Recruiters spend only six seconds reviewing a resumé before deciding whether to contact a candidate. This means your resumé’s layout is critical, keywords are crucial, and typos are an absolute deal-breaker. If you want your resumé to make its way to the top of the pile, keep this advice top of mind.
7 Tips to Make Your Resumé Stand Out
1. Use an effective format.
According to research conducted by online job search company The Ladders, recruiters spend nearly 80 percent of the time they’re reviewing a resumé looking at the candidate’s:
- Current title and company
- Previous title and company
- Current position start and end dates
- Previous position start and end dates
Make sure those data points stand out and are not overshadowed by distracting visuals. Experience should be listed in chronological order, starting with your current position, be void of dense blocks of text, and be formatted identically for consistency. Education information can be placed at the bottom of the page unless you’re a recent graduate.
Use bullet points to emphasize skills and accomplishments. But when describing them, take out any personal pronouns. Employers know who’s behind the resumé, so remove all uses of “I” or “me” to keep descriptions concise.
Your resumé should only span one page and consist of no more than two fonts. Bold or alternate fonts can be used to make headlines or important information jump out—just avoid underlined text, which is harder for recruiters to read.
2. Include relevant keywords.
After hiring managers look for the six aforementioned data points, they tend to scan resumés for keywords, such as “project management,” “strategic planning,” or “market analysis.” Pull keywords out of the job description and integrate them repeatedly into your resumé.
Consider adding a “Skills Summary” to the top of your resumé. Rather than feature a generic “Objective” that says you’re looking to advance in your career, include a summary complete with the keywords the employer is looking for.
3. Include a link to your professional website or LinkedIn profile.
A professional website, virtual portfolio, or LinkedIn profile can be a great extension of your resumé. If a recruiter or hiring manager wants to learn more about you and your previous work, adding a link to these pages will make it easier for them to do so.
Before adding these links to your resumé, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile or website so that it captures your personal brand and leaves a positive impression.
4. Quantify your accomplishments.
When it comes to selling future employers on your previous achievements, it’s important to be specific. Whether it’s the number of deals closed, dollars raised, or articles written, put your achievements in numbers employers will understand.
For example, stating that you improved your company’s website by 150 percent over six months is far more impactful than simply noting that you grew the website’s traffic. Doing so will give hiring managers concrete evidence of your past performance and help them understand the potential you can bring to their team.
5. Remove the phrase: “References available upon request.”
If an employer wants your references, the hiring manager will ask for them. Include that information on a separate sheet you can hand the interviewer if he or she requests it.
6. Triple-check for any typos or grammatical errors.
In many cases, your resumé is the first impression that a hiring manager will get of you. Typos and grammatical errors can send a negative message to potential employers and can often come across as lazy or careless. For this reason, it is critical that you take the time to proofread your resumé for any potential errors so that you can put your best foot forward.
7. Avoid overused and ambiguous words.
When writing your resumé, every word counts. Stick to strong action verbs, and avoid using words that are overused, ambiguous, or may send the wrong message to hiring managers and recruiters. Six common words to leave off of your resumé:
- Believe: Hiring managers don’t care about what you “believe,” they care about what you know and have accomplished. The word “believe”—or similarly, “feel”—indicates a lack of self-confidence. Use strong action verbs when detailing previous positions, such as achieved, improved, managed, launched, developed, etc.
- I or Me: Employers reading your resumé know you’re the one behind the achievements bulleted. Although first-person is preferred, pronouns like “I” and “me” are redundant. Plus, you want to keep the focus on the employer; repeated use of “I” detracts from that.
- Hardworking: Anyone can call him or herself a “hard worker”—the words mean nothing if they’re not backed by results. Let your resumé do the talking. If worded properly, hiring managers will jump to the conclusion you are a hard worker on their own.
- Team player: “Team player” is similar to “hard worker”—show, don’t tell. To better determine cultural fit, an employer is likely to ask, “What role do you tend to play on a team?” If asked, get specific. Are you a leader who can motivate the team? A creative who enjoys dreaming up the next big idea? Or do you prefer to be the one extinguishing fires? Each of those descriptions says more than “team player.”
- Results-oriented: Employers want someone who’s results-oriented, but simply using the phrase won’t land you a job. Hiring managers want to see results, so put your achievements in numbers they’ll understand. Saying you take a “results-oriented approach to sales” doesn’t sound as impactful as having “improved sales by 30 percent month over month.”
- Responsible for: Don’t let employers assume you mechanically fulfill job requirements. Employment website Monster said it best: “Having been responsible for something isn’t something you did—it’s something that happened to you.” Turn phrases like “responsible for” into an action verb listed above.
Make a Winning First Impression
Creating a winning resumé is a key piece of a successful job search. With one quick scan, you want to compel a hiring manager into calling you; that requires using strong language, quantifying your achievements, and remembering to show, not tell. Paired with a thoughtful, yet effective cover letter, your resumé has the power to leave a positive first impression with potential employers.
Use these seven tips to create a resumé that stands out so you can take the next step in the hiring process from acing the phone interview to getting invited back for an in-person interview, and ultimately landing your next role.