One of the most frequently asked questions I get is about how to create a resume that caters to work-from-home jobs. There are a lot of unique situations behind this question. But, first and foremost, the application process for remote work is simply different than that for traditional employment. You are likely never going to meet your employer or interviewer face-to-face. First impressions count. Your first impression is just an email or fill-in-the-blank boxes before hitting a submit button. How do you stand out with that?
Today, I’ve put together a big list of resume tips to help you better construct a compelling resume, feel more confident doing so, and, hopefully, get yourself a work-at-home job a little sooner.
What Does a Good Work-at-Home Resume Look Like?
Many people are surprised to find out that most companies hiring work-at-home agents are looking for a format a little different than the traditional chronological resume. While resumes for traditional on-site jobs often focus on education and prior employment, many recruiters in the online world are looking for a skills match first and foremost.
Highlight Your Experience Over Education
A hybrid skills-based resume puts your skills most applicable to the job you are applying for front and center. The first section of the resume, after your name and contact information, is your skills.
Another benefit of a skills-based resume is that gaps in employment are often less noticeable. This is a great option for those looking for a career change that may not necessarily have the workplace experience but do have the skills. You are still listing work experience on this hybrid resume, but it isn’t the main focus.
Most employers are looking for you to answer a couple basic questions with your resume:
- Why this job?
- Why you?
Because of that, you will likely need to tailor your resume to each category of job – if not each job – to which you are applying. Pick three or four broad skills categories to put on your resume. Back those skills up with job experience, life experience, and/or specific accomplishments.
After the skills section, list your work history. You only need to go back 5 to 10 years, depending on how much work experience you have. If you have worked for several work-at-home companies or freelance gigs at one time, you may want to limit your work history to five years.
You can also modify this section a bit as well. Give a brief description of the type of work the company does, but then list specific accomplishments you achieved on the job as opposed to every task you did. For example: Rather than just stating you wrote articles for clients, highlight that you wrote over 60 articles that were published on Forbes. Rather than simply stating that you managed a client’s social media platforms, highlight the growth or results they experienced while you were at the helm. If they are looking for someone with high-level customer service skills, highlight your experience working with difficult customers.
Experience You Shouldn’t Leave Out
Many companies look for prior telecommuting experience when considering candidates. This can demonstrate your ability to work independently, and possibly show that you have an idea of the work arrangement and what’s required in this unique situation. Therefore, if you have any remote experience, flaunt it.
You can include freelance projects and temporary work assignments. If your current or previous employer let you work from home on occasion, point that out. FlexJobs has some great tips about where to highlight that experience.
Good Skills to Put on a Resume
As for what skills to include on your resume, the job description is a good place to start. Most companies will let you know the specific skill set they are looking for. You won’t want to copy their list word for word, but you will want to mirror some of their language and choose those skills that are relevant to what they are looking for.
For example: If you are applying for a sales position, you won’t want to focus on your automotive skills. Instead, you will want to highlight skills like marketing, client services, etc.
Key Skills for Any Work-at-Home Resume
There are a few skills you should include on a telecommuting resume regardless of the job you are applying for:
- Technical know-how – This is perhaps the most important skill you will need when working remotely. You can’t call down to the IT desk if your computer locks up during your shift. You don’t need to be a tech whiz, but you do need to know the basics of turning it off and back on, Googling for solutions, etc.
- Writing and communication skills – Communication can be a lot harder when it’s by email only. Stress your ability to communicate well. Back it up with an error-free, misspelling-free resume.
- Decision-making skills – You can’t simply put a customer on hold and run over to your boss’ desk if you have a question. If you have an article due this afternoon and a question comes up, you can’t afford to wait for an editor to respond tomorrow. When working from home, you need to have the confidence to make decisions.
- Reliable and dependent – Many people don’t make it in the work-at-home world because they need the structure and accountability of punching that clock or knowing the boss is looking over their shoulder. The number one thing companies are looking for in remote workers is the ability to work independently. Most large companies don’t want to micromanage. They want you to show up when you say you are going to show up and do the job you promised to do.
How to Write a Resume Summary
Most entry-level telecommuting resumes don’t include the Objective commonly seen in on-site roles. Many work-at-home jobs don’t come with the opportunity to move up in ranks that eventually lead to a corner office and management role. Therefore, you can feel a little more at ease not having to state your today-to-retirement employment plan.
In the Objective’s place, include a summary of why you are a good fit for the job. Focus on just a few strong points. Don’t make it about you and don’t include things like how you need this job because you need a lot of time off, and so forth. Those things don’t make you look like a serious candidate.
This summary may also come in handy if you don’t have the opportunity to include a cover letter when submitting your resume through online application software.
What Else Should I Put on a Resume?
Don’t forget your contact information. You may not need to include your mailing or physical address, but you should make sure your email address is on your resume in case your resume gets separated from the rest of your online application.
If the job you are applying to has an education requirement, even if it’s a GED or high school diploma, you should mention your education. If your degree could come in handy or make you stand out from the competition, include it. If the job doesn’t require any formal education, you can focus on those skills instead.
Important Resume Phrases
As if creating a resume wasn’t stressful enough, you may have heard whispers that your application is being reviewed by a machine as opposed to a real person. True story. The use of applicant tracking systems, or ATS, is a common practice in the work-at-home world. And it’s understandable. Some companies report receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for every one opening. That’s a lot of manpower to view each of those by hand!
To narrow applicants down, many companies will run those resumes through an ATS that will pull out the best matches based on a ranking algorithm. Every system uses a different algorithm, but most look at skills, employment history, etc. Keywords are perhaps the most important thing an ATS looks for and the reason it is so important to tailor each resume to the job at hand. (Virtual Vocations has some more in-depth information on ATS if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty of how it works.)
For example: If you are applying for a virtual assistant job for which the company has listed requirements as “Dropbox, MS Office, Google Docs, Evernote, Asana, Expensify, CRMs” and you simply put “familiar with popular online tools and software,” you may not get the ATS score needed to move onto the next round. If it says you need to be familiar with “Hootsuite, Blogger, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube” and you simply use the terms “blogging” and “social media” in your resume, you may get passed over.
If you want to make sure you are getting close, Jobscan has a free scanner that will compare your resume to the job description for which you are applying. Give it a shot if you are new to the work-at-home job search and wondering what an ATS looks for.
This software is another reason to keep your resume simple. It may not be able to read text boxes and fancy tables correctly. Jobscan also has some free resume templates you can download. They also have a list of 500 keywords to watch for.
Things You Can Leave Off
There are some things your work-at-home resume doesn’t need:
- Objective – We discussed this earlier. Include a summary of qualifications instead.
- References – Unless they specifically ask for them, don’t include them. Most entry-level work-at-home jobs will not ask for them.
I’m Afraid of Being Discriminated Against Because of My Age
I get this question frequently. From Monster, don’t include dates for your education. It also isn’t necessary to include all of your work experience and those dates. Your recent experience is likely all that will be taken into consideration anyway.
What Font Should I Use for a Resume?
According to CNBC, the best fonts to use are Georgia, Merriweather, Constantia, Calibri, and Gill Sans.
How Do I Write a Cover Letter?
There are some notes on cover letters from Virtual Vocations here.
What About Employment Gaps?
This is another frequently asked question among my community. After all, many of you are stay-at-home moms who may have been out of the workforce for a while.
Think hard about roles you have done while out of the traditional workforce. You can certainly include freelance gigs, volunteer roles, and part-time jobs on your resume. Maybe you helped out at your church’s Vacation Bible School every summer. Maybe you have taken in a few kids to babysit or cleaned a few houses over the years. Maybe you helped your PTA organize their largest fundraiser to date. All of these things matter and can be listed.
How Do You Know the Job Is Legit Before You Give Them All of Your Personal Information?
Don’t include any personal information on your resume beyond your name and email address. You can also see this post for common red flags.
Can I Hire a Coach?
FlexJobs is currently offering members discounted career coaching. You can find the details in your member dashboard under Member Savings > Job Search Support > FlexJobs Career Coaching. Not yet a FlexJobs member? Sign up here.
In this Member Savings section, you will also find a link to a company offering free resume critiques and a link to a company offering discounted resume-writing services. (Note: these discounts were available at the time of publishing this post. Member offers can change at any time.)
Top 7 Things You Must Do Before Sending Your Resume
- Use Bullet Points – Blocks of text can be overwhelming for hiring managers. Keep your resume short and concise. Use bullet lists to highlight what’s important and necessary.
- Embrace White Space – Make sure your resume is short, to the point, and uncluttered. You should also keep it to one page.
- Tailor the Resume to the Job – Include those keywords used in the job description. Make sure you are including your most relevant experience and skills.
- Follow the Directions to the Letter – It’s common for companies to include little directions that will immediately eliminate you from the running if you don’t follow them.
- Get a professional-looking email address to include on your resume – No [email protected]
There’s no better time to start working from home than right now. According to Global Workplace Analytics, regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed. 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency. A typical telecommuter is college-educated, 45 years old or older, and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees. 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, putting them in the upper 80th percentile of all employees, home or office-based. And, keep in mind, these are non-self-employed people. These are people working for other people. People just like you!