Instead of resume use JIST card to highlight strengths, downplay gaps

If you have gaps in your work history or if you want to set yourself apart from other job seekers, think about creating a JIST card and using it instead of a resume.

JIST stands for Job Information Seeking and Training and was coined by Michael Farr, a career expert and author. He also came up with the idea of the JIST card, which is like a mini-resume, and you can use it to highlight your strengths without including any information that might be detrimental to your job search.

A JIST card basically includes your name, contact information and a summary of your experience in a paragraph. You can use this paragraph to highlight the work you’ve done and the skills you’ve developed. Since there is no list of the jobs you have held, a JIST card doesn’t show any periods that you weren’t working or even the names of the companies you worked for.

The beauty of a JIST card is that not only is it unique, but it also has nothing that can be perceived of as negative, and you can send them out with a cover letter instead of a resume.

Like a resume, a JIST card is just a key to open the door to a face-of-face meeting or interview and in many ways might do it better than a resume. According to some studies, resumes only get a cursory glance of a few seconds each, which is hardly enough time to really see what a job applicant has to offer. In the same amount time, a hiring manager can see a snapshot of what you have accomplished from a JIST card.

In order to create a JIST card, sit down for a brainstorming session and write down your best examples of job experience and skills. Then write up a paragraph describing them, as in the example below. Since your JIST card is just a quick summary, be sure to only focus on the things that you think the hiring managers will find most impressive.

JIST cards are usually 3”x5” but can be any size. You can get perforated card stock divided into 3”x5”-sized cards from an office supply store and print them on your computer then tear them apart.

Another way to make JIST cards is to set up a template on a computer and get them printed and cut at a copy shop. If you don’t know how to create a template, get help from someone who does.  You’ll probably want to make at least 100 to begin with, but you can always do more later. While some people recommend printing them on pastel-colored cards to help them stand out, like in the case of resumes, white is more professional. Just the fact that it is a JIST card will make it distinctive.

Once you print you JIST cards, you can:

  • Send them out with a cover letter instead of a resume.
  • Leave with the receptionist or better yet the hiring manager, if you walk into a company without an interview.
  • Give them to local businesses that might have contacts with suppliers.
  • Hand them out to family and friends.
  • Email employers with your card as a PDF or Word attachment.
  • Include two or three cards with each hand delivered application.
  • Take them to job fairs.
  • Send them out with a cover letter instead of a resume.
  • Bring extra cards for in-person interviews to leave with the interviewer.
  • Include one with each employer thank you note you send.

Although there are different layout styles for JIST cards, here’s what the text of  one could look like:


Jack Pierson

Position: Carpenter’s assistant

Phone: (xxx) 825-3765


Four years of experience in a variety of home construction and remodeling projects, including window and door framing, cabinet work and appliance installation in projects that included kitchens and bathrooms. Experience with a wide range of hand and power tools, skilled in reading blueprints, able to communicate effectively and an excellent problem solver.

Hard working, reliable, honest and cheerful.


Although there is plenty of information online about JIST cards, you may also want to read a book about them. Here are several books that include information on JIST cards that can be ordered online or possibly found in a library:

The Very Quick Job Search Activity Book

The Next Day Job Interview: Prepare Tonight and Get the Job Tomorrow

Same Day Resume


For other articles on this topic, click on the hyperlink next to Posted in below:

Posted in Job Search Tips.

Won’t you please join us? $20 will sponsor free one-on-one job search coaching. $30 will help to create more free or low-cost tattoo removal programs. Together we can make a difference. Jails to Jobs, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is staffed by volunteers.
Donate now via Paypal

One Comment

  1. I am very interested in re-entry information. I work at a detention center located in Los Angeles County. I would like to include any information you have available that will help my students/inmates. Please feel free to contact me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *