My Posts

Getting out of the Stack

So what is the stack? Let me define:

The stack is simply the place where every resume goes that is not exceptional, that does not catch interest, and does not deserve special attention. It doesn’t have to be a physical stack — in fact, they reside mostly in the archives of ancient applicant tracking systems). It is where EVERY resume goes unless you take time (or have the connections needed) to make it stand out from other applicants.

Simply put, the stack is exactly your least adventageous place to be as a person applying for a job. It makes you ordinary and boring. You’re competing with a lot of candidates there. How do you get out of the stack? First of all, how not to get into the stack:

  • Fancy paper (nobody cares and now everything is online)
  • Telling me how much of a mistake it would be not to hire you in your cover letter
  • Horrendous, completely avoidable spelling and grammar disasters
  • Filling your resume and cover letter with fluff and convoluted terms
  • Long cover letters that’s basically your resume in narrative form
  • Long resumes that go into detail from the first time you babysat a kid in 3rd grade (Thanks)
  • Super large or small fonts sizes, strange, hard to read fonts

Those don’t work. This works though:

  • A one to two paragraph cover letter written specifically for the position telling the hiring manager precisely what from your background makes you the best candidate for the position
  • A one to two page resume (or the equivalent) written with the intent of conveying the most relevant positions you’ve had in the past
  • A cleanly organized, neatly formatted resume that allows me to scan your experience in less than 20 seconds so that I can make a determination that I should read the rest
  • The rest is neatly written in a fashion that allows me to get your major job duties after a minute or two of reading through it
  • Font size between 10 and 12 point, name no larger than 16 point and a standard font

Of course, the easiest way to get out of the stack is to know someone. Then you could write it in crayon and scan a picture of your face and probably get an interview.

It isn’t easy but making yourself stand out in a good way gives you way more opportunties than being stuck in the stack with the other newbies and daft resumes. Take the extra effort and do it right.

Originally published at on June 2, 2006.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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