If you let it be, customer service can be the most rewarding of jobs. A job in which it’s easy to see the difference that you, your product, and your company make in people’s lives. A job where you can literally make or break someone’s day.
How many people can say that?
Of course, cons also exist. It isn’t just puppies and rainbows — you get the unfixable issues that make you feel powerless, you have to deal with frustrated customers all the while making sure you’re not getting frustrated and so on. But every customer service rep I’ve ever spoken to has said the same thing: it’s all worth it, at the end of the day, when you get to put a smile on someone’s face.
But you already knew that, didn’t you? You’re here for the good stuff and not for my cutting edge introduction skills so I’ll just go right to the chase—putting together a great resume for customer service jobs and finding great jobs. By the end of this article, I hope to have helped you:
– Figure out a structure for your resume
– Frame your cover letter
– Shown you how to beat an ATS and
– Find some good job boards to monitor for great opportunities.
Let’s get cracking.
Customer Service Resumes
Resumes are meant to give people a brief gist of your qualifications. When I say qualifications, I mean: what you know, what you’ve done, and who can verify all of the information you just provided (aka references)? The real justification lies in your cover letter but we’ll get to that later.
First, your resume!
The art of writing a great resume is actually pretty straightforward. You ready to hear it?
K.I.S.S – Keep it simple, silly.
Resumes are meant to be brief one-pagers that people can quickly scan to make sure you check all the boxes on their checklist. So the important thing to keep in mind is: K.I.S.S. As for design, pick a format that doesn’t make your resume look dense and wordy. Something like this is perfect.
A resume can be ordered in three different styles:
– Chronological (first job first). This is the most frequently used style and is great if you want to showcase your experience in a particular field but if you’re switching jobs, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
– Functional. Skills become sections and your experience at different companies become references for your skills.
– A mix of both.
Pick whatever format works for you. Just remember that the tried-and-tested order is: work experience, education, references plus other sections you’d like to include like hobbies. Every resume also has some must-haves:
– Your name and contact information (email and phone number, preferably)
– Social media links. Include only the ones that are relevant to the profile. For example, if you’re applying for a social media marketing position, include Twitter. If you’re inactive, leave it out. If you’ve only ever used your social profile to complain about services, leave it out.
– Objectives are not must-haves. Any objective/declaration you have can be made in the cover letter. There’s no need to put it on your resume.
*A note about fonts: Pick a font that’s easy to read and make sure to use the same font throughout, no matter how strong the urge. If you have trouble finding a font that expresses your personality, Monster made a list of popular fonts that you can pick from. Remember, the more familiar a font, the easier it is for the recruiter to read your resume.
**A second note about fonts: When I say, “Use the same font throughout”, I do not mean that you should use the same font size. Use a decreasing font size starting with the headings, sub-headings, and body. Use rich text formatting when you want to highlight for emphasis.
#2 What You Know aka Education and Software
Keep this brief, even if it’s relevant. Most often, this is just a checkbox to recruiters — “Do they have a GED? Have they been to college?”. So there’s no point elaborating on how your degree in mechanical engineering will help you support the customers of a water bottle that lights up when you forget to drink water.
If you’ve used any popular support software, a helpdesk like Freshdesk or a chat support software,- mention it. Some companies need you to get started asap and they’ll be relieved to hear that they don’t have to train you in the tool they use before you can get cracking.
#3 What You’ve Done aka Work Experience
Here are some essential points to keep in mind while crafting your work experience section:
– Bullet points provide clarity. Use bullet points to name key achievements and projects. Even if you’ve got a lot of projects to list, keep it brief and relevant. If you’ve won an award, this is where you mention it. But if you’ve won multiple awards, they deserve their own section.
– Focus on achievements, not responsibilities. The goal of a resume is to showcase what you’ve done and not what you’re supposed to do.
– Make your bullet points strong. A bullet point is strong for two specific reasons: it’s backed up a number and it showcases a specific achievement. You led a team, yes, but you know what’s more impressive? The fact that your team had an average 95% customer satisfaction rate during your tenure. Quantify whenever you can.
– Show, don’t tell. Do not mention personality quirks like you’re good at interpersonal relationships or that you’re empathetic. Everyone says they’re empathetic and are good at interpersonal relationships. This is something you need to show and not tell. And the best way to show is with a reference. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Call out the highlights in bold. Even though it’s a one-pager, no one will read your resume fully. Highlight whatever you want people to remember about you.
#4 Who Can Verify All of This aka References
You can talk about your amazing people skills and your EQ until the sun falls down but it won’t really count until someone backs you up in your assertions. Because, trust me, everyone who applies to the job will be saying the exact. same. thing.
You need to stand out from the crowd and the best way to do so is with your references. With testimonials, you’re showing, not just telling. This is infinitely more impressive than a personal essay because you have proof that other people think you’re pretty awesome at what you do too.
The perfect references are a trifecta of a peer, a manager and a customer. Someone who’s had the opportunity to work with you, someone who’s managed you, and someone you’ve worked for. If you’re a people manager, the fourth reference would be from a reportee.
Peers can attest to your great interpersonal relationship skills, customers can confirm that you’re a very empathetic individual and managers can attest for your goal setting and achievement process.
Collect references from all three types and you’re golden. If you can’t find a customer to act as your reference, use customer satisfaction survey responses to showcase your skills.
What about ATS?
Hiring is mostly a digital process now so you might apply for a job, get selected, interview for a job, get an offer, accept it and join the company without any kind of paperwork involved whatsoever. An ATS (read applicant tracking system) is something recruiters use to manage the entire hiring process. Recruiters can post jobs to job boards, use it to manage employee referrals, schedule interviews, collect feedback, make offers, the whole shebang.
A lot of candidates are concerned about an ATS (specifically about beating one) because recruiters sometimes use applicant tracking software to screen resumes. Some ATS allow for recruiters to set up keyword filters that check resumes for certain keywords and rejects them if those keywords are not found.
For instance, if someone is hiring for a customer service lead, they might set up a filter to reject resumes without “customer service lead” in them because they want people who already have experience. The way an ATS does this is that it parses resumes and checks keywords against the content.
The only thing I can say for that is: Use the job description to get keyword clues. If they’ve mentioned that they’re looking for someone who’s used a helpdesk, and you have, use the word “helpdesk” and not “customer support software” even if that’s what you’ve been calling it all your life. This way, you can be sure that your resume will “beat” the ATS.
A Proofreading Checklist
Even the most impressive of resumes will fail to win a recruiter over, if badly formatted/written. Grammatical mistakes and spelling errors only show that you haven’t paid any attention to your resume and that you’re probably not very interested in the job because if you were, you’d have made sure to proofread.
So make sure to run a careful eye over your resume before you send it to a recruiter. You can also use a tool like Grammarly to do a basic grammar check or ask a friend to look it over.
We made you a proofreading checklist too:
– Is everything formatted correctly? Any sentences where there should be bullet points? Any out of place icons?
– Is your font clear and easy to read?
– Have you used consistent tense throughout your resume?
– Have you used too much jargon?
And finally, the last but most important tip of them all. The deal breaker.
Name your file something that will help the recruiter find it easily.
Recruiters read tens and hundreds of resumes and their downloads folders are filled with countless variations of “My_Resume” and “Job_title_resume” so name your file well and make it count.
All of these points are great, if you’ve already got customer service experience. But what if you haven’t? That’s where a cover letter comes into play.
Writing a Customer Service Cover Letter
A cover letter is where you really need to sell yourself. A convincing cover letter can get you an interview even if you have a skill gap, as compared to other candidates. So, when you’re writing a cover letter, keep in mind that: any customer interaction you have can be counted for customer service experience.
In today’s world, we’re all customer service agents. Even though I’m a marketer all of the time, I’ve often had the opportunity to answer chats and reply to support tickets. You can spin any customer interaction you’ve had to showcase your skills.
Cover Letter Format
Not counting the salutation and signature, a cover letter has three main sections:
– The hook
– Why you’re perfect for the company
– Why the company is perfect for you
#1 The hook
The hook is what gets the attention of the person reading the letter. It’s the most important part of your letter because if the hook isn’t catchy, then the rest of your letter might as well not exist.
As this excellent article explains in detail, the key to writing a catchy hook is making it all about the company. Highlight the most important requirement in the job description and use it to frame your hook.
If the company is looking for someone to help write documentation for users so they can help themselves, this is what I’d do:
ApplePie is one of my favorite companies to work for, not just because of all the cool stuff like the remote working situation, but because of your commitment to giving the best support possible to customers. I too am deeply passionate about customer support, especially user education, which is why I built a knowledge base with FAQs for Acme Inc., thus reducing ticket creation by 30% and freeing up the support team to focus on strategy.
The hook has to make sure that their eyes pop out and they don’t even look at any cover letter beyond yours.
#2 Why You’re Perfect for the Company
This is the part where you showcase your goals and achievements so that it complements the company’s job description. This is the part where you pull out the big guns and sell yourself.
Just remember to prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Also, if you have an anecdote, use it. Just make sure to frame it in terms of the impact of your actions, rather than the effort you put in. You stayed up all night to help a customer with an issue, yeah, but what did that lead to? Did the customer decide to upgrade as a result of your efforts? Did it help you institute a process that led to less cancellations or more upgrades? You get the picture.
Let’s say that ApplePie needs not just someone who can help write documentation for users so they can help themselves but also someone who will work with the product team to build tools that help increase the quality of support.
In my current role at Acme, I have worked on all of our support initiatives, both transactional and strategic. Last year, my key initiative was to build the knowledge base to deflect tickets and reduce resolution rate by 30%. I also worked with the product team to identify FAQs and build a bot that could handle commonly asked questions.
#3 Why the Company is Perfect for You
Now that you’ve stated why you’re perfect for the job, you have to convince them that this is a job you’ll stick to.
So, talk about an upcoming project and all the ways in which you can enhance your knowledge by working on it.
I know that ApplePie’s plans involve a comprehensive knowledge base, including both written articles and videos. This is perfect for me because I would love to leverage and build upon my video creation and execution skills to achieve your goals.
#4 The Closer
#TBT my earlier advice: K.I.S.S.
The simplest way to wind up would be by saying you’d love to get in touch and talk about the kind of value you’d bring to the table.
I would love the opportunity to discuss your support initiatives and see how my experience can help ApplePie achieve its goals.
…and other similar, not smarmy, statements.
Now, time for some actionable advice:
– A cover letter is where you explain why you are the best person for the job and this particular company. So, do your research and find out what the company is looking for. See if you can connect with someone who’s already doing what you want to do and get some tips.
– Show, don’t tell. If you have a screenshot of a customer compliment or a commendation from a manager, insert it to add weight to your cover letter.
Bonus – Customer Service Jobs
Now, that you have a resume and a cover letter, it’s time to find that job. We’ve put together a list of job boards that you can check frequently for job openings. We’ve divided this list into customer service job boards and general job boards.
#1 Everything Job Boards
#2 Support Specific Job Boards
– We work remotely
– Working Nomads
#3 Job boards for women
– Women for Hire
– Women’s Job List
– Women Who Code
– Hire Tech Ladies
– Power to fly
– Levo League
– Career Cantessa
You should also considering joining support communities like Support Driven where support reps gather to discuss work. This way, you can make a few friends, pick up a few tips and maybe even find your next job. Life’s kinda funny like that.