How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Competition is fiercer than ever amongst potential job seekers, which begs the question: how do you make your resume stand out?

Being able to apply online has made life much easier for job seekers. But that sword has a double edge: it’s also increased the number of potential job seekers.

On average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes.

So, how do you catch the attention of the recruiter going through all of them? You need an edge.

And that’s what we’re going to outline in the sections below.

Use Powerful Language

The first and most important lesson is to use powerful language. Although competition is fierce, take solace in the fact that everyone describes their experience using the same words. So, herein lies your first advantage.

Recruiters take just six seconds to scan a resume, as per The Ladders

If your resume sounds like everyone else, add another second on for them to toss it into the trash. But, if you use resume power words, they’ll spend that extra second looking it over. Recruiters have become deaf and blind to words like ‘responsible’ or ‘led,’ so this is where your first advantage is.

Keywords such as ‘initiated,’ ‘improved,’ ‘increased,’ and ‘championed’ will catch attention. When using these power verbs, it paints a clearer picture of your duties and how you produced results (hopefully). Led a profitable project?

Well, what specifically? Flesh it out using the words ‘chaired,’ ‘planned,’ or ‘produced’. Saved the company in some way? What department did you ‘rehabilitate’ or ‘restructure,’ and how? Words are power. Use them.

This leads to our next point.

Highlight Relevant Skills

When it comes to mentioning your past employment history, it’s critical you accentuate your problem-solving skills. And it’s not just about what you’ve done, but what skills helped you do it.

41% of recruiters want to skill sets listed first on resumes, according to CareerBuilder.

Showcasing how other people value your contributions has a stronger influence. So, combined with power words and explicit endorsements, lead off with your soft skills.

  • Listening
  • Leading
  • Negotiating
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • And more

When it comes to descriptions for accolades, make use of the keywords which imply recognition (‘recognized,’ ‘selected’ and ‘elected’). Don’t be afraid to leverage recommendations you have on LinkedIn either. As long as the recommenders don’t mind, which they shouldn’t if they’ve already given you a recommendation, simply copy and paste on your resume.

Quantify Your Successes

A great way to make your resume stand out is to show accomplishments. This you know. But it’s statistics relating to profit margin, sales volume, savings on expenses, grants secured or other meaningful data that will really drive it home.

Back when I worked in sales, I kept track of numbers every week. Week over week they improved. One day, I was the top seller in the store and it was recognized by management. And I had the week over week percentage growth to show it, too. That’s resume gold. So, even if you’re not in sales, what metrics matter that you can keep track of?

One easy way is to figure out the baseline for the level of activity before you were employed. Then, calculate the difference. You can get ahold of the first set of numbers by asking management.

If they inquire as to why tell them you want to make sure you’re improving things. They’ll be delighted to hand you over whatever information you need at that point, plus they’ll be ecstatic that you actually care in the first place!

If you managed anything or anyone, it’s also recommended you include figures to show the number of staff, budget, or customers who fell under your service. The statistics go a long way in demonstrating your responsibility.

Numbers that back up your claims will get you callbacks. Period.

When writing your resume, it is advised to use a simple, understandable, and conservative font. You should avoid the use of extra italics. However, you can bold the numbers or percentages for them to be easily noticed.

Tailor Your Resume To The Job

From the first word of your resume to the last, make sure you tailor it to the job.

Whether that’s by highlighting the most pertinent skills relevant to the position, key accomplishments relevant to the role or a special qualification you have that would really pique their interest.

63% of recruiters want to see resumes tailored to the position, as per CareerBuilder.

No recruiter or HR department wants to see the same cookie-cutter resume. Because it shows that you didn’t put much thought into the position. And if you didn’t put much thought into the resume for the role, how much thought would you put into the job itself?

List Core Competencies

It is essential to make use of the critical keyword phrases since most firms use the ATS (applicant tracking systems) in sorting and rating the scores during the job application process. The systems are programmed to discover and rank some related keywords.

40 percent of employers use an applicant tracking system (ATS), as per the CIO.

Therefore, it’s crucial for you to use keywords throughout your resume and cover letter. It may be wise to use the core competencies section for this purpose, which states your initial qualifications.

What’s an applicant tracking system?

An applicant tracking system, os ATS, is used in most cases to filter applicants based on programmed criteria. The ATS criteria vary and can filter applicants based on keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience, school, GPA, or even credit score.

So, be sure to include a category for training, publications, certifications, and professional development. This should touch on your past leadership with other professional groups or any other presentations or publications. Just don’t make it too long.

Recruiters and HR professionals don’t want to read novels, they want to know if you’re right for a job or not.

Make that clear.

Leave Photos Off Your Resume

The data is unclear on this. However, from personal experience, I think it’s best to skip it simply because your experience and accomplishments should do the talking for you.

Not to mention it can introduce bias into the equation, and those forces could work against you (or for you). Whether it’s your age, race, gender, weight, personal style, or religion. Why introduce more variables that could potentially disqualify you?

That’s not the right kind of risk to be taking.

At a fundamental level, it’s unnecessary. Why? Because your face has nothing to do with your abilities, and your abilities should dictate whether you get the position or not.

Don’t Use The Word ‘Resume’

Unlike the picture above, don’t use the word resume on your resume. It’s unprofessional to label “resume” at the top of the page. Because the recruiter will know the type of document they are reading. Also, another tip: don’t save the document as ‘resume’. If you save it with your name the recruiter can easily identify you before going through the resume.

Exclude Personal Data

It is advised that you should not include any other personal information which goes beyond your email, address, and phone number. Therefore, you should not include your age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, date of birth, or political affiliation with the name of your children or spouse. However, some of this information is critical to be included in a CV.

Not sure where to start? Check out these free resume templates from Venngage.

For security reasons, you should also leave off critical numbers, such as your social security number, credit card information, and driver’s license number.

Axe Irrelevant Experience

It is not recommended that you include every past job experience on your resume. Although you should include positions which you have held in the past 10 years. You can include job experience that you feel firmly showcases your qualifications.

Note: Surveys for money are a great way to make extra money on the side while job hunting. Or, consider our passive income ideas to supplement your income while working.

Therefore, you should leave out positions that are unrelated to the job. If you have limited job experience, you can also add irrelevant job experience. However, it should show how it prepared you for the current post.

Also, it is rare for most companies to dig deep into your hobbies listed in your resume. However, if it is related it can be included on the resume. This will show your skillset or interest in a particular job. Other things to exclude include:

  • Statements regarding your health
  • Personal pronouns or acronyms
  • Lengthy or overly wordy descriptions
  • Street addresses for employers and schools
  • Misleading information
  • Grammatical/spelling errors.

But there’s a caveat worth mentioning here. I’ve found that including certain hobbies–ones that could double as accomplishments–are worth mentioning.

Are you a jiu-jitsu black belt? Chess master? Mountain climber? Programmer? If you’ve accomplished something noteworthy in relation to a hobby, include it.

Some may caution against it. I think not. Why? Because these interests can indirectly highlight other critical skills, like self-discipline, analytical thinking, resilience, etc.

How Long Should My Resume Be?

The length of your resume is dependent on different factors. This relates to your level of experience and level of education. In case you are an entry-level potential job seeker, a page is more than enough. For the example of experienced job seekers, you can opt for a longer resume.

Job seekers for top-level management positions or executives often have a long list of accolades, accomplishments, and experiences which is to be included. This also relates to job seekers in the field of sciences and academia, which require the inclusion of patents, publications, or licenses. For this case, the resume can be three pages or even more in length.

However, for the case of middle-level applicants with 5-10 years of working experience, the resume can be at least two pages maximum. This gives you the chance to include all the related information and work history. In case of a field with technical skills requirements, you can add a page more. The additional page will cater to the experiences and technical skills.

When writing a resume that will stand out include all the information which makes you feel like the best-suited candidate for the job. Your choice of the resume format is dependent on your work history, experiences, and career level.

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