Sometimes, applying for jobs can feel futile. You fill out and submit countless applications and send innumerable emails. But where does it all go? When you don't hear back from virtually anyone — sometimes not even to get a rejection — how can you even be sure anyone is noticing your resume?
We reached out to recruiters to share their top tips for making your resume stand out.
Here are 10 ways to make sure that your resume gets read — so hiring managers start actually responding to you.
"A resume stands out to me when they have specific results rooted in numbers, or huge projects or revenue milestones achieved," says Stacy Caprio, founder of Growth Marketing. "This shows me they know what they are doing and are able to get results as well as track results, all which will help them get the job."
"My best tip to make your resume stand out is to emphasize your accomplishments in your past jobs rather than simply stating your job description," says Patricio Quiroz, digital marketer at Code Authority. "For example instead of just saying 'Supervised and conducted periodic competitive audits,' you could say, 'Supervised and conducted over 15 competitive audits on a weekly basis that helped increase website traffic by 25%.'"
"People won't stand out if their resume is plain, like most of the stock resumes you find in Google searches," says Victoria Clarke, the people and culture manager at Venngage. "At Venngage, AI software doesn't filter through resumes. I read every single one of them — like most recruiters! That said, candidates really only get about six seconds of my attention. If I don't catch what I'm looking for in that time frame, I'm moving on. But when I get a colorful resume that uses graphic designs, that pops off the page, it gets my attention."
Being memorable comes down to you, she says.
"Every recruiter/hiring manager is going to be intrigued by different things," she adds. "Following canned advice that you find online isn't wrong, per se. But you and a ton of other people are likely following that same advice and, in an effort to stand out, you just blend in. When you design something fun or sleek using icons and different color palettes or link to other sources, it's way more engaging for me. And then of course, during the interview, let your personality shine through. It's okay if you're odd and quirky, or if you don't have the perfect, polished answer for everything (as long as it's honest) — because it also means I'll remember you! So be yourself in person and on paper."
"A quick way to have your resume thrown in the trash or deleted is by making little mistakes that could have been avoided by a simple spell and/or Grammar Check," says Carmen Drummond, a career strategist and certified professional resume writer at Career Nerd. You can also use Grammarly.com to conduct a free basic scan to ensure tone and grammar meet the need of your resume.
"Keep it short!" says Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris. "As I said, I have a stack of these things I don't have a lot of time. I know you want to tell me about your great GPA in high school, but, if it was more than five years ago, I don't care. I want to know what you're bringing to me that I need. You may need to create a different resume for each industry you could apply for, but that's a good time investment if it keeps me from having to dig through irrelevant experience to get to what matters to me."
"Some online guides will advise one single page, but in reality, it's better to focus on keeping content relevant more than it is to focus on a certain length," says Sarah Doughty, director of recruitment of TalentLab. "Relevant content should focus on the high-level basics like who, when, how, and why for each significant career milestone. Resumes are not meant to convey the whole picture, but enough to entice the reader into asking for an interview or a follow-up call. The more the reader is bogged down in unnecessary details, the higher the chance they will be inattentive to the key info you want to draw attention to. If you are struggling to determine what is relevant, consider asking why an employer should care about that detail? If a good answer doesn't immediately come to mind, then it doesn't belong on your resume."
For starters, she says to avoid biographical details and unnecessary background information and to rigorously vet each bullet point to make sure it will matter to a potential employer.
"Tailor your resume to the position you're applying for using the highlights from your career that fit the position your applying to," says Nicholas Paydos, owner of Direct Hire Global LLC. "Match the words used in the job description. If you are an automechanic applying to a position to change only brakes, and they use the word auto technician match the term, change auto mechanic to full service auto technician with extensive brake experience. key words are king."
"Use buzzwords — sometimes recruiters will scan resumes for certain keywords," says James Rice, head of digital marketing at WikiJob. "Check the job application for the main requirements of the job and repeat these requirements on your resume, showing exactly how you meet them."
"Don't use ambiguous phrases that say nothing: 'aligned strategies for maximum internal synergy,'" says Bryan Zawikowski, a recruiter and vice president and general manager for Lucas Group.
"Organize your professional experience in a way that highlights your most relevant work experience," says Daniel Santos, CEO of a career coaching company, Prepory. "This is especially important for people that have worked in several industries. Their most relevant work experience should be listed at the beginning and their least relevant experience should be listed at the bottom or not included at all unless they're currently working there."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.