Testimonials and Quotes on a Resume: Yay or Nay?

Jul 22, 2020 | Resumes

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They’ll either improve your chances… or waste valuable space. Read one of our resume writers’ personal take on whether including testimonials or quotes on your resume is a good idea.

By: Matt Dupee | Resume Writer for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Quotes and testimonials from candidates’ references are becoming a relatively common feature on resumes, especially for executives. As with many resume elements, there are conflicting opinions in the industry on these: some like them, some hate them.

But you’re here because you’re wondering about one thing: would a testimonial be a good addition to your resume? As with everything in the resume world, it depends on the context. Let’s dig in.

My personal take as a resume writer…

The short answer is that I do use testimonials and quotes on some of my resumes. However, there is a strategy to this, and it’s important to understand when to say ‘Yay’ and when to say ‘Nay’.

A testimonial or quote from a previous or current co-worker, manager, or client can speak volumes about the value you’ll bring to your next role. That’s why we encourage our clients to collect as many testimonials on LinkedIn as possible. It gives your profile some teeth and demonstrates that what you say about your qualifications is backed up by a real experience and a real person.

But if that applies on LinkedIn, does it apply on your resume? While I do occasionally use testimonials and quotes on resumes, they are not for everyone. Entry-level and mid-management candidates should be very hesitant about using them. Here’s why:

—Any type of call-out aside from standard resume sections, including testimonials and quotes in a text box or chart, will likely not be read by the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that you’ll encounter when applying online. In fact, these items can negatively impact the ATS and cause your resume to be rejected before being seen by a human.

—Folks in the early stages of their careers have usually not done enough to justify a testimonial or quote on their resume. Your resume always needs to be as short as possible, and in your case, we need this valuable real estate to highlight your accomplishments in past roles and target keywords to pass through the ATS.

—It looks out of place for a non-executive candidate. You haven’t really built up the clout yet. Give it some time and at some point, you’ll be able to add that quote!

Who can benefit from testimonials or quotes?

As I said above, if you are an entry-level or mid-career candidate, you can stop reading. The answer is: don’t waste space with a quote or testimonial on your resume.

If you are an executive-level candidate, you may benefit from adding a testimonial or quote to your resume. But it’s also important to understand that even if you are an executive or have 20+ years of experience, you still may not be best served by this strategy. 

Some of the best roles for using a quote or testimonial are:

  • C-Level Executives
  • Marketing Director or above
  • High-Level Communications/PR Professionals
  • Sales Executives (especially Pharmaceutical Sales)

These are just a few examples. Why do testimonials work for them? In all of these roles, the candidate is building relationships as a primary function. A testimonial can directly speak to their ability to build relationships and can be a great addition in the right circumstance.

Use these criteria to determine whether a testimonial would truly improve your resume, or if more accomplishments and other content will be a better use of space. 

But didn’t you say adding a testimonial or quote to my resume will cause problems in the ATS?

You got me. But I solved this problem a long time ago. The real problem with testimonials/quotes in the ATS is not the actual words, but how they’re usually formatted in a text box or call-out. This formatting will make the quote look nice, but it means it won’t be read by the ATS, which causes problems for you. So, when I write a resume for an executive or another candidate that may benefit from a testimonial or quote, I will also write them an ATS-compliant resume without the quote. 

An example of a quote on a resume formatted in a text box.

Putting a testimonial in a text box or call-out looks very nice… but it can cause ATS problems.

(If you want testimonials on an ATS-compliant version of your resume, you can include them as plain text at the top or in the bullets under your roles in your Professional Experience section, as long as they’re not in a text box or other element. In my opinion, this is a waste of space, but if you feel you must get a quote in, then this is the way to go to still make it past the ATS.)

With an ATS-compliant version, you have something to use when applying for roles online through job boards (like Indeed or ZipRecruiter), LinkedIn, or company websites. 

But when you’re planning on applying for a job through your network and either hand-delivering or emailing your resume to prospective recruiters or companies, then you won’t have to worry about ATS! By all means, use the version of the resume that features testimonials and quotes, and even graphs or color. (Just don’t overdo it and distract from your content.)

Plus, if you use the ATS-compliant version to apply online, you can also bring the version with testimonials or quotes to the employer after making it through the ATS. You can email it to your contact for the application process and/or bring it to the interview.

This not only provides an additional touchpoint in the application process — it improves your chances by making a personal connection with the person who makes the decision about your next job!

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