When I started working at PACIFIC, there were only six full-time employees in our office.

Nearly two years later, and there are almost 50 of us. We’ve been on a massive hiring spree, and as our office’s main recruiter, I see a lot of résumés pouring into PACIFIC (get it?!). Like a modern day Goldilocks, I’ve had to read through a lot of applications, weeding out those that are too personal from those that are vague, and hunting for the résumé that’s “just right.”

So to anyone looking to launch their career or simply needs a refresher on the basics, I’m here to share the do’s and don’ts of how to get hired at an agency (straight from the person who is sifting through résumés).

One résumé doesn’t rule them all…

Don’t:

Use the same résumé for every application. This should seem obvious but it’s a common mistake. Every job and employer is different, so how can you use one résumé to apply for multiple positions?

Do:

Tailor your résumé! Tweaking your résumé won’t take long and it will go a long ways. Revamping your résumé isn’t about being dishonest or exaggerating your experience. It’s about viewing your experience from a different angle to highlight skills that better fit the position you’re applying for. This simple step will maximize your effectiveness with applications.

Pro-Tip:

Review the job description, and go through the position’s requirements. Out of those requirements, see which ones you have any experience with and add them to your résumé. The recruiter will feel like you’re made for the job!

Cover your bases with cover letters

Don’t:

Submit a cover letter that only says that you’re interested in the gig they are offering. Of course you are! That’s why you’re applying.

Do:

Use your cover letter as a resource to answer any questions your résumé might leave unanswered. Tell a story about why you’re currently searching for a job, and why you’d think you’re a great fit for the role you’re applying for. Be as specific as possible and tie in how your skills directly apply to the job at hand.

Pro-Tip:

Your cover letter should explain things like a gap between jobs (family emergency? decided to take that dream vacation?), or why your address says Idaho, but you’re applying for a job in San Diego (not that anyone needs an excuse to move to San Diego ♥ ).

We see a lot of résumés from people who have two years of experience in their field but are applying for jobs that require a minimum of three to five years of experience. This alone could make recruiters automatically throw out your résumé and move on to the next. But if you explain in your cover letter that you held internships, did pro-bono work, and/or did freelance work to make up for the missing three years required, there’s a better chance of you being considered for the role.

Typos and formatting issues, and grammar problems, oh my!

Don’t:

Send a résumé out without having another set of eyes review it first. Employers and recruiters can sniff out typos and formatting issues a mile away. When you send out an unpolished piece, you’re begging recruiters to ask “How can I trust them with our enterprise-level clients if they can’t even send a résumé without misspelling ‘attention to detale’, or ‘prefectionist.’”

Do:

Ask a friend or two to give your résumé a good once over. And when selecting an editor, look for a friend who usually has a book attached to their hand (they are the Usain Bolt of spotting typos).

Pro-Tip:

You might feel like all of your hard work needs to be showcased to the employer, but your résumé shouldn’t be more than two (that’s 2…as in dos…as in 1+1= 2) pages long, period. Remember: You have your detailed cover letter to help you explain yourself more if need be. Also realize that not everyone works on the same edition of Microsoft Word, so sometimes formatting is lost in virtual translation (and it wasn’t even your fault). But if you save your résumé as a PDF, its formatting will be consistent no matter what type of computer it’s viewed on. PDF it, son!

To LinkedIn or Not to LinkedIn? (It shouldn’t even be a question!)

Don’t:

Underestimate the power of this platform. People sign up and leave their profile blank—big mistake if you’re in the professional world or trying to get into it, especially if you’re applying to work at an agency. This is a H.R. rep’s prime recruiting tool!

Do:

Keep your profile updated. This is your living, breathing résumé that is always accessible to any recruiter or potential employer. Add a profile picture, employers want to see who they’re reaching out to, and they will play Sherlock Holmes until they do so. Save yourself the embarrassment of them going full stalker mode on your Facebook until they find a suitable picture of you from a pool party in 2006, and post a current mug shot.

Pro-Tip:

List quantifiable achievements in addition to your job responsibilities. It’s much more marketable and will help future employers see how much you’re capable of. And when you accept a job, be sure to keep a record of the job description and use it to help you update your new position on your profile (this applies to your actual résumé as well). Boom, double tip.

Take some of the stress out of your job hunt by revitalizing your résumé and tailoring your cover letter to your specific role. As a recruiter, I can vouch that applicants stand out from the heap when they pay attention to these simple details. Happy job hunting, and may the recruiting odds be ever in your favor.

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41 thoughts on “How to Get Hired at an Agency (as Written by an H.R. Rep)

  1. Kris White says:

    Question about the “one-size-doesn’t-fit-all” point. If you’re applying to an agency on the creative side, chances are you’re submitting a portfolio, rather than a resume. In that case, would you still recommend tweaking different projects in your portfolio to closer align with the job description, or do you feel it’s better to show a breadth of work?

    • PACIFIC says:

      Hi Kris, great question.

      If you have a portfolio in place, it’s good to show a breadth of work. However, if you’re reviewing the agency’s current clients and see they cater to one industry in particular (let’s say finance), and you have experience representing the finance industry, definitely mention that experience in your resume and cover letter. That way, the agency can see that you’re experienced across the board, but are able to handle clients in their niche. Happy job hunting.

  2. Alan Tran says:

    Thanks for the awesome writeup! As a small business owner on the verge of a hiring spree, this was very helpful.

  3. Aaron Garcia says:

    This article is well written, easy to read and very informative. Great job!

  4. RyRy says:

    There were some very valuable tips in this article that I will apply towards my own job search.

  5. Ana Garay says:

    This article couldn’t have come at a better moment! I’ve been applying and I usually leave the cover letter out. I guess a mixture of thinking my resume says it all, and that I wasn’t too sure what to include in it always made me stray from it. I’ll definitely be spending a little more time per application now!

  6. Eric M says:

    As a CEO of multiple corporations I can attest to the accuracy of this article. These are simple and easy guidelines to getting hired by anyone.

  7. Shedara Gibson says:

    I’ve been looking for something like this to pass along to my son. Thanks!!

  8. Matt Blake says:

    This is a awesome write up; it doesn’t oversaturate the reading with TOO much and at the same time it also isn’t taken to an extreme technical level. Funny thing is I’m going through a resume rewrite at the moment in my career search and this is EXACTLY what I needed to see.

  9. Greg Adame says:

    After reading this, it’s definitely made me want to go back and tailor my resume for my upcoming job search. If I were back in San Diego, Pacific would seem like such an amazing company to start a career with!

    +1 on all these breakdowns too. Saved for future reference!

  10. Yorke Zhang says:

    Great article

  11. Ante says:

    Very detailed, great read for anyone looking to step up their résumé game! This will be shared, thanks!

  12. Bio Joe says:

    Great article! I’m in the process of revamping my resume from six years ago and these tips are great! I’m am guilty of signing up for a LinkedIn and not keeping it up to date! This will definitely get fixed along with my resume! Thanks!

  13. Kirsten Snyder says:

    As someone soon looking to change careers, this article served as a great refresher piece. I will definitely be referencing it in the future!

  14. Daniel McElroy says:

    Great point with the tailored resume. It can never hurt to have multiple variations especially when you are an entry level applicant with little to no experience. Riveting stuff here.

  15. Jessica Beight says:

    It’s hard to get advice on revising/creating a resume that isn’t vague, but these tips are helpful and pretty specific. Great article!

  16. Ken Bartlett says:

    Its amazing that some people still make some of the mistakes listed. I have seen plenty of resumes in my time and even career professionals with years and years of experience make common mistakes. I think that career professionals think they’re experience will outweigh a sloppy resume, umm… not so. Every one of us should always be sure to have a clean, accurate and grammatically correct resume.

    Speaking of… I’m going to make sure mine is good to go!

    Great write up, will be sharing this all over.

  17. Christopher Cox says:

    As someone who has never written a cover letter, this is a highly valuable write up. Now to sit down and actually create a cover letter!

    I should probably get around to updating my LinkedIn as well…considering my photo is from 2010.

    It’s really nice to get insight from someone who actually handles resumes and hiring. The information in here is more insightful and more valuable than most information I’ve ever received from anyone offering advice regarding best practices. Thank you!!

  18. Carla Dawson says:

    Excellent. Ivette ..totally agree. I used to be a recruiter a long time ago and your tips are right on.

  19. Mikey Newell says:

    Wow, informative and entertaining, I had no idea about half of this stuff! This is the kind of stuff they don’t teach you in school and someone has to!! Thanks for the post!

  20. Michael Albright says:

    Great post! Very informative without being so serious. I felt that I could apply your tips and get a job.

  21. Chris Werthmann says:

    Great article. Very informative and useful!

  22. Alma Cristina says:

    Great post and fun read. A lot of useful information that seems common knowledge, but is often forgotten about in the midst of frantic job-hunting. The best part is that this advice comes straight from the person responsible for trashing your application or making the call to set up an interview, it doesn’t get more credible than that.

  23. Alma Cristina says:

    Great post and fun read. A lot of useful information that seems common knowledge, but is often forgotten about in the midst of frantic job-hunting. The best part is that this advice comes straight from the person responsible for trashing your application or making the call to set up an interview, it doesn’t get more credible than that.

  24. Carlos Lopez says:

    Amazing write up. I’ve been hired with the same agency since I turned 21 (now 31). I think it’s time to go back and update my résumé. I will be using this information for sure. Thank you great write up.

  25. Don't mind me says:

    II feel like no matter how many times someone hears it, or reads it, this is information that while it may seem obvious to some, is invaluable to others. Thanks for blogging!

  26. Danielle Mainas says:

    Couldn’t have read this an a more opportune time. I have a best friend looking for work in San Diego. Sometimes the stars just align. This is a great guide. Well-written and with a layer calm. Thanks coach.

  27. Felicia Lyon says:

    Sometimes it really is the simple things that set your resume apart from the others – customized and error free. It’s amazing how many resumes over the years don’t follow these simple guidelines. Nice article!!

  28. Don Voogd says:

    Concise, sage advice. Well said!

  29. Elizabeth Cuevas says:

    As someone who helps graduates find employment in the medical field, this article is right on. It’s like I’m reading what I tell them in their Professional Development classes! I’m going to pass it along to my colleagues for them to share with graduates as a refresher. Thanks.

  30. Darren Newell says:

    Actually get real insight from someone that reads resume’s all day is invaluable! Share with as many people you can, it’s the difference of getting the interview or being cast aside with the 1000’s of other in the trash !

  31. Great post, Ivette! Super helpful fro job-seekers. One thing I’d add is to keep cover letters short. As someone who’s now had to recruit team members, I look back at my old letters and am mortified by their length. When filtering through them I immediately skip the novels because I just don’t have time. Applicants should remember that if you’re applying with startups, hiring probably isn’t the FT job of whoever is looking over applications.

  32. Darlene says:

    Great article! These tips seem so simple, yet are the most common mistakes! Valuable insight and coming straight from the source!

  33. David Sanchez says:

    What an insightful article that offers necessary advice to those searching for a job. Everyone should follow these tips, no excuses for those who don’t. I particularly enjoyed the headlines that paid homage to LOTR, baseball, the Wizard of Oz, and Hamlet.

  34. Analiese says:

    As everyone else has mentioned, this is spot on! All tips I wish more applicants knew! Invaluable advice.

  35. Daniel Fox says:

    Thanks for the detailed write-up! I know that I will personally take some tips away from this. As a recommendation I think it would be cool to include links to general formats of both a resume and cover letter or maybe even photos. I know that having a solid format to start off of would go a long way, especially if it is an entry level position.

  36. Derek Alexander says:

    What a great article. This was very informative, was a great refresher, and answered a lot of questions. I also have a few friends that could benefit from reading this article. Thank you!

  37. Guilherme SantAna says:

    Amazing! Thank you :)

  38. Christiana Vetterman says:

    I found this article to be wonderfully refreshing. I have worked at two agencies to date and feel that the information provided is extremely relevant if one wishes to be hired on. Kudos for providing those that need a little guidance with straight up, to the point, no nonsense tips on how to get past the first (and most difficult) hurdle… getting a call back.

  39. Al & Jeanine Reimer says:

    THIS TEAM IS THE BEST AND THEY CARE ABOUT THE MEMBERS WITHIN IT THANK YOU ALL