Before you ever speak with a potential employer, get an interview, or even step foot in their office, your first point of contact will always be your resume.
Unfortunately, in today’s competitive job market, it’s extremely likely that your resume will be up against a multitude of other resumes.
How do you make your resume stand out in the sea of potential employees?
You might be thinking, “After all, it’s just a piece of paper, how good can it really be?”
If that’s your thought process, hopefully, this guide will shift your perspective a bit.
Your Resume Is A Direct Reflection Of The Effort You Will Put Into Your Work
Your skills and abilities, how charming you are, or how nice of a suit you have in the closet for job interviews, means nothing if you get immediately passed over as a potential employee, because of a lazy or sloppy resume.
There is a large possibility that the hiring manager or committee you are looking to interview with, will not even read your resume in its entirety.
The truth is that they are probably most interested in definitively eliminating you or labeling you as a potential candidate.
Beyond information to determine a “yes” or a “no,” your resume will probably remain largely unread.
Follow the tips below to learn how to make your resume stand out so you can get that interview and eventually start or advance your career.
1. Use Industry-Specific Keywords
When looking to improve the way that your resume stands out among the crowd’s, you need to be very familiar with the industry you are looking to enter, and what hiring managers are looking for from potential employees.
Do a quick google search for your role and find what the industry leaders are saying. Include some strategically-placed, industry-specific keywords in your resume to make it stand out.
When sharing about your experience, instead of using vague words like “responsible for” or “did”, use action words and specifics like “managed” or “directed.” Explain specifically what you contributed and can contribute – and again, keep it specific to the industry.
In today’s technology-centric workforce, keywords are more important than ever.
At most large firms where they’re likely to receive hundreds of resumes for an open position, there is likely not a single staff member putting eyes on all the resumes that are received. It’s likely they are sent to a database, as opposed to someone’s desk or email inbox.
How then do employers weed out candidates?
Potentially through keyword searches. Employers may look for industry-specific buzzwords using the electronic database to build their candidate pool – meaning that if you’re resume doesn’t have that buzzword on it, it may get overlooked entirely.
2. Use Metrics
Anyone can make claims of excellence on their resume. With this notion in mind, you’re probably wondering how to make your resume stand out.
If everyone can just lie about how great they are on their resume, how do you have a shot at all?
The trick is in specific metrics on your resume.
While anyone can certainly say they have good communication skills and experience creating effective campaigns, for example, not everyone will be able to attach numbers to those claims, without blatantly lying.
Set yourself apart from the generalists by providing proof.
Monster.com, a leading job board, posted this on their blog.
“Numbers make you seem like a pretty serious candidate. But using them to tell a story of how you made those numbers happen, shows that you’re the kind of person a company wants to hire. It’s one thing to say you increased profits, but in what time frame—and with what challenges? Show numbers in context so recruiters can see the impact you made. You could say that you increased sales from $2 million to $5 million in a one-year period. Or, for another example, you could say during a hiring freeze and budget restrictions, you managed to increase productivity by 15%, saving an additional $20,000. Adding some numbers to your current resume shouldn’t take long. Once you’ve done that, make sure you’re tracking achievements at your current job, so you’ll be ready when it’s time to re-do your resume.”
3. Tailor Your Resume to the Job You’re Applying For
Focusing on getting a job can be time consuming. We realize that once you’ve got your resume completed and ready for submission, it may seem like the best course of action is to blast your resume to potential employers en masse.
This is actually not your best move.
To employers, a generalized resume that contains no specifics relating to the position you’re applying says one of two things – you’re either not qualified for the job or not truly interested in this job.
Since those you’re in competition against may make a much more valiant effort to get the job, you’ll be left in the dust.
How do you fix it? Add special customizations to your resume for the specific position you’re applying for before you send your resume in.
Some examples of ways to do this are
4. Ditch the Objective Statement for an Executive Summary
If you have a resume lying in your desk drawer that’s been there for quite a while, like many of us do, it probably has some form of an “objective statement” at the top of it.
This statement describes, rather generically, about yourself.
While this tactic was quite popular in past years, it’s now become obsolete.
Instead, potential employees can now get a leg up by including an “executive summary” on their resume.
These could seem like they are the same from the outside but there are distinct differences. In the past, it was common to say things like your position, how many years’ experience you have, and what you are doing now.
An executive summary allows you to showcase your personality a bit more. After all, this is about making your resume stand out after all.
Think of your executive summary as more of an “elevator pitch” than a statement about your station in life. Business Insider pointed this out as well.
“Replace your fluffy statement with an executive summary, which should be like a "30-second elevator pitch" where you explain who you are and what you're looking for. In approximately three to five sentences, explain what you're great at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to a prospective employer.”
Ann Baehr, a professional resume writer and founder of Best Resumes of New York says, "Do not use an objective. Think of it like a billboard."
5. Don’t Forget the Basics
When trying to keep up with all the tips we just mentioned, it can be easy to forget some of the basics for a good resume. These include:
Even if everything else on your resume is incredible, a spelling error or formatting issue can ruin your chances. It’d be an absolute shame to lose out on a job opportunity because of an easily-reparable oversight.
Before you send in your resume, proofread to make sure everything is correct – especially if you’re going to be altering each version for each job position. Human Resources representatives and hiring managers will equate misspellings and outdated formatting with laziness, whether or not that is the truth.
When asking yourself how to make your resume stand out, don’t forget to take care of the essentials.
Before Employers Meet You, Your Resume Acts as a Proxy
Your resume is much more than just a piece of paper that outlines your experience. In many cases, it will be the make-or-break factor in whether you get an interview or not.
Until your employers meet you in-person, the only representation of yourself is your resume.
You wouldn’t show up to an interview with sloppy hair and bad clothes, so don’t submit a resume that reflects poorly on yourself either.
As a final tip, when looking to make your resume stand out in a highly-competitive job market, never forget to also include a cover letter.
We’d guess that more than half of all HR representatives will not even consider an applicant if they do not include a cover letter with their resume.
Getting a civilian job after service in the military is difficult enough.
Make it easier on yourself by increasing your hirability and chances of getting an interview and optimize your resume. It won’t take too long and the payoffs will be more than you are likely imagining. Even if it seems unimportant, a good resume can boost your chances exponentially.
We hope this guide has given you an adequate overview of what a good, modern resume should include and answered the question, “how do you make your resume stand out.”