Your resume may be the first impression a potential employer will have of you, but in order to achieve that, it has to actually make an impression. Hiring managers see a lot of resumes, which means not only does yours need to have strong content and be presented clearly, but it also needs to be memorable and catch an employers’ eye.
Here are some rules for writing a resume that will stand out from the pack.
Rule #1: Less is more.
Be careful not to overload your resume. Cramming as much information about yourself as text size and margins will allow makes it more difficult for the hiring manager to find the most relevant information.
“Remember the purpose of the resume is to get you the job interview. Don’t load up the resume with everything but the kitchen sink,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “Instead, put enough detail in the resume to make a hiring manager want to learn more.”
Keep in mind, employers tend to have quite a few resumes they need to look over, and thus don’t tend to spend much time on any individual resume – at least in the early stages of the application process. The easier your resume is to read, the more likely it is to actually be read.
“Use short bullets that someone can easily scan,” suggests McDonald. “An easy-to-read resume that shows a hiring manager you’re results-oriented and can do the job will help move you to the ‘need to interview’ list of candidates.”
Rule #2: Customize to the job requirements.
No two jobs are exactly alike, and the resumes you submit shouldn’t be either. Employers like to know that a candidate is legitimately enthusiastic about the open position, and submitting a cookie-cutter resume with irrelevant information sends the message that you didn’t put in much effort.
“As a job seeker, your resume should be modular – able to be adjusted and tweaked to fit the job requirements. A one-size-fits-all resume is like job seeking with a blindfold on,” says Lida Citroen, owner and principal of branding and marketing firm LIDA360. “Hiring managers and recruiters are often overwhelmed with resumes for open positions. The easier you can make their job, the more likely your resume will get reviewed.”
Rule #3: Highlight your achievements.
In order to stand out, it’s not enough to simply list the skills you have that match up with the employer’s needs. Provide evidence that you do, in fact, possess said skills, and examples of how you’ve put them to use in the past.
“Frame your work experience with quantifiable or specific business outcomes you’ve helped achieve. For example, rather than ‘opened new accounts and sold into existing customers,’ consider noting you ‘developed a new business pipeline of $3 million and secured 18 new clients,’” says Daphne Wotherspoon, managing director of the IT practice at HireStrategy. “It makes your professional accomplishments more tangible for hiring managers.”
Rule #4: Remember the Web.
Where resumes once provided job seekers the ability to manage the information prospective employers had on them, in the Internet era, that’s no longer the case.
“The Internet IS your resume,” says Karen Cahn, CEO of Vproud TV. “It’s dated to think that the 1 sheet of paper you write your credentials on is the only thing that matters. It’s only part of the story. Your online presence is just as critical.”
Even with the additional information employers can find via the Internet, your resume is still a crucial tool. “A resume is a part of your toolkit, not the entire solution,” says Citroen. “Successful job seekers build their personal brand and reputation and have a resume, which serves as an extension of all that information.”
Matthew Tarpey researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.