5 top tips to making your resume standout
Serious career seekers live and die by the quality of their resume. When applying for that once-in-a-life-time opportunity you need your resume to standout and jump to the top of the pile. You may have the skills, enthusiasm, and ability to be their perfect candidate but it’s not always easy to show that in one sheet of paper that may get little more than a quick glance over, stacked among the hopes of 55 other hungry candidates. It’s crucial you get it right.
To help you get your resume noticed for all the right reasons, here are our 5 top tips to making your resume standout:
Write a strong profile
The profile paragraph is an important feature of the modern resume, not only does it take up the most valuable real estate of you resume but in some cases it may be the only that actually gets read.
One mistake many job seekers make is to cram it with self-describing words such as ‘creative’, ‘resourceful’, ‘excellent communicator’, ‘team player’. They may be powerful words and be exactly what the employer is looking for, but trust me, most other applicants are writing the same words and alone they mean very little. Instead of just listing keywords that the employer is obviously looking for, you need to write examples of your experience and achievements to show you have these attributes.
If you are going to say you creative or resourceful, immediately follow it up with examples of achievements or experiences you’ve had which back up such claims. Another way of looking at the profile section of your resume is to see you resume as a movie about your career so far with the profile section being a trailer for the movie. A good trailer will be short and sweet but it will give you a real taste of what is to come. A good trailer can’t just list the reasons why it should be watched, it must also show you why it must not be missed. A good resume should be the same, it should be a solid paragraph highlighting your best and most relevant skills, talents and experiences, and leave the reader wanting to read the whole resume.
Use a simple design
One way to ensure your resume won’t even get read is by using a complicated or over-the-top design. Long winded paragraphs and bad formatting is also likely to get your resume dropped to the bottom of the pile, you may have a lot you want to say but it’s crucial that you are economical with your words and keep you resume as neat and simple as possible.
One thing to consider is that the employer is likely going to have a lot of resume to read through and very little time to do it in, so a neatly laid out resume with lots of white space, short paragraphs, and bullet points highlighting key info, is going to be very favorable to their eye and help grab their attention.
Don’t try to be clever or use creative layouts and formatting hoping to grab attention, it will often have the reverse effect. Instead stick to tried and trusted layouts and use traditional fonts (such as Arial or Times New Roman), at point 10 or 11.
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List achievements rather than responsibilities
Responsibilities say little more than what you were ‘supposed’ to do. Employers don’t just want to read a list of all the job descriptions you’ve been awarded, their task is to work out how good you were at each role you were given, what you achieved in each role, what skills, knowledge and ingenuity you brought to the company, and how you have developed so far in your career.
As a basic rule, when listing your past jobs and work experience rather than just list the tasks and responsibilities you were given try to focus on what you accomplished in each role. Try to show how you lived up to and beyond expectations, and how you excelled in the position, or at least try to show that you grew into the position and what valuable experience and skills you learned.
Be economical with information and language
It’s been noted already but it’s worth talking about this in more detail. It’s almost as important knowing what not to include in your resume as what to include. You may have a long list of education, jobs, and personal achievements you wish to list in detail, but overloading your resume with long paragraphs of information (no matter how relevant it is), will often have a very negative effect.
One page of neatly laid out information should be enough for most job applications. Make sure to list all your major, relevant achievements, and the key info to go with them, but try to not go overboard with the information and make sure it’s left easy on the eye. If the info you put on your resume is to the point and shows you have the ability and skills to perform the role well, then it’s highly likely you’ll be invited along for an interview where you can expand on your achievements and experience in person.
Customize your resume to every job
This may be the last of our tips but it’s perhaps the most important. There is actually no perfect resume you can send out to every job, and many career seekers make the error of writing one resume and mailing it out to every opportunity they see. Don’t be lazy, study each job you are applying for and customize your resume to each application.
Scour the job ad and company information to get a good understanding of what skills and experience the employer is looking for and rewrite your resume to highlight your most relevant info. The best way to do this it to rewrite your profile paragraph for each job you apply for, targeting the key words the employer will be looking for, but as noted before, making sure to back up each keyword with short and clear examples.
One final warning to go with this last tip: while it’s important to highlight all your achievements and experiences and do so to suit each role you apply for, there is often a temptation to exaggerate or stretch the truth regarding such information. While it’s important to highlight all your positives, make sure you can back them up in an interview situation, as it’s likely you’ll be asked to do so if you make it to the next stage.