How to create an online resume with the VisualCV resume builder

After you create a cover letter template that tells the story of the professional you, you need to create a resume that has the same momentum.

The reason the story-driven approach to cover letters appeals to remote companies is because it’s different. It reads like a cover letter that goes against cover letter law. This against-the-grain approach matches a remote company’s culture.

Remote companies are organizing their team in a way that goes against the status quo: everyone in the same place, at the same hour, sitting in the same brand of chair. Your resume needs to go against the status quo as well.

If you have a resume that looks like the one my college career counselors helped me create, you’re application-to-response conversion rate is going to suck. Don’t worry though. I’ll show you how to create a resume that helped me land my two previous remote jobs.

This tutorial is part of a free remote job course I put together based on my experience of landing three full-time remote jobs in my career.

An “excellent resume” vs a resume that works

Quick story…

I wanted to find an example of an ineffective resume for finding a remote job. To do this, I Google’d “example of the perfect resume.” I knew what most people consider to be a perfect resume is a parasite in the eyes of most hiring managers.

It took me exactly 0.63 seconds to find an example of an “excellent resume” posted by Business Insider. As I suspected, it was far from excellent.

Let’s take a look…

Example of a perfect resume, not really
Source: Business Insider

Here’s why this resume sucks, especially for getting a remote position:

  • No personality. Most remote companies are startups that prize the person as much as the person’s skillset. Here, Joan is bland, black and white, even though she’s probably a unique person. The resume you’ll create in a bit will have a picture and a bit of color to make you appear personable and authentic.

  • Too many words. There are too many words and sentences. Period. I find it ironic that this is considered an “excellent resume” even when it’s stated in the BI article that “recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume before they make the initial decision on candidates.” It’s hard to find anything valuable in this resume in 6 seconds because nothing sticks out.

Now, compare that “excellent resume” to this resume that has landed me remote jobs at some really cool companies…

Example of a resume that works

I’ll show you how to create a resume like this below, but first let’s start thinking about what you should put in the resume.

Spilling your accomplishments on the page

Creating a solid resume takes three times longer if you skip this step.

The goal here is to reflect on your previous jobs and write down everything noteworthy you did. This is a shorthand, free writing practice designed to uncover accomplishments you might overlook when creating your official resume in a structured way.

Do this exercise in a Google Doc named “My Accomplishments” for your previous three jobs, internships, research projects, educational degrees, etc.

Here’s what my spill-session looked like for one of the jobs I included in my latest resume:

  • Grew blog traffic significantly
  • Helped the company get acquired
  • Assisted the sales team on calls to sell to new clients
  • Helped put together the company’s core values
  • Got two posts to rank number 1 on Hacker News
  • Created a content initiative that brought in a lot of new traffic
  • Created case studies
  • Created content that was linked to by authoritative sites
  • Created content that started relationships with authoritative companies
  • Managed technical freelance writers and designers
  • Created a viral article
  • Started a successful newsletter

Notice how each of my accomplishments starts with an action world. This is important because it signifies that you actually did something. Avoid saying that you were something (i.e. a dedicated and hard-working employee).

Action step: Write down any accomplishment that comes to mind for previous positions, even things you don’t think are important or relevant. The main goal is to get a bunch of shit down on paper. Do this for the previous three positions you had (as an employee, intern, research assistant, student, etc).

Making accomplishments sexy and succinct

Using the list you created for each position in the previous section, pick out your top five accomplishments for each position. Star them in your Google Doc.

Because I was applying for a content-driven marketing role, I starred accomplishments that were closely related to content creation and marketing:

  • Grew blog traffic significantly *
  • Helped the company get acquired
  • Assisted the sales team on calls to sell to new clients
  • Helped put together the company’s core values
  • Got two posts to rank number 1 on Hacker News
  • Created a content initiative that brought in a lot of new traffic
  • Created case studies
  • Created content that was linked to by authoritative sites *
  • Created content that started relationships with authoritative companies *
  • Managed technical freelance writers and designers
  • Created a viral article *
  • Started a successful newsletter *

I chose these specific accomplishments because I was able to attribute them to a key performance indicator (KPI) or a recognizable name. Let me show you what I mean…

In the list below you can see how I transformed my basic accomplishments into accomplishments that sound sexy:

  • Grew blog traffic significantly → Made blog readers 2.5 times more likely to become a lead or sale
  • Created content that was linked to by authoritative sites → Created content that was linked to by Google’s developer team
  • Created content that started relationships with authoritative companies → Created content that started a relationship with Yahoo’s cloud team
  • Created a viral article → Created article that led to 10K daily readers and 20+ same-day sales
  • Started a successful newsletter → Started newsletter and grew to 11,000 opt-in subscribers

Check out my resume again. These are the same accomplishments I listed on it. They start with a verb that represents an action (something I did) and they are supported by numbers/KPIs or recognizable names.

In my case, these recognizable names are actual companies (Google and Yahoo!), but they can also be popular software brands or people…

For instance, if I was an accountant and worked with a famous accountant on a project, I would put their name down. And if I was a waitress and worked with table seating software, I would name that (i.e. – 5,000 tables seated with Software X).

Tip: You can stretch the truth a little here. For instance, if you don’t have access to actual numbers, you can estimate.

Action step: Pick out your top 5 accomplishments for the last three positions you’ve held and add specifics to them (numbers, popular names, etc).

8 key elements of a successful resume

Less is more with a resume, but you need more of the right things, and these things need to be easy to locate and scan.

The Business Insider resume has some good information but it doesn’t matter. This information is buried in excess. If it’s true that recruiters spend an average of six seconds checking out resumes, this information will never get seen.

The specific problem with the BI resume is the horizontal left-to-right reading layout. What you want is a vertical left-to-right reading layout. This layout makes it easy for hiring managers to consume the most amount of information about you in the least amount of time.

A vertical left-to-right layout has more single-word and single-phrase lists, and all accomplishments are kept to one line. The goal is to let eyes move down the page just as quickly as they can move across it.

Below, notice how quickly you can consume my name/picture, tagline, summary, skills, and tool competencies on my resume in the left column.

Annotated version of a resume that works

With this layout, hiring managers can consume five key elements of my resume in five seconds. And if they like what they see, they can easily move to my list of accomplishments.

In a bit I’ll show you which template I used to create my resume, but first let’s finish creating the content.

  1. Accomplishments – Keep these to one line, start each one with a verb, and increase their potency by including a number or recognizable name.

  2. Links to showcase pages – If the hiring manager is interested about what you did at a specific company, give them the opportunity to learn even more. This is also a good way to show off your website, something that many remote workers have. To create a website and showcase pages, check out the resources I linked to in the “Create linkable assets” section of this post.

  3. Testimonials – These back up everything you say. Using testimonials is an effective sales and marketing tactic, which is applicable here because you’re selling and marketing yourself. (You don’t need three like me. Having 1-2 powerful ones is probably better anyways.)

  4. Specific skills – Here you want to list things you have experience using. I chose to list off tools I have experience using because using software is a big part of content marketing.

  5. General skills – Here you want to list things you have experience doing. Pick the skills that are most vital to your job role and rank your skill level on a scale of 1-10. This ranking system increases the impact of your top skill that has a ranking of 10. It also shows hiring managers that you’re well-versed in other skills but not perfect, like a human. Startups wants humans, not workbots.

    These subtleties matter and help you get an interview. Remember, most remote companies hire people, not skills. Use this skills section to show you’re not afraid to say that you’re less than perfect at something.

  6. Summary – Who is your professional self? What do you do? Capture it in one sentence. Unlike an objective statement, say what you do instead of what you want. Rewrite this until it sounds right.

  7. Tagline – In your summary you’re saying who you are and what you do. Here you want to say something about your bigger mission. Why do I do content marketing for tech startups? To help grow them. Simple, but powerful. An accountant for startups might say “I help keep startups lean.”

  8. Headshot – Find or take a picture of yourself. It should be casual – not suit and tie. My picture is just a selfie. This will add a face to your name and make you memorable to the hiring manager.

Tip: Update your LinkedIn account with the information you added to your resume for consistency. The hiring manager is likely to look at your LinkedIn resume, too.

Action step: Put this information in a two-column Google Doc. You can copy this template. You’ll need this for the next step.

Design with VisualCV

Hiring a designer to pretty up your resume isn’t cheap. It can cost a few hundred dollars, even more if you need something custom. But because we don’t need anything custom – just something that looks better than every other applicants’ – using a web-based design tool is the best option.

After some research, the best solution I found is a platform called VisualCV. In addition to offering an affordable monthly service, VisualCV designs your first resume for you for free and returns it within 24 hours of you signing up. They did this for me and I was very pleased with the result.

VisualCV made it easy for me to turn my resume from this (black and white design) into this (VisualCV design).

The VisualCV template is more engaging and personable than the black and white document. It also utilize space better. This allowed me to add a more cohesive summary, a testimonials section, and a skill-ranking barset – all on one page.

Here is some other stuff VisualCV offers:

  • 17+ professional templates that are easy to customize with the VisualCV web application
  • Analytics that show how many times your resume was viewed and downloaded
  • Analytics that show which city your resume was viewed and downloaded from
  • An online version and PDF version of your resume
  • Free support for help designing your resume

My resume made a strong first impression on hiring managers. Many of those who replied back to my application made a point to say how much they loved it.

Here’s how to get up and running with VisualCV:

  1. Sign up for a VisualCV pro account here. This costs $36 upfront for 3 months and then $12/mo after that. Because this is your first impression for hiring managers and allows you to create an effective resume without any design skills, it’s well worth the price.

    You’ll need the pro account to use the same template I used which is, in my opinion, the best VisualCV template. You can choose from other templates though – just make sure there’s a placeholder where you can add a headshot of yourself.

  2. Choose a resume template. After you sign up for a pro account, click the + New button on the top left part of this page. Then choose the “start from scratch template” option and pick the Avant theme.

  3. Change settings. On your resume page, click the Settings icon on the left side of the page:

    Settings icon in VisualCV

    In the box that appears, change the title of your resume to “My Resume” and change the resume type to “Public.” Choose a URL for your resume based on your name, then click Save.

    VisualCV resume title and public url settings

  4. Have VisualCV format your resume. On your resume page, you’ll see a question mark button on the bottom right part of the page. Click on it and then type “resume formatting” into the search bar. After this, click Send a Message.

    Sample message to VisualCV about formatting

    For the topic, select “Need help with the product.” Then write the following in the message box…

    Hey! I’d like help formatting my resume – I just bought a pro account. Here is a Google Doc with all of the content: [Google Doc Link]. May you use the “My Resume” template I started with the Avant theme and base it off my friend’s resume? You can view his here: I have attached a headshot of myself to this message. Thanks!

    Be sure to attach your headshot file.

After sending this message, you should receive a message from the VisualCV team within 24 hours saying that your resume is formatted. You can then make changes to details. For instance, you can change the color from blue to whatever color you prefer, change the font type and size, and much more.

Start applying to remote jobs

With your new cover letter and resume, you now have a fighting chance at landing interviews with remote jobs you’re interested in.

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