When you're on the hunt for a new job, simply applying to a dream position can feel intimidating. Making sure your resume is up to date, polished and as sharp as you can make it goes a long way toward alleviating that anxiety. And yet the general format of a resume can itself feel so confining. How on earth can you make your resume stand out in a way that's still professional? Easy — start with these nine tips.
9 pro resume tips.
1. Tailor the resume to each position.
Adapting your resume to each job is the number one way to make your resume stand out. Sound like a lot of work? It's easier than you think. Simply tweak your resume, adapting the language you use to reflect the language and terminology used in the position description.
This might seem super obvious, but it's also super important. You're going to spend a lot of time focused on the language and layout of your resume, which makes even the best English major go a little typo-blind. Make a pass or two through your resume looking only for simple mistakes. There's nothing worse than a glaring typo on an otherwise awesome resume.
3. Start at the top.
Your header is the first thing a potential employer sees. Make sure your information, like your address, is up to date. And if you don't already have a professional email account, ideally one that uses at least part of your name, go ahead and set one up. If you're including a link to your LinkedIn or website, make sure those are up to date as well.
4. Most of the time, a decade will do.
Obviously, if you've spent the last 30 years leading the way in your field you're going to mention that. Otherwise? When it comes to work experience stick to the last 10 years. Going too far back is unnecessary most of the time and runs the risk of crowding the page. Save that valuable space for a skills summary or some other more useful information.
5. Boast — the right way.
Adding achievements to your resume is an easy way to promote yourself even further. Describing the duties of a pretty standard office manager position is all well and good, but noting that you boosted efficiency by 18% in six months is even better.
6. Keep it clean and sharp.
Stick to standard formatting, fonts and simplified layouts. A resume that's too unusual may be difficult for a hiring manager to read. The real way to make your resume stand out is via its content, after all. While you can play around with the order and names of sections, going too far outside the realm of ordinary will work against you. Readability should be one of your forefront considerations.
7. Watch your tenses.
Current position and duties: present tense. All other jobs and descriptions: past tense. This is a small but important detail because it's a standard format. Nailing this is just one more way to harness your resume as the promotional tool of a consummate professional.
8. Write non-work sections in the third person.
Write about yourself in the third person and up your summary and other section from a personal statement into a more polished sales pitch, like something out of a promotional flier. If you can see your summary as a sidebar in a professional trade publication, then you're on the right track.
9. Skills? Schooling? Volunteering? Only if it's relevant.
You can add any number of these sections to your resume to build out a more three-dimensional image of you as an individual — but don't go too far. Make your resume stand out by including only relevant information. Everything you include should forward the goal of the entire resume: to present you, the qualified and impressive candidate.
How can I make my resume stand out with little experience?
Making your resume stand out if you have very little work experience can feel next to impossible. It's totally doable, though. The thing to remember is that your resume is a tool you use to show yourself in a professional way. It isn't something that necessarily hinges on decades of actual professional experience. So, recent grads, take heart. The key here is to focus on you, rather than putting the spotlight on work experience.
If you had a part-time job or two while you were in school, by all means leverage that experience by including it and describing your duties in a strategic fashion (remember to mirror the language of the job description!). However, your other sections will take even more precedence over the work section because there's not much experience to show. So spend time crafting a summary statement that shows what qualities you have, right now, that will make you a valuable addition to someone's company. Skills, relevant education achievements, internships and volunteer work that enhance the image you're creating are all important elements to include, and polish.
Avoid these common mistakes.
Want to make your resume stand out in a bad way? By all means make sure it includes any of these all-too-common mistakes.
- Typos and other errors
- Making it too long (in general, resumes should be kept to a single page)
- Not tailoring it to the position
- Making it too crowded and hard to read (choose what you include wisely, and don't be afraid to fiddle — only a little! — with your margins to improve readability)
- Trying to stand out just a little too hard (stay away from unusual fonts, stylized paper or strange layouts)
- Bland language lacking specifics when it comes to skills, summary or job duties
- Too many keywords or buzzwords (jargon has its place, but play it safe on your resume — less is more)
Pitch to win.
Your resume is a sales pitch. In fact if it's the only thing a hiring manager or other potential employer is going to see, then it's the only chance you get to sell yourself. Keep this in mind when you're creating or refreshing your resume. You need to make it stand out in a good way and not a "what is this?" kind of way. A solid sales pitch can get you the job of your dreams.