Sometimes applying for jobs feels like casting baited hooks into murky waters in the hopes of catching a big fish. Similarly, applicants push résumés out to job boards and recruiters, eager to hook a recruiter and land an interview.
But with so many applications flowing into recruiters’ inboxes, how can job seekers make their résumés stand out in a sea of applicants? Here are 12 vital steps to creating a standout résumé:
1. Link to your LinkedIn profile
With so many job postings in the digital world, you should include links to your LinkedIn and online portfolio pages. Make sure these pages are well developed (e.g., build your LinkedIn connections or ask for peer reviews) so that they actively support your applications and boost your credibility. Consider a professional service to creatively flesh out your LinkedIn profile, such as linkedinbuilder.com.
2. State your achievements with power
When writing achievement statements in your job descriptions, use strong action verbs like “captured,” “ignited,” or “catalyzed.” For example, instead of writing, “Implemented new data-entry system to save $25,000 in company costs,” write the more powerfully worded statement, “Captured $25,000 in savings via implementation of new data-entry system.” Putting the figures closer to the beginning of the sentence is known as “frontloading achievements” and more readily garners attention.
3. Balance your achievement descriptions
Create balance within your job descriptions by striking a harmony between lengthy descriptions and bulleted points. List your most critical job tasks in paragraph form and your key achievements in bullets.
4. Quantify your achievements
When available, use numbers and figures in your job achievements to quantify them. This is especially helpful for sales or business management positions. Numbers speak for themselves, helping validate an achievement or showing the scope of your achievements.
Although it seems counterintuitive, a résumé is really a brag sheet. Many people feel awkward about touting their own accomplishments, but this is one place where it’s welcomed. So go ahead and brag about bringing in $2 million in revenue last year or turning around a poorly performing business unit — it’s necessary!
5. Provide contact information
It sounds basic, but the number of job seekers who misspell an email address or inadvertently transpose a couple of numbers in their contact information is staggering. Imagine the lost opportunities these folks have before discovering their mistakes. In addition, many job seekers make the mistake of only listing their address or home phone number on their résumé. While this practice may have been fine in the ’90s, it’s critical to be reachable at all times today. Be sure to add your cell number and email address.
6. Incorporate an “area of expertise” section
This section will help filter your résumé through application tracking systems that many companies use to screen incoming applications. Employers set their computer systems up to check résumés for keywords specific to a vacant position, so if yours lacks them, it could quickly end up in the “do not call” pile.
Research a few of your target job descriptions to get a feel for the special skills and project experience they’re seeking. Then, place your “area of expertise” section near the top of your résumé and list 10 or 12 of these skills.
7. Nix the objective statement
The objective statement is dead. Instead, replace it with a section that succinctly describes what you’ve accomplished professionally.
The key to a great opening summary is presenting an effective mix of hard and soft skills. It’s great to highlight the fact that you’re a highly technical project manager, but don’t forget to mention your engaging communication skills or collaborative spirit.
8. Include an “education” section
This section should include your degree, major, and the university from which you earned your degree. Other items to consider are the date you graduated, GPA, and academic groups. Also, for recent graduates, include as many relevant projects and internships that you’ve participated in. This will help focus on what you have done rather than what you haven’t.
9. Feature advanced educational and professional designations at the top
If you’ve earned an MBA, a Project Management Professional certification, or an RN license, why wait until your educational section to highlight them? Include these designations within your name at the top of your résumé for an immediate impact.
10. Highlight company or community awards
Awards show that you’re a proven producer recognized by your peers and management. Include your awards within each position’s “key achievements” sections rather than in a separate section.
11. Inject personality
According to a 2013 LinkedIn survey, the most overused words on résumés are “responsible,” “strategic,” “innovative,” and “expert.” If you want to stand out, give your résumé a little more personality and think about unique words that both accurately and colorfully describe you.
12. Maintain some white space
Every good résumé needs some white space. It will help recruiters easily digest the contents of your document.
Picture yourself reviewing a one-page résumé completely filled with paragraphs of text — your eyes would be overwhelmed. Use standard one-inch margins, and include plenty of space between your résumé’s different sections to clean up your design.
Trust me; with a winning résumé, you’re in a better position to distinguish yourself from the sea of applicants and hook recruiters to land your next job. What do you do to help your résumé stand out from the masses? Let me know in the comments.
Melissa Cooper is the executive vice president of the writer network at Top Résumé, a Talent Inc. company. A triple-certified résumé writer and dual-certified HR professional holding both the SPHR and PHR designations, Melissa has eight years of executive recruiting experience and over six years of professional résumé-writing experience.
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