  • Search and apply every business day. You can take a break on the weekends — there are far fewer new postings, and if you apply on a weekend your e-mail will probably be buried under 35 more emails on Monday morning.
  • I try to send e-mails between 8 and 9 AM. I may write them the prior night and let them sit as drafts until I send them. This puts your e-mail closer to the top of their queue, and increases the likelihood you’ll be on top. Granted, it’s definitely no guarantee, and it’s not exactly uncommon advice so you may wind up among 20 other people who had the same idea!
  • Search using different keywords. For my dog-related jobs, for example — “dog” and “kennel” and “pet” are all good keywords that tend to yield good results within all of the job search sites.
  • Don’t stop searching when you score an interview — or even a second interview. You can stop searching and applying when you have an offer in-hand. Any other interviews you score that fall after an offer can be canceled: it happens, employers are aware that job-seekers are not exclusively applying to their company.

Sites to Search

Ranked in my order of preference and success.

  • Craigslist: Better than it was thanks to the requirement of paying to post jobs. Slower, with fewer posts — but posts seem to be of slightly higher quality, anyway. Admittedly, too, I also like Craigslist because of the different areas you view. In NJ, I have no fewer than five Craigslist areas I can look over (NYC, Northern NJ, Central Jersey, Jersey Shore, South Jersey). Craigslist is on top for me because it’s how I’ve gotten my last two jobs.
  • LinkedIn: Maybe I’m weird, but I like LinkedIn, and I liked looking through it for jobs best? I admit I didn’t have the best response ever (that goes to Indeed). It wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, either.
  • Indeed: I actually had a lot of success and response via Indeed (late 2014). Beware of duplicate postings from other networks, though. Also be aware that your resume is really, really blah-formatted if you submit via Indeed’s automated thing (I posted a job there once).
  • StackOverflow Careers: Code only, but has neat tags you can filter by (e.g., remote only). Had decent response for the few jobs I applied to on SO (1 of 3 jobs got back to me).
  • Glassdoor: Didn’t have a lot of success here (late 2014). Seemed to have slimmer pickings than most other sites with some duplication of postings — although being able to review employee feedback for a given employer onsite is really, really nice.
  • Monster: Tons of jobs to sift through. Didn’t have great response through Monster last time I tried (late 2014).
  • Reddit r/forhire: Lots of tech/code circa 2013. Usually had good comments/feedback for job postings, though. If an employer posts here trying to be shady, they’re probably getting called on it in the post comments. Did not use Reddit in my 2014 job search.
  • Your state might have a jobs board with lots of delicious government jobs.

Sites to Post a Resume

LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed are good. Yep, it’s annoying to post and format your resume for three different sites. Yep, you’ll get a bunch of spammy recruiters offering jobs irrelevant to your skills. Sometimes recruiter job offerings aren’t terrible, and even more rarely you even get real interest from real employers on one of these sites. Neat-o.

Admittedly, though, keeping resumes on these sites is mostly an exercise in futility. LinkedIn is the only one I bother maintaining when I’m not actively looking for a job, and even then it’s sporadic maintenance only, and only because some connections are actual former colleagues or family members who actually use the network.

The government can be helpful here, too. In New Jersey, for example, there’s Jobs4Jersey, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s site. You can post up your resume or browse job postings. Your state or locality might have something similar. Admittedly, it wasn’t extremely helpful in my 2013 job search, and I didn’t use it at all in the 2014/2015 search.

You can also use Reddit’s r/forhire to post a “For Hire” (as opposed to “Hiring”) post, but be aware that you’ll probably want to repost it every now and again while you’re actively looking. Reddit doesn’t provide much in the way of a search function, and it’s not really a directory of resumes employers can search.

Workflow and Tools

File Formats

Before beginning your job search, create different file formats for your resume. Thus far, I’ve seen .PDF, .DOCX, and .TXT files requested. Having these filetypes prepared before trawling through your job sites can help you remain in the “search and submit” flow.

If a specific file format is not requested, for the fewest formatting and compatibility problems submit as a .PDF. It’s a universal file format anyone can open in a modern web browser, among many other programs. You can export many different types of documents as PDFs, too. Make sure to double check the output — if it looks weird, try adjusting your formatting and re-saving.


IFTTT (If This Then That): Get job updates from Indeed, LinkedIn, Craigslist, and more easily delivered to your e-mail — and easily turn off these alerts when you’re done with the job search.

Track Your Applications

Track the jobs you’ve applied to. This helps later when you want to follow up with a job. It can also help you avoid duplicate submissions if a company has listed its jobs on multiple sites in your searches.

It can also help you if, for example, you notice you’ve applied to 50+ jobs without so much as a nibble. There might be something seriously wrong with your approach. It’s okay, it happens! But — it is time to ask for help and a resume review before sending out another application.

You can track applications manually, but you you can also use IFTTT again to track jobs you’ve applied to to a Google Drive spreadsheet. When tracking applications, I generally include the date I applied, how I applied, the company name, the contact e-mail, and the link to the posting.

Cover Letter

I won’t include a cover letter if it’s specifically stated not to do so, but otherwise, I do include a cover letter every time. I think it’s weird to send an empty e-mail or a single-line e-mail with an attached resume.

  • Include a name if you know you’re applying to a real person. On the Internet, though, this is fairly rare.
  • The point is to write a little about yourself, a little about the company. Your cover letter is probably useless if you’re recyling the same one over and over again. Using a template is fine, but you should edit that template and write a few reasons why a company or advertisement appealed enough that you applied.
  • The last paragraph is also important, providing some information about when you can interview and start, as well as how to reach you. The thanks is equally important, of course!


This is what I use. Obviously, you’ll have to customize the first paragraph to your own skill-set and knowledge, but looking at what I wrote might be helpful for you.

To whom it may concern:

I love to create for the Internet. I have strong front end web development experience, ranging from HTML and CSS/SASS to JavaScript/jQuery. I’ve worked WordPress since 2010, and I have some experience and a desire to know much more about technologies such as Git, Grunt, and other command-line and workflow tools. I’m a focused and detail-attentive person, capable of carrying multiple responsibilities in various projects.

Your company appeals to me for a variety of reasons. {2-3 reasons specific to advertisement/company}.

I’m available to interview as soon as possible, and available to start within two weeks of an offer. I appreciate your time and consideration. I can be reached via e-mail, and I’m happy to provide a contact number upon request. I’ll follow up in about a week if I don’t hear back. Thank you again.

Thank you,


Use Bullets

I strongly prefer bullets in resumes, as they’re much easier to scan over than prose-like paragraphs. The point of a resume document, after all, is to present a quickly-skimmed overview of your history and what you’ve done. A life history and precise details about every job responsibility is not necessary. At least for me, bullet points encourage succinct, tight writing. It’s easier to ramble on in a paragraph.

However, bullets have the disadvantage of generally occupying more space in a document: you have to play with formatting sometimes. Additionally, bullets need to be kept below a certain length. A three-line bullet point is just as difficult to read — if not more so — than a paragraph.

Add Numbers

Numbers are good things to have on a resume. They’re concrete — if you can say, for instance, you raised traffic by whatever percentage, that’s a good thing. Here’s an example:

2013 version: Administrated game, including technical pursuits such as web design, programming, CSS skinning, technical support for members and staff team, information guides, etc.

2014 version: Founder of 13 year old advanced online game operating with volunteer staff team of 8 to 15 managing an interactive community of up to 10 player-lead groups, 120 players, and 230 game characters

Which sounds more accomplished? Both are equally true, but one just sounds a lot better. Granted, the original is a single bullet point covering many things, whereas the 2014 version is one bullet point among three related to this project. Still, though — being able to provide actual numbers gives people a better idea of what you’ve done, and they can be particularly impressive, besides.

Cut the Fluff

If you’re just starting out in your career, you might not have a full page. That’s okay. Don’t stuff your resume full of garbage in order to pad it out. It only distracts from real information. Cut out anything you can. If you have a lot of activities, great. It doesn’t mean you need to include them all. You don’t have to list everything on your resume.

Be wary of making your resume too sparse. With the advice of Reddit’s resume-reviewing community in hand, I mercilessly chopped down a very long resume to under a page. I asked my aunt, who processed and reviewed resumes for many years, to take a look as well. She wound up adding most of what I cut back, and made it a little longer with an introductory summary. It is okay to exceed one page in your resume — just make sure you’re doing so for good reasons, not fluffy reasons.

Examples of Fluff

  • Dull descriptions of precise job responsibilities. If your job title was Front End Web Developer, everyone knows you coded HTML, CSS, and jQuery/JavaScript. Don’t write that kind of point into your resume unless you’re coupling it with another suggestion (e.g., adding numbers: “Coded 100+ sites using WordPress, custom PHP, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML”).
  • Entirely irrelevant jobs that don’t leave gaps in your resume. Again, a resume doesn’t have to include everything you’ve ever done.
    • Totally fine to cut out your college jobs. If you were going to school at the time, you can leave off working in the Subway restaurant part-time. This is especially the case if you have a lot of other stuff to put on your resume — e.g., seriously important academic activities or achievements.
    • I’ve worked six jobs I’ve dropped from my resume. When I was 13, I worked in a bookstore for two months. Employment at such a young age and for such a brief time? Gone. I’ve also dropped five restaurant jobs from high school and college. I was building websites as a hobbyist at that time anyway, and it writes a more cohesive story to my resume without restaurants.
  • Fluff can sometimes be things that don’t pertain to a job you’re applying to. For example, if you have zoology club, chess, math club, animal shelter volunteer work, and kennel experience — if you’re applying to animal-focused jobs, you might be able to cut chess and math club. This would present a little more of a cohesive “animal-focused” story to your resume. That said, too, if you aren’t removing these irrelevant things because you need room for other, related things — it’s totally okay to keep these things, too.

Get Someone Else’s Eyes

Especially if you’ve stared at your resume every day for a few hours a day. Little mistakes can slip through when you’ve been looking at the same thing a billion times. Other people’s perspectives are seriously helpful.

Reddit’s r/resumes is a really good place to get free resume feedback from multiple perspectives. Make sure you read over the FAQ. The easier you make it for others to review your resume, the better the feedback you’ll get.

Be aware, your reviewers may not be professionals. Sometimes, too: anonymous people can be jerks. Tread carefully, and always anonymize your resume. Remove your personal contact information, your e-mail, and your name. It’s common procedure in this community.

Intelligently Name Your Files

Rename your resume for every job you apply to. For example:


It’s annoying for you to do this for every single job, but it helps the person on the receiving end of sixty resumes. Imagine how many “resume.docx” files they receive and have to manually rename. Labeling your resume clearly and making it more accessible to the reviewer might be the little thing that calls attention to your file above all the rest.

Play with Resume Sections

When people think of resumes, they think of a fairly standard template. You need to have an Objective, a Work History, an Educational History, and References, right? Nope. You can add more things, and these days, you can honestly skip the Objective and References section.

Adding Projects, Volunteering, Etc.

Do you have code projects? Websites? Volunteer projects? Things you’ve done that aren’t work and aren’t education, but are relevant to your job history? Add them in there. You can add a projects, skills, certifications, achivements, or volunteer section. You can add whatever section you want, really. Just make sure it’s professional and relevant to what you want to do, job-wise.

For example: it might not be a good idea to include a volunteer section if you have many, many other activities and achievements. It might be extra fluff you don’t really need. Tread carefully on personal interest sections. It’s easy to get into irrelevant territory, and you don’t want your resume dismissed because you listed the reviewer’s rival sportsball team as your favorite.

Why Not an Objective?

There’s really nothing wrong with a summary of your work history. It’s actually pretty helpful if you have a well-written summary. The reader can get what you’re all about without reading the whole thing. They can browse your summary and decide if they want to keep reading. This is again advice from my aunt.

The problem with objectives? The writing people tend to do. Somehow, resume objectives get everyone using big buzzwords in super-stiff, awkward sentences, saying exactly the same thing as every other objective ever written. Also — it can be really hard to customize an objective for every single job you apply to. Writing a great objective often requires looking in-depth at the company and position. This is not ideal if your aim is to scattershot and send out many, many job applications.

So, if you want to write an objective — go ahead. Just make sure it’s not the clunky, generic type (“To establish myself in an employment position of web development at Big Company Name”, “To use my experience and expertise as a professional web developer in the position of Front End Developer”). If you’ve written that sort of objective, rewrite it or cut it out entirely.

Why Not References?

Avoid including references’ contact information if you’re submitting your resume over the Internet. Even if you have their permission to do so, there’s no guarantee the people on the receiving end will treat your resume document with care.

For this reason, I generally don’t include my own phone number on my resume, let alone the phone numbers of other people. Having your references inundated with random spam calls isn’t a great thing to do.

If you aren’t giving references’ contact information, then the “references available upon request” section is extraneous and can be cut from your resume itself. If someone asks for references, have a separate, spare sheet listing your references — one you send upon request. No reason to state you’ll do so on the resume.


Give Answers and Solutions

If your interviewers give you a problem they’re facing right now or have faced in the past, even if they’re just asking if you could accomplish something, offer a solution. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even excellent — but it can give your interviewers, especially if they’re less technical than you, confidence in your abilities.

Another neat thing is pointing out a solution when it seems no one is aware of one. For an example, I’ve interviewed for a job wherein one of the interviewers expressed displeasure at a prior web developer for taking down a client site while doing work. I interjected that this wouldn’t be a problem with me, as I’d always prefer working on a local copy of the website instead of on a live server. This was something that really enamored me to that particular job, likely as no one was even aware this was a possibility and a solution to a major problem.

Similarly, I’ve been informed I was hired for a job, despite being less-qualified in one area, because I had provided solutions to problems I pointed out in a document I’d been asked to write after the interview (whoa, spec work works out sometimes!). This was apparently something other interviewers did not do; they had only provided examples of problems.

Admit Shortcomings

If you can’t do something, that’s okay. Admit you can’t do it, but throw out a little bit about how you’d probably approach the problem and research a solution. It’s possible the job is willing to overlook this lack of knowledge, given that you’re forthright and able to admit it. On-the-job training and educational opportunities are totally a thing. Conversely, if you plunge ahead anyway, you risk getting yourself into deep trouble later on.

Ask Questions

Asking questions about the job when given the opportunity to do so is considered a really good thing to do in interviews. The right questions show interest and critical thought in interviews. Avoid basic questions about operations until you actually have the job (e.g., “When’s lunch?” is probably a very bad question to ask). The questions part is supposed to enable you to ask broader questions, not day-to-day stuff.

Honestly — it has always been tough for me to come up with questions on-the-spot. It has helped to come up with questions before going into an interview. Reviewing the company site can help, but it can also be tough getting information intended for employees from a company’s website. You can Google up some generic questions, and those can be sort of helpful.

One thing that has helped me come up with on-the-spot questions is thinking of the interview as a chance for me to investigate the company, too. For instance, if the interviewer mentions client interface as a primary responsibility, I know I’ll want to know how that’s handled and so that’s a question I want to ask. If I’m to accept client calls at any time of the work-day, I know I’ll probably want to skedaddle away. It’s pretty important for me to figure that out before I waste any more of my time or the company’s time, so I might as well ask in the initial interview.

If there’s anything that’s must-have for you in employment, now’s the time to ask. Yep, it’s probable you’ll end up putting an interviewer off if you ask something they don’t like, but if it’s important to you? You want to ask anyway. You don’t want to work somewhere that’s not going to work with you at the interview stage over something seriously important to you.


Send Thanks

I’ve almost always e-mailed a thanks after an interview, within 48 hours. Nothing long — just thanking them for the interview, highlighting one specific element I’d enjoy about working there, and letting them know I’ll follow up in about a week if I don’t hear back.

Definitely use e-mail — don’t call. There’s no reason to interrupt with a call. Handwritten thanks are old-fashioned by now, and so much slower than e-mail. Added, ecologically-conscious companies won’t appreciate the waste of paper, and most non-ecologically conscious companies won’t appreciate the additional paper on top of the other mountains they receive. E-mail is best, seriously.

Even if I’ve thought of questions about the job since the interview, I don’t ask them in the thanks e-mail. I did that once and I got the impression it came off as presumptuous. If you get a second interview, bring your questions then. Otherwise, hang onto them. If they’re not planning on asking you back for a second interview, asking questions in a thanks e-mail puts them in an awkward spot and potentially wastes time.

Follow Up

As aforementioned, I do follow up by e-mail about a week after the thanks note is sent. Again, nothing long — thanking them again for their time and consideration, and requesting a status update as to my interview and application. If I don’t hear back, I’ll send one more follow-up note before moving on. I don’t advise sending weekly follow-up e-mails for six months, for instance, unless you’re continuing with the interviewing/job processes (I’ve heard some can be very, very long?).

It’s good to send one or two notes even if you don’t hear back, though, because it shows interest in the job. So, too — sometimes things just get lost in the shuffle. Processing applications and interviewing people can be a slow process, and letting the job know you are really interested through that process is a good thing. It can make your resume stick out above the rest, again.