Most hiring managers and HR personnel have ways of weeding out candidates as quickly as possible.
That is why we asked experts to provide practical advice on how to make your resume stand out from the crowd.
Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish
Owner, Feather Communications |
Author, Getting Back in the Game: How to Build Your Resume After Taking a Break
Don’t include an objective
No one cares about your objective. The company cares about what you can do for them. How are you going to make their job easier? Stating that you are looking to “…grow your leadership abilities while enhancing their organization…” isn’t helping your cause.
Be sure to add a career summary
Provide the company with a high-overview of you as a job candidate. It only needs to be a three to five-line summary that gives several skill-sets and aligns with keywords in the job search. Please know that this is the first part of the resume.
Add a skills section
If you don’t have a qualifications/skills/core competencies/areas of expertise section, you are missing out. And, more importantly, companies are missing out on you. This is the place to utilize those keywords used in the job posting.
Don’t include dates with your education
Unless you graduated from college last Saturday, the year you graduated no longer matters. In fact, at some point, that information could start to hurt you and could potentially bring about age discrimination. And, if you are yet to graduate from college, put your estimated date of month and year of graduation on your resume.
Include only relevant and more recent jobs
While I loved my job as a bank teller in high school, that was more than 20+ years ago and is no longer relevant. You don’t need to include very single job that you have ever had on your resume. Think relevance over quantity of past job experiences.
Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D.
CEO, D. Boyer Consulting |
Author, Human Resource Professionals in Government Contracting Guidebook
Stop trying to make the resume look like a work of art
No one sees the original resumes once they are uploaded in the Automatic Tracking Systems (ATS) – those original resumes get parsed over to Boolean searchable SQL databases and converted to text files – recruiters may never see the ‘pretty.’
Stop believing a resume should only be two pages
It’s perfectly ok to go to a third page if your experience and history are rich and diverse. Use the third page for certifications, training, awards, and recognition. You can always print a double-side first and second page to take to job fairs.
Identify what you really need
Know the difference between a bio (one-page intro), a resume (2-4 page job history for 10-15 years), and a Curriculum Vitae (Latin for life-story) which can run 20-30 pages long (academic institution job search).
Avoid long paragraphs as your ‘Objective’
When you are writing the ‘Objective’ at the top of the resume, all you need is the job title for which you are applying. Avoid the long boring subjective paragraph that recruiters roll their eyes at and skip over.
Summarize your ‘general’ type of jobs in years of experience list at the top of the resume, e.g., 5 years, Supervisory Management, 10 years, Technical Analyst (military, federal government), etc.
Keep the font simple
It can either be Arial or Times New Roman between 10 and 12 points tall; do not make larger fonts for your name or locations or objective lines – this doesn’t help and makes the resume look amateurish.
Ron Auerbach, MBA
Career Coach | Consultant | Author, Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success
Make sure your formatting is professional and appropriate for what you’re seeking
So the first impression they will get is the overall visual look. And if that doesn’t impress them, they won’t look at the content, no matter how great it is. FYI, this is why a lot, if not most resume templates you find on the Internet fail so miserably.
Make sure your resume is error and mistake-free
Free of typos, grammatical issues, and other mistakes. Why is this so important? The reason is very simple. You are being judged by your actions and inaction. So having mistakes or errors on your resume equate to your either being this way on the job, which isn’t good! Or it means you missed it, which isn’t good either!
Worst of all is you did notice the problem(s) and did nothing about it! On the job, do we want people to notice but leave problems alone? No way!
Realize that the most important piece of information on there is your name
When there’s a stack of resumes on someone’s pile, making sure that yours stands out from others is important. So you want your name to be the biggest thing on there. That way, it screams out, “This is my resume!”
Make sure your resume is tailored for what you’re seeking
So while you can create an excellent generic resume, it may not work in every case. So you do need to tweak and/or make major revisions accordingly. The same with a resume you’ve used lots of other times for that kind of work of that specific job. The requirements and/or specific role you’ll play can vary company-to-company. Thus, you must revise things as needed in order to successfully get through the screening.
Ensure your resume is ATS fully-compliant
The last thing you can afford when you’re job hunting is your resume automatically being rejected or not being accurately read. So making sure you have your resume in an ATS-compliant fashion is key to getting it noticed. Something else you should do to stand out is incorporate keywords they’ll be looking for. And inserting those keywords into various sections of your resume so, no matter where they’re looking, you will have the kinds of things they’ll want and will be impressed by.
Use the right mix of quantitative and qualitative information
FYI, despite what some advocate, you do not always need to include numbers of some type to impress. Qualitative data, when presented in the right way, can work equally well. Sometimes, even better! For example:
- “Increased revenues by 35%”
Notice how I used numbers here. Now, this may really impress. Then again, it’s a matter of how they’ll react to 35%. Is this really a big enough increase to be considered “impressive?” That is the unknown question! So you might actually stand out better with being qualitative rather than quantitative here. For example:
- “Dramatically increased revenues”
- “Significantly increased revenues”
Notice how I’m leaving numbers out here and using a qualifier in the description to showcase the increase. And with “dramatically” and “significant” being subjective whereby each reader has their own range of what numbers it could be, you’re playing into this as a way to impress. So it’s an excellent way to get around numbers that you may think are impressive but they do not. Thus, do not underestimate the power of being qualitative!
Consider page length
A resume, no matter what level of responsibility and/or experiences you have, should be above two pages. First of all, going beyond two pages is too much for them to be reading when they have lots of applications to go through and other tasks on their platter. So help them out by reducing not increasing their workload!
Secondly, two pages are more than enough space to convince them you’re qualified and worth considering for employment. If you cannot do so with this many pages, you never will! So you do not need to go overboard in your background and qualifications, which is where a lot of job seekers going for C-level positions make a mistake.
You only need to give them enough to show you’re worth bringing in for an interview. Then you can fill in the rest with your full background!
Certified HR Expert | Founder, EBR Consulting, LLC
Creating a resume that stands out is much easier than most people think. A good resume must include three components:
- It must get you past the applicant tracking software (ATS)
- It must tell the reader why you are a good fit for their job
- It must be visually appealing
Too often, we overcomplicate the resume but forget these three basics.
The key to a standout resume is the focus
That means that first, you must decide what your next position looks like. Spend some time to figure out exactly what you want from your next job, then ensure your resume tells that story. While that advice feels counterintuitive to many, it works very well.
Focus on what you can do for the position you’re applying for
In the past, a resume was a job history, now it is your brochure. Instead of broadly telling the reader everything you’ve done in the past, focus on how you solve the problem of the reader (the hiring manager). This should be easy to do since you know exactly what types of positions you will be applying for.
Review two or three similar job postings and pull out the terminology you see used over and over. These are the keywords you want to include in the resume to get you past the ATS.
Create a visually appealing format
The good news is, there is no one right way to do this. Decide what appeals to you. After all, this reflects you. Make sure the document is easy to skim and that you’ve used a font that is easy to read. If using color, ensure it still looks good printed in black and white.
Chief Resume Writer | Founder, Next Level Career Services, LLC
Provide a branding statement
No one else has the same brand as you. Your branding statement isn’t simply a list of accomplishments, but a three-to-five-line statement that tells who you are and sums up your value proposition. What sets you apart from others? What added value will you bring to the organization?
So, dig deep to formulating the qualities that differentiate you from others. The best way to land your next opportunity is to do a great job writing this section and make your resume stand out.
Include keywords from the job description
Using the job description as a guide is one best way to make your resume stand out. Job descriptions are written with certain keywords and when recruiters and hiring manager see keywords those are the resumes that get attention.
While it may be time-consuming, take the time to make a minor tweak to customize your resume for each individual job is a way to stand out since many applicants won’t take this time to do so.
Add a cover letter
If a job application says to submit a resume most people will do just that, submit a resume. So just the mere fact that not everyone includes cover letters with their resume is reason enough for you to submit one.
The cover letter is your opportunity to express your personality and provide a supplement to your resume that briefly expands upon your skills. Recruiters are going to appreciate the extra time you took in crafting a cover letter and set yourself apart from the applicants.
Interview Coach | Executive Resume Writer, Career Impressions
The resume should be tailored very specifically for a select audience
General, one-size-fits-all resumes rarely work. Make it easy for each employer to see how you would provide value to their open position by aligning all resume content with job requirements. If a detail or point is not related to the target job – remove it or replace it!
Keep resume content heavily results-focused and not task-focused
Employers are not interested in all of the basic job duties you performed in each past position. Instead, they want to know “what’s in it for me if I hire you?”.
To create interest and support your candidacy for the open position you must provide proof of the skills and capabilities you claim to possess. The proof is best shared through results.
In addition, quantify achievements to boost the quality of your resume content and provide more depth and breadth to expertise. For example, instead of just saying “created cost-savings”, take content one step further and provide quantified details such as “saved $16K in annual operating costs by introducing new streamlined inventory management procedure.”
Watch the length and avoid drowning the reader in long narratives
Employers are often short on time and what to know ‘what’s in it for me?” – fast – when they scan a resume. Keep content in check by aiming for an average of 2 pages, focusing on the quality of content and not quantity.
Mix up content delivery by sharing details in both short paragraphs and bulleted statements and aim to keep the information as succinct as possible for easier readability.
Finally, eliminate unnecessary filler words like “a, to, by, and the” to sharpen content focus.
Related: How Long Should Your Resume Be
Executive Vice President, Mason Frank International
Make sure that you give priority to relevant experience and skills
Despite the limited space you have on a resume anyway, you’d be surprised how much detail on it goes unread. Most hiring managers or recruiters will be skim-reading a huge pile of applications, looking for skills, experience, and qualifications that match exactly what they’re looking for. It’ll then be narrowed down to decide who to invite to interview, but it’s vital you make an impression to survive that first cut.
A potential employer isn’t interested in clichés about you being a team player or great communicator at this stage. Those are just basic things everyone in the world of work is expected to have, so if you’re listing those, you may as well list other non-factors such as ‘punctual’ or ‘hard-working.’ Your personality, ambition, and general cultural fit will be determined during the face-to-face or phone interview itself, so at this stage, it’s about making sure you’ve got the right role-specific buzzwords on your resume.
Keep anything else as brief as possible. Highlight the qualities that match what the employer is looking for and remember to cover soft skills sparingly. Using bullet points can be a good way to avoid the temptation of providing too much unnecessary information, but be wary of how you format this. One of the most common mistakes I see is giving the same amount of prominence to a job with zero transferable skills.
Standing out can be difficult if the vacancy attracts a high caliber of the applicant, but starting your resume with your most relevant strengths will give you the best chance possible of making it to the next round.
ACRW-Certified Professional Resumé and Cover Letter Writer |
Customer and Career Services Division Manager, Virtual Vocations
Create a targeted resumé
Many job seekers create a general resumé and send that out to every employer, but not only will this not score well on an ATS system, but it makes it difficult for the hiring manager to easily see why you’re a good fit for the job. I recently posted for a customer service position and received over 100 resumés.
Many had professional titles completely unrelated to the job I had posted, so I didn’t even give those a second look. They immediately went into the discard pile because it was not clear that they had applied to the job I had posted.
For best results, create a targeted professional headline on your resumé that reflects the position for which you are applying, and make sure your summary is targeted, as well.
Show the employer your unique value
Instead of talking about skills and tasks that everyone is going to have, show the employer what you have done and the impact you’ve made in your prior roles on your resumé. This will prove what you can do and why you’re better than the other applicants. This should be done in both the summary section and in the professional experience section—and be sure to use metrics and data whenever possible!
Use a modern, professional format, but keep your formatting clean and consistent
For a professional, easy-to-scan resumé, use plenty of white space and limit your sections of text to two or three lines maximum. Long, dense sections of text are too hard to read, making it difficult for employers to easily see your value.
Tailor your resumé to the job
Look through the job description and pull out specific keywords and skills that employer has mentioned, and incorporate these keywords into your resumé. Be sure to use them in context, rather than just in a list of skills, however, so the employer can see what you’ve accomplished and how you’ve made an impact using the skills they require.
Director, The Oculus Institute
Keep it to one page
In today’s age, far too many people submit resumes that are 2, 3, or even 4 or more pages long. Not only does nobody want to wade through that, but it demonstrates an inability to be concise.
Instead, show your ability to extract the core important information by keeping only things that are relevant and limiting your resume to one page.
Nowadays, many resumes are scanned for keywords and key phrases by computers before an actual human being ever sees them. That’s why I have my clients include a section called “Proficiencies” that includes languages, software, certifications, and any defined skill set that would come up as a keyword or key phrase.
Consider adding your hobbies
Resumes can be extremely dry, so it’s a good idea to humanize yourself by including a one-line section at the end called “Hobbies” where you share some of your interests.
When your resume actually does get to a human being, this section will allow them to relate to you and imagine themselves working with you, which is what really matters at the end of the day.
Don’t go wild with your resume format
You won’t stand a chance if your resume is never seen! We get hundreds of resumes sent to us every week and most are loaded directly into our applicant tracking system.
Resumes that have text boxes, photos, side columns, and fancy fonts don’t always load into the applicant tracking system correctly.
I imagine that is true with company websites as well. We do not have the time to contact these candidates about this so candidates might not realize their resume was never considered because it did not get into the system.
Career Coach | Founder and CEO, Crafted Career Concepts
Use a big headline
Avoid the fluffy paragraph or key word stuffing at the top of your resume. Use a headline instead that is short and concise. The rule of 3’s applies. What three themes do you want the reader to take away from your headline?
Put things where they belong
Resume readers read rapidly. Don’t annoy the reader (and the decider of your destiny) by making them search for the things they need to know. Chronological is best, name at the top, education towards the end (unless you’ve recently graduated).
If possible, pass your resume along internally
Find someone well respected within the organization to pass your resume along internally. If your resume gets passed to the hiring manager (or HR) from multiple sources, it’s more likely to make an impact.
Career and Job Search Strategist | Founder, Your Best Designed Career
Include measurable achievements
Outside of using simplified formatting and keywords to get your resume past the ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems), one of the most important components in getting your resume noticed is including measurable achievements on the top fold of your resume.
Because when a hiring manager is looking for their ideal candidate, they want to know what problems you can solve and how you can make their lives easier. What results can you deliver? How have you impacted the bottom line of your past employers? Hiring managers know that if you have driven results in the past, then you will do the same for them.
Achievements can be difficult for people to come up with because they feel like they are bragging about themselves and they’re not comfortable with it, but it’s really important for your reader to know how you can solve problems.
And achievements can be measured in many ways, it’s not just about increasing sales. It can be how you’ve decreased costs, increased efficiencies, improved processes, surpassed deadlines or saved a client account. Get creative and put some thought into the various achievements you have made that are relevant to this position and list 3 or 4 of them in bullet form at the top of your resume.
Also, once you’ve come up with the most important achievements and have placed them at the top of your resume, you should sprinkle all the rest of them throughout your job experience section as well. Seeing achievements on a resume is much more compelling and meaningful than just bullet points of your job duties.
Always remember, it’s about that hiring manager and what they need so be sure to demonstrate how you will help them on your resume so that you will be their ideal candidate.
Managing Consultant, Traverse Success Coaching
Cutting and pasting your job description or a list of responsibilities only tells the hiring manager that you can recite what you should be doing and could apply to anyone doing that job. Not how well you did it. Your CV must be different. It needs to demonstrate specific instances and examples of accomplishments which show the difference you have made in your work and therefore the likely difference you will make in a new role.
Include facts and figures to quantify your achievements
With a little thought, you find most achievements can be boiled down to a number in some form. These could be reducing the time taken for a task, cutting costs or driving sales. Make sure they show a black and white result which can’t be refuted. Managers love this.
Avoid jargons and have someone proofread it for you
Too many resumes have jargon, abbreviations, and company-specific language which means nothing to a reader outside your business. If someone you know can’t understand what your Golden Gift Award is, or your PDB increase by 12% is, it’s too “jargony“. This will mean you stand out for the wrong reasons. Keep it simple and explain things accordingly.
Founder, Resumes That Shine
Use a reverse-chronological resume rather than a functional resume
Resumes are scanned with automated systems called ATS systems that cannot digest functional resumes. If your resume does reach a hiring manager, you still will not be considered because managers feel you are hiding something when you use a functional resume.
Focus on accomplishments
Most resumes people send me list job titles and the job candidate’s job description. Hiring managers either know your job description or they can look it up online. They cannot look up your accomplishments in the job.
Always list your education on the resume even if you feel it is not relevant
Employers may require a college degree to consider you, for example, even if you have experience. Your major may not matter. One of my job candidates at an employment program was denied an interview because her resume did not list her college degree, even though the employer knew her!
Additional resume tips I give job candidates that want to stand out include:
- Do not show your street address and zip code on your resume. We are naturally curious and will look up the address to see where you live. Then, we may make incorrect assumptions about your salary needs, ethnicity, criminal past, etc.
- Use a personal brand statement instead of the words “profile” or “summary” under your contact information so employers know what folder to put your resume in right away.
- Add a summary under the branding statement including a sentence about your job title and industry, a few hard skill highlights and two or three accomplishment highlights.
- Include a core competency matrix of 9, 12, or 15 hard skills in three columns to help ATS systems find your resume.
HR Manager, Tree AMS
When it comes to resumes, HR professionals often have endless piles to go through. Thus, knowing how to make your resume stand out from the rest is key.
Add some colors to the top corner(s) of your resume
Of course, it shouldn’t come off as tacky; instead, you can use professional colors such as blue or maroon. Seeing your resume stick out from the corner might capture the attention of the employer. This demonstrates your wit and that you have put some thought into your resume.
Vary the overall design of your resume depending on the job you’re applying for
For example, if you’re going for a graphic designer role, you should definitely showcase your design skills by personalizing your resume design. Alternatively, you can also pick a professional theme that suits your industry.
Submit a different resume for each different role you’re applying for
Refer to the job description and state relevant skills and experiences in your resume accordingly. This indicates to the employer that you’ve meticulously reviewed what’s expected of you.
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Off The Clock Resumes, LLC
How you look and apply for jobs matters. A graphic resume with flashy colors, charts, icons, and other graphic elements will certainly stand out when networking and physically handing your resume to a hiring manager; however, these resumes won’t get through employer software if you’re applying for jobs online.
Easy-to-skim, job-winning content is the key to standing out when applying for jobs online
If you’re targeting your resume to demonstrate the skills listed on the job posting in action throughout your work history and using bullet lists to draw attention to major contributions toward organizational goals, your resume will get through the Applicant Tracking software and stand out the right way when seen by a decision maker.
Senior Career Advisor, MintResume
If you’re in a creative career, such as graphic design or video production, your resume can be much more creative and unique than someone applying for a job in accounting.
Research the prospective employer’s website to see just how out of the box they’re comfortable with. Using that as a guideline, get creative with color, image, layout or verbiage that’s in keeping with the potential employer’s style and approach.
Resumes for jobs in the arts or creative work can differentiate you by using approaches that are much more out of the box.
Talent Acquisition Manager, PrimePay
Provide clear, concise bullet points of roles/responsibilities
You want to make sure you’re not providing too much or not enough information – a good balance is key! I also really enjoy when candidates list out their specific achievements/accomplishments in each role, to really showcase what they’re most proud of themselves for! I recruit mostly sales representatives, and really enjoy reading when candidates exceed quota, win awards/trips, or place at the top of their teams!
Talent Acquisition Manager, PrimePay
You can make your resume stand out in different ways- positively or negatively. When it comes to standing out in a positive manner, take these tips into account!
- Provide complete basic information such as your contact information, education, and work experience. If you just graduated from school, list the projects you did while in school. Were you a part of any clubs on campus? What type of leadership roles have you held?
- Tailor your resume towards the job you are applying to.
- Begin each bullet point with power verbs like initiated, improved, demonstrated, etc.
- Add quantitative results especially when it comes to a metrics-driven position.
- Highlight awards, accomplishments and recognition.
- Utilize keywords that are relevant to the job opportunity and company.
- Make sure all information is accurate and matches your LinkedIn information.
- Be concise and use bullet points.
Keep it organized, clean, and clear
Think of aesthetics and readability first. Why? Hiring managers, small business owners, and department heads don’t have time to waste, which is why they’ll initially review resumes for seven to nine seconds. If your resume doesn’t pass this quick test, it’ll be discarded. The best way to pass this test, or, at least, not fail quickly,
Specifically, keep your bullet points aligned, keep your grammar and formatting even, and make sure your spacing is neat.
To do this, break up your resume into discernible sections so that you can review it for mistakes and the hiring manager likes its aesthetic. A neat and clean resume signifies the applicant is someone who takes the time to clean up her work and pays attention to detail.
CEO & Founder, UpKeep | Awardee, Forbes 30 Under 30 for Manufacturing
Almost every hiring manager knows hiring is tough. With hundreds of applicants and resumes, it’s no longer simply about having the skills and background listed in a job description, but being able to stand out from the crowd.
Highlight your experience for the position you’re applying for
Hiring managers read hundreds of resumes a day. At the end of the day, the longer a resume is, the better, right? Wrong! You can read a job description and know exactly what our hiring managers are looking for by looking at the required skills.
If you have experience with any of the skills or requirements listed in the job description, don’t be afraid to add the company’s language to your resume directly.
This highlights your resume to show companies that you’ve got the skills and experience for what they might be looking for and that you’ve read the job description thoroughly!
If you don’t have the skills, requirements, and experience yet, don’t hide it. Share with your potential employer as to why now is the time to learn? How have your past experiences prepared you to take on this new challenge?
Business Development Consultant, My Trading Skills
Use industry, and job-specific keywords and common industry phrases within your resume
Don’t overdo it, and make sure that these terms are well-distributed throughout the resume and fit naturally into sentences.
Check your format
Use the most modern, appropriate, appealing and most preferred resume format for your industry.
Ensure your resume is tailor-made for this particular role you are applying for
This entails demonstrating the specific set of skills and knowledge that will help you succeed in the role if hired.
Have a header below your name and contact information that succinctly captures who you are bearing in mind the position you are applying for.
Bottom Line: To ensure that your resume stands out, have a succinct and definitive header, use the most appropriate resume format, make the resume specific to the role you are applying for, and use industry keywords naturally throughout the resume.
CMO, Maple Holistics
You want your resume to physically stand out from the rest of the applications that hiring managers are sifting through. That being said, you want to ensure that it displays your professionalism.
Your layout is as much as part of your ‘brand’ as the actual information on your resume.
Employ different sized fonts to help titles and relevant roles catch the eye and use paragraphs to your advantage to make things clear.
One of the biggest mistakes that potential applicants make when applying for multiple jobs, is sending the same resume to each application.
Make sure that you tailor your resume for the specific position that you’re applying to.
There will be nuanced differences in roles and an easy way to recognize this is by using keywords from the original job posting in your resume. While all the jobs you’re applying for might be the same, companies look for different things to ensure that you’ve acknowledged this in your resume to help you stand out.
Add a professional headshot
Including a quality headshot will do a couple of things that not only help you stand out but also reinforce you are the right person for the job. You want to have a headshot that you are proud of and one that represents you authentically within your field, so an outdoor guide on white background may not be authentic to them, much like an accountant’s headshot probably doesn’t need to be on top of a mountain.
By including a headshot it shows you are in fact a real person but more important than that it represents you as the confident expert you are, which creates a connection with the person on the other side. You have now gone from being another number in the pile to a familiar face.
As an added bonus, create consistency by using the same headshot across all public platforms, the more consistent you are the more trust is formed and don’t we all want to work with someone like that?