We spend many hours looking for ways to make our resume stand out. And why shouldn’t we? Thousands of resumes are submitted to recruiters in various companies every day. Recruiters spend their entire shift perusing over hundreds of applications assessing which ones move to the interview. And essentially that is what a resume is all about; getting the opportunity for the interview.
A resume has four sections:
- Personal Information. This includes your full name, city, contact number, e-mail address and social media profiles. Your personal information can appear at the top center part of the resume with a header positioned below it.
- Employment History. Your work history must be arranged beginning from current or most recent employer. It must indicate your designation, inclusive dates of employment and a description of your scope of responsibilities.
- Educational Attainment. This should also be arranged according to highest level of education attained. Details should include degree earned, inclusive dates and relevant awards or achievements. You do not have to include information from secondary education and earlier.
- Special Skills. This section is where you highlight core competencies and other skills you have that are relevant to the job opening.
But what makes one resume stand out and not another? With so many applicants, recruiters have learned to become efficient in the evaluation process. In a tightly competitive job market what should you do to make your resume stand out and get noticed?
1. Focus on Relevant Information
Think of your resume as marketing collateral. Its purpose is to sell your qualifications to the recruiter. Therefore, its focus must be trained on the relevance of your value proposition on the job opening.
Customize the content of your resume to fit the qualifications required of the position. Substantiate in great detail why you are the right person for the job. It should compel the recruiter to believe you are the best candidate among the crop of applicants thus far.
How much information should you share? We’ve heard and read advice to keep the resume short and succinct. But the volume of information generally depends on your industry. Highly technical professions that involve measured and complex processes would be more extensive.
Keep in mind that when the recruiter opens your application, this is your moment to shine. Take full advantage and make sure you leave nothing to chance. The most important issue to consider is that all information detailed in your resume should be 100% relevant to the job itself.
2. Support Your Accomplishments with Facts and Figures
In a job that is tightly contested, you should leverage every advantage you can get.
It is not enough to just list down your accomplishments and achievements from your current or previous employers. You must substantiate it with facts and figures.
Stating that you introduced a service or program that reduced costs and improved revenue generation reads more like conjecture. It may even be misconstrued as marketing hype.
Always include percentages, project titles, statistics and other metrics to lend more credence and substance to your achievements. Applicants for higher positions in fund management often include summaries of their investment portfolio that have been certified by their current or previous employer.
For the recruiter, it shows attention to detail and that you take great pride in how you contributed to the growth of the organization.
3. Use Keywords
Although keywords are primarily used to create marketing copy, recruiters use these when scanning resumes.
Recruiters look for words and phrases that are commonly used to describe work that is related to the industry. These are usually keywords that describe action and decisiveness such as “accomplished”, “managed” and “tasked”.
But like marketing content, you cannot overstuff your resume with keywords. You must be strategic in using keywords and not detract from the content of your resume.
Using too many keywords may send the message to the recruiter you are only trying to gain an advantage over the filtering system but have nothing to show for it.
4. Utilize a Header
A header is a hard-hitting statement that defines who you are to the recruiter.
This is important to grab the attention of the recruiter and establish your place among the ranks of other applicants for the position.
The header should be placed at the top of the resume but located below your name and contact information. It does not have to be the exact job title you have with your current employer but it should be worded in a way that clearly relates to the available position.
Think of the header as a branding statement for your resume. It must be written in all- caps and bold faced for strong emphasis. You want the recruiter’s attention to be drawn to the header.
5. Make it an Easy Read
Recruiters go through so many resumes every day the last thing they want is to come across an application that makes them want to pull out a dictionary.
Make your resume an easy read. Keep the sentences short, well spaced and each section must be given its due. Long, drawn out paragraphs are cumbersome to read especially for recruiters who have had a long day. Recruiters also lose energy and focus as the day winds to a close.
Use bullet-points when necessary and avoid incorporating technical terms. For font styles, recruiters favor Times New Roman. Size 12 font will make your resume an easier read.
6. Check for Grammatical and Spelling Errors
For recruiters, nothing is worse than coming across grammatical and spelling errors.
It is not just an eyesore but leaves the impression that the applicant is irresponsible and careless. Grammatical and spelling errors devalue the content of the resume and create a lasting impression on the recruiter.
Even if these were not intended and were oversights, it says a lot about your attention to details. For many employers, attention to detail carries a premium because mistakes can be costly.
Given the importance and significance of a resume, the recruiter would expect you to be more meticulous when preparing your resume.
Review your resume after every section. Then again once you’ve completed it. Don’t trust the spell check feature of your Word program. Oftentimes, spell checking software can make mistakes.
You should also have a trusted friend or associate who has excellent proficiency in English to proof-read your resume. A second set of eyes can see mistakes that you may have overlooked.
Don’t hesitate to give your resume a final look- over before you send it.
7. Tell a Story
Story telling is always an effective tool for delivering content including your resume because it makes content easier to follow and appreciate. Story- telling is especially effective when providing quantitative proof of your accomplishments.
In the example in #2, let’s assume you successfully accomplished the task given to you by the company to improve the Profit and Loss statement of your department. You could state your accomplishment in your resume as follows:
“In 2013 introduced software which reduced man-hours by 20%. The reduction in man-hours generated cost savings of $19,000 per month. I had the cost savings re-purposed to fund core business activities and the initial digital marketing program. By the end of 2014, revenues were up by 150% with 61% attributed to increased sales conversions on newly generated leads.”
Through story- telling the applicant was able to convey the impression to the recruiter that he was good in problem solving, decisive in his approach and detailed in measuring results.
To write a good story in your resume, identify events in your work experience that were significant and related to the position you are applying for. Use action words; keep the sentences short and the message direct. The line “I had the cost savings re-purposed” could easily have been written as “I requested the cost savings to be re-purposed” which would sound more indecisive.
Ironically, the reason for choosing weak verbs is indecisiveness. If you are 100% confident of the event and how it contributed to the success of your organization then you have no reason of not capitalizing on it to the fullest.
Remember, everybody loves a good story!
8. Don’t Sacrifice Quantity…if Needed
We have often heard to keep the length of the resume limited to one page.
To a certain degree, there is merit to this advice because recruiters go through resumes with a great deal of efficiency. They do not want to spend time perusing through every detail in the resume.
However, recruiters do look for unique qualifications that are directly related or accurately suited for the designation. If they come across these qualifications, they will surely take extra time reviewing the details.
Again, keep in mind the moment the recruiter opens your application becomes your golden opportunity to be considered for the interview. You have to make sure all the important details on your qualifications are precisely indicated.
If you need more than one page to complete your resume, don’t hesitate. Can you imagine an applicant with 20 years experience in a field related to the available position? He probably won’t be able to fit in the important details of his experience in one page.
Recruiters have the experience and the training to scan resumes for valuable information. Even with an extended resume, you can still maintain quality.
9. Add Your Social Media Profiles
Recruiters use social media for three important reasons:
- Network. Recruiters will use professional social networks like LinkedIn to connect with potential right- fit candidates.
- Validate. Recruiters will validate your resume with the content of your online profile in social media.
- Investigate. Recruiters are no longer just interested in your technical and fundamental competencies. They also want to know how you think and engage within your community.
Do recruiters check your social media accounts right away? No, unless there is time or if the position is a particularly sensitive one. Usually, recruiters view your social media accounts before the first interview.
Recruiters are particularly fond of LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn is the preferred social media network for professionals. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and shares the same information as the resume you submitted. Twitter gives recruiters an idea of your level of activity and engagement in social media.
LinkedIn also has a blogging feature. Take advantage of this feature and try to blog frequently. This gives recruiters a good perspective on the types of issues that concern you and how you articulate opinions.
10. Keep Your Resume Simple
It’s easy to get carried away in the details and be pressured to make a resume stand out.
Be careful in how you design your resume. Some applicants add color and graphics to make the resume stand out. While this may succeed in getting the attention of the recruiter, it may do so for the wrong reasons.
For a resume to stand out it must be:
- Well- organized
- Expertly written
As we covered, use good sized fonts to make your resume readable. Structure the format so the content is well organized. Each section must be given exposure commensurate with its value within the resume. Finally, compose the resume in a manner that will convey the message clearly and easily understood by the recruiter. Review the contents to make sure there are no grammatical and spelling errors.
You can never go wrong with simplicity even when it comes to designing your resume.
There is no such thing as a perfect resume. We all have strengths and weaknesses, flaws and short comings which may affect our chances of landing the job.
What works for one person may not work for you because job requirements vary and recruiters are incessantly looking for right- fit people. Your chances of being hired may not be dependent on your work experience but on the perspective of the recruiter.
However, a well- written, well- crafted resume; one that is conceptualized with strategy and purpose in mind will give you a clear advantage over one that is haphazardly done. Put some time, thought and effort in making your resume. It may help you land the all- important first interview.