If you're trying to get a job, then you're essentially trying to sell yourself. One of the first places that process starts is the resume. Aside from establishing experience and skills, candidates are trying to show they'd be a good fit, and most importantly, a good bet for a potential employer with a position to fill.
"Testimonials are probably an underutilized addition to a resume in my opinion," said Jon Heise, senior technical recruiter at Instant Technology. "If you have twenty resumes that are all looking fairly similar, and then there's a one resume with a few glowing endorsements from people I know or know of on it — you better bet that I'm going to have it at the top of the pile."
Matt Mickiewicz, CEO and founder of Hired.com, said he doesn't see testimonials used as much, but they can still be useful. "They can be an effective way to boast about key achievements using someone else's words, which lends more credibility," he said.
Including testimonials won't replace a reference check later in the process, but might help a candidate survive to that stage. Here are a few tips for using testimonials.
1. Use specifics
If you can pick between a vague or general statement that says you're great, and a specific story that says something about a challenge you overcame, or a problem you solved, always opt for the specific story. "When you're specific and it really tells the story of why — what these qualities are that make this person a good candidate — it is really helpful," Will Staney, Glassdoor's head recruiter said. The old rule of " show me don't tell me" holds fast here.
Heise offered this as an example: "Bob worked for me on our core application, where he completely redesigned the framework. The new tools allowed us to reach more customers and helped us increase our revenue by $100k/year."
It's clear, concise, light on jargon, and uses numbers.
2. Pick the right people
Important people to consider including can be those you've worked with, for, or customers. You're looking for someone whose opinion would carry some weight.
Chris Brown, director of human resources at InterCall, said that "it's nice to see testimonials for IT services from a non IT title. It shows that you are regarded well within the entire organization."
"We recently had a candidate on Hired who had Mark Cuban write a testimonial for him," Mickiewicz said.
Of course, you don't have to land Mark Cuban, but do think about who could best make your case. A peer won't be quite as impressive as a manager or director.
"When a direct manager, a supervisor, a CTO or a CEO are able to provide a testimonial, it's much more solid proof that the candidate you have is a valuable contributor to both their specific projects, as well as the organization as whole," Heise said. And if those are people for whom you've met or exceeded expectations, asking shouldn't be a problem. Brown recommends asking in person or via phone if you've got a good rapport. Be sure to explain if you're going to use the testimonial for, whether it be for your portfolio, your actual resume, or even if it's for a new job or a promotion.
3. Think beyond the resume
If you're thinking of adding testimonials to your resume, do consider that they will lengthen your resume which may or may not help you out. Conventional wisdom says keep your resume to one page. Staney, for example, doesn't mind longer resumes. Heise said it's totally appropriate to include a separate page of testimonials.
Speaking of which, there are other places to house your testimonials.
"A candidate who is thinking really strategically probably already has that type of information somewhere else, so link me to it," Staney said. A recruiter will be looking at your LinkedIn, or your personal blog anyway.
Brown said that a LinkedIn recommendation could carry even more weight.
Another reason to consider putting your testimonials elsewhere is that not all applicant tracking systems will be able to grab them off your resume because they're only looking for items like education, employer, and skills-based information.
In that case, it is important to make sure you've got a positive presence elsewhere. "[Make] sure that you are, in general, are out there and a lot of information about you is out there and easy to find," Staney said.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.