Now that the job market has become more competitive than ever, it's important to make your resume stand out. Plenty of people have decent resumes, but what makes a resume great? The key is to make the reader understand exactly what you bring to the table that makes you perfect for the role and to get those points across in a way that requires the smallest amount of reading time. These five tips will help your resume stand out from the crowd:
1. Choose a simple format. As you try to make your resume to stand out, you might be considering a flashy design, eye-catching colors, or peppering in company logos and infographics. Stop! A showy resume isn't going to get you the job -- in fact, it may not even get you past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Choose a clean, black-and-white format that's easily scannable by a computer and a busy hiring manager. This will allow the reader to focus on the most important part of your resume -- the content.
2. Focus on relevant skills and show how you used them. As you write your resume, you'll want to match the verbiage to the job posting to get the proper keywords, but don't stop there! Hiring managers want to see that you're good at the work you do, not just that you've been hired to do it before. A great resume goes beyond reiterating the skills on a job posting; it shows how well the candidate performed them. So when crafting yours, add context or achievements to paint a clearer picture of how you excelled in the role. Did you win any awards? Is the show you developed the new network anchor? Did you implement a new workflow that saved the company time and/or money? Did you sign new clients or sell a project? Even if your role didn't lend itself to those kinds of achievements, consider what context you can add to showcase the breadth of your abilities. How many people did you manage (or as an assistant, support)? What range of budgets did you allocate? How many projects did you work on simultaneously? These details give hiring managers a sense of how you applied your skills.
3. Use strong action verbs to describe your abilities. When creating your resume bullet points, you should lead them with action verbs like innovated, spearheaded, liaised, ideated, developed, created, crafted, etc. These are the skills hiring managers want to see, and including them as the first word in each line helps call attention to them. A common mistake we see is leading a bullet point with "Responsible for." But that's not an action verb! Rather, it's a description of what you were tasked with and doesn't even indicate that you did anything. Action verbs, on the other hand, showcase specific skills and highlight what you brought to the table in your previous roles.
4. Take ownership of your skills. Once you've listed a skill or two that indicates working well with others, you don't need to bring teamwork into everything you did. If you're able to do something independently, you can own it on your resume. Hiring managers know that most people work with others on projects, but they want to see that you can initiate and not just tag along for the ride. Plus, it will allow you to vary up the action verbs you use to lead each bullet point!
5. Present your main strengths -- no more, no less. A great resume highlights the key strengths that will make you right for the job. But it can be hard to assess your own strengths. We often notice that candidates fail to recognize some of their top skills and/or put too much weight into skills or achievements that aren't particularly relevant. This is why it's always a good idea to get a second set of eyes on your resume. Not only will it help you catch typos or formatting errors, but an objective reader will be able to assess whether your story is coming across clearly and whether you're overselling or underselling yourself. Most job seekers are too close to their own experience to know what they need to articulate and how, so having an outside perspective can help remove biases and ensure clarity. This is a hugely important step -- so much so that when we work with clients, we have two sets of eyes reviewing their materials to make sure we're getting the perspective of a reader who's unfamiliar with the candidate.
Remember that your resume is a marketing document and the product you're selling is YOU. Lean in to the great work you've done, convey your story honestly and with pride, and let your qualifications speak for themselves.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan