Imagine you’re a hiring manager or someone in HR sifting through hundreds of resumes that all look the same and no contenders in sight. You’d probably try to spend as little time as possible on each one, picking only the ones that grab your attention in less than 6 seconds, which is the average time most recruiters spend skimming over a single resume. When you’re putting together your resume, just remember that less is more. The goal is to make it past the “skim” pile and into the interview pile. So, before you click ‘submit’ on your next job application, check out these 10 ways to make your resume stand out.
1. Stick with a modern, but professional format
Sometimes it’s hard not to channel your inner Elle Woods and go all out for your dream job, but it’s probably best that you stick with a more professional format. One of the worst ways to make your resume stand out (in a bad way!) is making it obnoxious. There are tons of templates that you can find online without looking like everyone else’s. However, that just means you may want to spend a little extra time finding that perfect one. Choose one that’ll look organized and uncluttered once all of your relevant information is filled in. For careers that require a little more creativity, Canva is a great website to find unique resume templates that use the perfect blend of modern and professional.
2. Cater directly to the job description and that specific company
When HR personnel are filtering through piles of resumes, they usually already know what they’re looking for. They need to find the candidates who have experience doing exactly what’s in the job description. While your experience working in retail may be valuable for a management or supervisor position, it may not be as helpful for a career in writing or nursing. When you’re adding job experience and skills to your resume, think about how it will help your chances of getting that specific job. If you can’t find any connections, then it probably doesn’t need to be on your resume.
3. Use the summary section to describe achievements, not overused qualities
The most common and overused phrases that people still use on their resumes are “excellent communicator,” “team player,” “organized,” “results oriented,” and the list could go on. If you want your resume to stand out, you have to include information that’s specific to what you have achieved and have experience doing. Instead of describing yourself with overused words that the person before you probably used in their own summary, briefly describe what you’ve achieved. Employers want to know what’s different about you than the other applicants or what makes you more qualified, so they should be able to see that from just glancing at your resume.
4. Avoid using “filler” information
A common mistake that many high school and college students make is using filler or irrelevant information on their resume to make up for lack of experience. While this makes it appear that you have a lot of experience, it usually lands you in the pass pile. An employer knows when an applicant is being repetitive or just throwing something out there to make it seem like they’ve done a lot. So, try not to do that for better chances of landing an interview. As you’re filling out your information, make sure that you’re only including information that will help you get the job.
5. Remember to show, don’t tell
This is one of the best ways to make your resume stand out. Your goal for your resume should be to show a future employer what you’ve accomplished, rather than what your past job descriptions have been. Bullet points listed out with statements that look more like a job description are boring and can be lengthy. Instead, use strong power verbs like “increased”, “resolved,” or “improved.” This is especially important when applying for careers that deal with business and numbers.
6. Don’t overuse fancy fonts and colors
Adding a touch of color, like navy blue, can definitely help your resume stand out to HR personnel simply by giving their eyes a break from all the black and white. Adding color can sometimes hold their attention for just a few extra seconds to check out what else you have to make yourself stand out. Using two different fonts to separate your headers from paragraphs can also help your resume stand out and prevents it from just looking like a blob of words. However, it’s not recommended to use the cursive or handwritten-style fonts–those tend to be hard to read.
7. Sprinkle industry keywords throughout, but in your own voice
The key to successfully incorporating keywords into your resume is to use them conversationally, and not like you’re just repeating the job description of which you’re applying. You want to be subtle, and use them naturally. If you overuse them, which many people unfortunately still do, then your resume will likely just blend into the rest by using similar wording.
8. Use a header
Another one of the great ways to make your resume stand out is to use a header for grabbing the viewer’s attention at the first glance. Here, you can include your name, contact information and maybe even the name of the position you’re applying for. If you want to use a nicer font, size and color than the rest of your document, this is usually the best space for you to do it!
9. Review and proofread before submitting your resume
As you would do before submitting any professional document, proofreading should always be one of your final steps. There’s almost nothing worse than having solid information on your resume with errors and typos all over it. If grammar isn’t your thing, then have a friend or family member look over it to catch whatever mistakes you missed.
10. Supplement your resume with a cover letter
More than half of HR personnel, recruiters and hiring managers have said that they won’t even read or consider an applicant’s resume unless it’s accompanied by a cover letter. So, why take the risk? Craft an excellent cover letter to go with your resume and your chances of landing an interview will be that much better.
What ways to make your resume stand out have you used successfully? Let us know in the comments!
Recent Barry University graduate and Florida girl living in Dallas. If I'm not up writing or editing at 3AM, then I'm probably still up binge-watching Grey's Anatomy, again.