Resume Help: How to make your references jump off the page

Are you having trouble finding a job after graduation? How  many of you recent graduates are still un- or under-employed (in a job you didn’t need your degree to get)? If the statistics are accurate, at least half of you haven’t found your dream job yet.  And, the odds are not good that you will find that job any time soon.

Why the hell not?

You might think it’s because of your lack of experience, or the fact that you are competing with older and wiser professionals also vying for some of the same jobs you are.

But that might not be the whole problem.

Part of your problem might be simple to fix.

It’s called pizzaz:, being memorable, standing out from the crowd, showing your technical savvy, eliciting a “wow” from the hiring manager.

And it’s as simple as putting a QR Code or two on your resume.

Resume help

When you’re trying to find a job after graduation, QR Codes can become your best friend.

QR Codes are those squares that look like a very pixelated black and white image. You’ve seen them everywhere but you might not have known what they were or what they did. Or you’ve heard of them but never used them.

Until recently, I didn’t either. But what I have learned about them thus far is that they could very well be part of the answer to your current jobless status. At the very least, QR Codes seem to be able to help move your resume past the trash straight into the “candidates to interview file.”

How? You can put QR Codes on your resume that will send hiring managers to videos of you and your best reference with the simple click of the QR Code Reader in their smart phone.

Those videos make you and your references come alive. They change an inanimate, dull, look-alike object (your resume) into a multi-media experience. Students who’ve used them with Degrees2Dreams always report “shock and awe” on the part of the hiring manager when they show them their QR Code-loaded resume.

QR Codes might seem intimidating, but they are ridiculously easy to make. Simply go to a QR Code generator site like (also includes downloadable reader and analytics to see how your QR Code is doing and who’s using it) or (with customizable features), and you’ll instantly be set apart from your peers.

But let’s take a step back for a second and let me ask you a question: What does your resume look like?

Is it simply a whole lot of gray text with your references squished in at the bottom of the page or not even there at all? Maybe you have what we think is one of the dumbest resume features of all: The “references available upon request” phrase at the bottom.

Yeah, we know your college career office told you not to include references. Well, they’re dead wrong. If you’ve got great references from cool people in your field, the chances are very good the hiring manager might know your references personally or at least know their reputation. Thus your references become an instant stamp of approval on your candidacy. Hiring managers see a name they recognize and respect and say to themselves, “Wow, Pete thought enough of this candidate to allow his name to be used as a reference?! She must be worth checking out!”

So, get rid of that stupid “references available upon request” phrase. Right now!

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Next, to make your references REALLY pop,, choose your best reference and ask him or her to film a short 30-45 second video of themselves talking about you and your qualifications for a job in your field.

Once you get that video, you will create a QR Code that will bring anyone with a QR Code reader application on their smartphone directly to that video. The phone scans the code and brings you to its destination: a website, a picture, or in this case, a video. Visit to get the best reader for you.

So, why go to all this trouble? For many reasons, but most notably these three.

  1. Using QR Codes, especially on resumes, is extremely rare, but using one to feature a video of one of your references is pretty much unheard of. Having one will impress a hiring manager and show that you are up-to-date with the latest technology. Not to mention, you are using it in a unique way, which shows creativity.
  2. These days, having a resume is like having a cell phone; everyone has one, and pretty much the same-looking one for that matter. A video reference will transform your boring resume into a multi-media experience, and bring your reference to life. You will be remembered because you were different than the hundreds of other resumes they scanned that day.
  3. Hiring managers are overwhelmed with more applicants than they can handle. So, just think, if you received hundreds of resumes, all of which look alike except one (yours!), and yours invited that hiring manager to try out a video, which one is he or she going to remember?  That’s right, the applicant who went above and beyond to make sure you had everything, so you as a hiring manager didn’t have to waste any of your precious time chasing them for a simple reference.

Now that you are caught up on why a video reference with a QR Code is the way to go, here is what you should start thinking of in creating your own.

1. Choosing your reference: Think highly of yourself.

  • Which reference knows you best and is likely to say the most wonderful things about you and your work?
  • Which reference has a bigger personality that will shine through in the video and make you look good?
  • Which reference will be most comfortable speaking in front of a camera? You want your video to be appealing to watch; it can be distracting if the person is nervous and stumbles on words or fidgets a lot. But it can also be boring if their reference seems too rehearsed. Choose a reference who will find that happy medium.

2. Use your keywords: If you have a set of keywords either from a specific job or from generic job descriptions of positions you’re applying for (and you should), ask your reference if they would be comfortable incorporating them into the video. The more a hiring manager sees and hears those keywords, the you will appeal to a hiring manager looking for exactly those traits and skills and attitudes. Use your keywords everywhere. They and your professional photo (which should also be on your resume) become your brand

3. Location is everything: If you’re filming your reference (or want to give him or her advice about how to do it), choosing where to film the video is almost as important as choosing who will be the focus. The most important consideration: Keep it simple.

  • Having items in the background like photos, fireplaces, or even windows can be distracting. Instead, choose a background that is neutral in color like an empty wall, or one with a consistent style like brick. Or, film in a spot that is relevant to what you would like to pursue, such as a lab or a library or a newsroom or an office.
  • Be sure the subject is not back-lit. Avoid having windows behind him or her.
  • Use the rule of thirds. Having the reference sit in the middle of the shot is boring. Placing them in the left or right of the frame is much more appealing.
  • Make sure there is no background noise that may interfere with your reference’s voice . You may even want to consider getting a lapel microphone so you can capture the sound loud and clear. (They’re cheap at places like Radio Shack.)

4. Keep it short: A video reference can aid your chances of getting a job, but if your reference video is too long, a hiring manager could get bored or restless and decide you’re not so hot after all. By keeping the video between 30 and 45 seconds, the reference is forced to get right to the point about your top skills and work ethic. Short is sweet, and the hiring manager will get a clear and concise picture of you without having to waste a lot of their time.

5. Strive for perfection: If your reference is willing, shoot a few takes. Better to be safe than sorry.

6. Test it out!: One of the worst things that can happen is to create a QR Code and put it on your resume, website, cover letters, and business cards but fail to check to make sure it works! It can be too small or the reproduction isn’t crisp enough. Whatever. You will go from a “wow” candidate to a dumb candidate in a hurry if your cool QR Code is a dud. Avoid putting yourself in this situation, by always testing your QR Code to make sure it works.

7. Make it visible: If your reference doesn’t mind, post the video on YouTube and tag it with your name and/or the names of the companies you wish to work for. The more people who see the video, the greater your chances of getting a job. Use your keywords in the description of the video, too!

8. Don’t surprise your references: The main reason career counseling officers say not to include references on your resume is to prevent them from getting surprise phone calls looking for a reference. Well, how stupid would you be to NOT alert your references that you’re applying for a specific job and, by the way, here are some things I’d like you to say if you’re willing. Notify your references ahead of time that you have applied for a particular job so they aren’t caught off-guard. This gives them the chance to be ready with knowledge of the company and position you are applying for, and why you would be an asset to their team.

You now have all the information you need to put your QR Code video reference on your resume, so get started! You will be dedicating a very short amount of time for a big return.

So if you’re un- or under-employed, don’t panic. Just follow these simple steps (and some of the others on this blog), and you’ll be doing what you love in no time.

What are your opinions on this topic? Do you have a QR Code video reference or have you thought of using one? For those of you who have one, do you have any advice for those who don’t? Dos and don’ts, problems you’ve encountered, or tricks you have figured out? We would love to hear from you! Comment below, or send your thoughts to [email protected].

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