For any given job opening, HR personnel and hiring managers are deluged with resumes. Since they don’t have the time or resources to interview everyone, they are always looking for ways to weed out candidates as quickly as possible.
In fact, some merely glance at each resume before deciding whether to toss it in the “yes” or “no” pile. So, it’s imperative that you make those few seconds count.
Here are 12 ways to make your resume stand out:
1. Incorporate industry keywords and buzzwords into your resume, but don’t overdo it. Use words and phrases like “accomplished,” “developed,” “managed,” and “team player” in the natural language of the document, says Lisa Rangel, managing director of ChameleonResumes.com. “If your resume makes it through the filtering system, but it is evident to the reader that you were successful because of ‘keyword stuffing,’ the reader will feel you just gamed the system and will place your resume in the ‘no’ pile.”
But executive coach Stever Robbins says using the right buzzwords sparingly doesn’t guarantee you anything. “You could still end up in the resume black hole if you don’t have sufficient differentiation once those keywords are met,” he says.
That’s why it’s important to follow the next 11 steps.
2. Tailor your resume to the job. “Tune your resume to this specific role, with substantiating detail that shows why you are a great fit for the position,” says Laura Smith-Proulx, a certified executive resume writer and LinkedIn profile expert. One way to do this is by including all of your skills and experience that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
3. Use a modern, professional format. Format your resume so that it is pleasing to the eye but doesn’t focus more on visuals than content. Here’s an example of a nicely formatted resume.
4. Make sure it is error-free and easy to read. HR reps equate typos and errors with laziness, says Greg Faherty, a certified professional resume writer and owner of a-perfect-resume.com. Make sure it’s perfectly polished and error-free — and don’t forget to put the most important information on page one.
5. Use a header. Include a clear, hard-hitting statement at the very top of the resume that effectively defines who you are, keeping the specific position in mind, says Ann Baehr, a professional resume writer and founder of Best Resumes of New York. “Do not use an objective. Think of it like a billboard.”
Baehr says the header is a branding statement that is typically all caps going across the top of the page, usually sitting under your name and contact info.
(555) 555-5555 | 123 Main Street | email@example.com
GLOBAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIST
6. Keep things professional. Don’t include negative information about previous jobs or employers. Don’t discuss your hobbies or personal qualities or politics. Simply stick to your career facts.
7. Include metrics. There’s no better way to demonstrate how you’ll add to the bottom line or cut costs than to show quantifiable achievements, Smith-Proulx says. “Plus, employers often assume past performance is indicative of future results.”
Faherty agrees. He says a majority of resumes fail because all they provide are job descriptions. “The HR rep knows the basic duties of your job. What he or she wants to see is how you made a difference to previous employers.”
In a piece Marc Cenedella wrote for TheLadders earlier this year, he says you should always count the number of $US signs and % signs on your resume, and then double them.
8. Keep the reader’s needs or industry requirements front and center. You need to know what they are looking for in your candidacy. “Instead of developing your resume and then conducting a job search, it is wise to research the requirements of several opportunities to get a sense for how you should be presented in terms of branding, focus, and keywords,” Baehr explains.
9. Customise your resume to tell a story. Your resume should bring the reader through your professional experiences, accomplishments, skills, and knowledge. It should show how you’ve advanced over the years, and what you can bring to the table.
“Make your resume long enough to tell your story, but short enough to skim in a single sitting,” Smith-Proulx says. “The key is readability and relevance to the job you’re targeting.”
10. Don’t overuse fancy fonts and colours. “While you don’t want to overdo it, you can use colour in a conservative manner to make your resume visually differentiated from the sea of documents the recruiter will review,” Rangel says. For example, a subtle navy blue border can be very effective.
“These effects can draw the recruiter’s eye to the document and make it stand out against the many black and white documents they have received,” she says. But know that using colour on your resume is more acceptable and appropriate in some industries than others.
11. Make it longer than one page if it needs to be. Use the appropriate amount of space for your experience. “If you’ve been in the workforce for 15-plus years, do not feel forced to trim information about your achievements to keep to an arbitrary one-page resume rule,” Rangel says. Use what you need to, but do not make it unnecessarily long.
12. Supplement your resume with a cover letter. About half of all HR reps say they won’t even read a resume if the candidate hasn’t submitted a cover letter. So, unless the employer explicitly says they don’t want a cover letter, write one.