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In a recent video on his YouTube channel, doctor-turned-startup founder Ali Abdaal shares everything he has learned as an employer who has read more than 2,000 job applications over the last few years. “If you do want to apply or get your dream job, then to be honest, the work starts way before you actually apply,” he says. “You want to build a portfolio of skills and assets that will convince your employer to take you on rather than someone else who’s applied for the job.”
One of the best pieces of advice he has to offer when writing your resume is to keep it short and sweet. While your first impulse might be to include every piece of information about your entire working life in order to make the best case for your skills and experience, the last thing any prospective employer wants to do is read six pages. The fact is, they simply won’t. A one-pager, on the other hand, is that much likelier to help you get an interview.
“If you do have tons of experience, there’s no harm in tailoring your CV to the specific job that you want to apply for,” says Abdaal. “The mistake people make here is that they take a scattergun approach, but you’re not going to land your dream job if you apply for 5,000 jobs with the same CV. Figure out what are the jobs you actually want… and figure out ways to adjust your CV so it fits onto one page, maybe two at the absolute max, but you get rid of all the stuff that is not relevant to that job.”
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When it comes to writing a cover letter or email, Abdaal advises “leading with value.” This means, rather than stating all of the reasons you want the job, explain the reasons you think you would be a good fit. “If you want, it can just be a numbered list of bullet points as to specifically the company should hire you,” he says.
Something a little more nebulous but no less important, Abdaal adds, is striking the right tone in your cover letter. In other words, you have to pass the vibe check. He posits that overly formal language might make you come across as dry and boring if your goal is to work at a lively startup. “Even if the person has a lot of experience, it kind of makes you think they don’t really get it,” he says.
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.
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