14 Resume & Cover Letter Hacks from a Hiring Manager

More than 300 resumes came through Balcom’s “Careers” portal last year. I’m the one who reviews each one (somewhere between the press checks and estimates involved in my “real” job as director of production services). So which ones move me to invite you for an interview?

Cover Letter

Here are the practical hacks most likely to give you a leg up – wherever you may be applying.

The Hacks


  1. Keep it professional and short. The person reviewing applicants is probably very busy (I know I am), and brevity will be appreciated.
  2. Use relevant keywords. Big corporations use scanning software to search resumes for the right qualifications.
  3. Use the cover letter to show your personality, but show that you understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
  4. At the end of the resume, list your interests, like travel experiences, language skills, social interactions such as golf, team sports, tennis, etc. This may spark a common interest with the interviewer. (As a mother of an Eagle Scout, for instance, I know the kind of skills and dedication required to earn the title, and it gives us something else to talk about.)
“Keep it professional and short. The person reviewing applicants is probably very busy (I know I am), and brevity will be appreciated.”


  1. Use a clean design that looks good printed in black and white. This makes it easier for the hiring company to either scan or print it.
  2. Choose an easy font that everyone’s computer (Mac or PC) will have, such as Arial, Helvetica, Garamond or Calibri; please do not select cursive handwriting styles that could confuse scanning software.
  3. Keep font sizes within 10 to 12 pts.
  4. Avoid justified text; keep it aligned left. 
  5. Do not use big graphics that will be hard to print.
  6. Do not use any graphic text (saved as .gifs); scanners may not be able to read it.
  7. Do not include your photo. Your qualifications are what matter, not your looks.


  1. Save the file with your name (Swihart_Resume) – not just “Resume.” They are all named “resume.”
  2. Have a professional email address (LSwihart@email.com).  Lollipop273@email.com will get attention …just not the kind you want.
  3. Have someone else proofread it. Even the best writers don’t catch all their own errors.

Got it? Now check out our open positions

Tags: Advice for Students

Put our experts to work

Contact Us