5 Surefire Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Let’s just face the facts—crafting an effective and impactful resume requires a lot of thought and hard work. Concisely summarizing all of your skills, experience, and professional history into a short document that needs to grab a hiring manager’s attention within just a few seconds is undoubtedly a challenge.

Needless to say, the last thing you want to do is spend all of that time perfecting your document, only to have it end up in a recruiter’s wastebasket. So, finding a few effective ways to make your resume stand out will help keep you out of the trash and at the top of the pile.

No, I’m not talking about colorful fonts or scented paper. Here are five helpful—yet still professional—resume tips that will keep you a step ahead of all of your competition.

1. Tailor It for Every Job

It’s important to recognize that resumes aren’t a “one size fits all” sort of document. You might think otherwise. After all, your resume has to talk about you—and there’s only so many ways you can say the same thing about yourself.

However, you absolutely need to tweak and tailor your resume for every job you apply for. The changes don’t need to be dramatic. But, taking the time to comb through your document and finetune it can make all of the difference in your application status.

What sorts of adjustments should you make? Your best bet is to take a detailed look at the description of the job you’re applying for. Are there certain keywords that continue popping up, such as leadership or organization? If you actually possess those skills (remember, honesty is crucial!), make sure to emphasize them in a few different places on your resume.

2. Include Specific Accomplishments

What’s one of the worst mistakes you can make with your resume? Simply copy and pasting the job descriptions of your previous positions. Yes, those generic phrases will adequately share what you did—but you want your emphasis to be on how well you did them.

Really take your time when writing the summaries of your previous jobs. Think back through your employment, and pull out any accomplishments, awards, or key projects that should be mentioned. Quantifiable accomplishments are especially impressive, so include numbers where you can. Whether you increased sales by 54% in six months or you managed a team of 12 marketing associates, those numerical details add extra impact to your description.

Remember, by pulling out key accomplishments from your professional history, you’re highlighting all of your most impressive qualifications, and further illustrating the immense value you’ll bring to your new employer.

3. Proofread Carefully

Unfortunately, many resumes stand out to hiring managers for the wrong reasons, such as errors, typos, and inaccurate information. You want to end up in the pile of candidates they can’t wait to interview—not the stack that they’re going to refer to a spellcheck tutorial.

So, thorough proofreading of your resume is crucial before ever submitting it anywhere. Check for spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and any other oversights. What’s one of the biggest “whoopsies” I’ve seen on resumes? Candidates who change the end date of a previous position, but leave the entire description in present tense. If you’re no longer working that job, remember to edit the description accordingly.

When you’ve worked so hard on a document, your eye can easily skip over critical mistakes. Have a friend read through your resume to catch anything you may have missed. And, use the trick of reading your document from the bottom to the top. Going through it backwards makes you pay extra attention to each sentence—increasing your chances of picking up on those pesky errors.

4. Pay Attention to Specifics

Yes, the meat and potatoes of your resume are undoubtedly important. But, you don’t want to get so wrapped up in perfecting your document that you completely neglect basic instructions. That’s just another way that your resume will stand out for all of the wrong reasons.

First, ensure that you save your resume in a file format that everybody will be able to open and read without issue—such as a PDF. Secondly, check over the application instructions one more time before submitting. Does your resume need to be under a certain word count? Do you need to include samples of your work? Is there a particular email address you should be sending your information to?

Ensure that you’re in-the-know about all of the specific details so that you can follow the instructions to a T. After all, it’d be embarrassing to emphasize how “detail-oriented” you are—only to ignore explicit directions.

5. Use a Cover Letter

Resumes are limiting. Hiring managers don’t have time to read an entire memoir of your professional history, so your document needs to be succinct and to-the-point. But, this also might mean skipping out on some details or explanations that you think are important.

That’s why supplementing your resume with a cover letter is crucial—and pretty much expected by any employer. Think of your cover letter as your chance to tell your story and expand on all of those brief bullets you included in your resume. You can provide more detail about your accomplishments. You can explain an employment gap. And, you can further illustrate what an impressive and qualified candidate you are.

Yes, writing the perfect cover letter is a totally separate battle from crafting your resume. But, it’s a necessary step—so don’t skip it!

We all know that pulling together an impressive and concise resume is enough to have you tearing your hair out. But, unfortunately, it’s one of those necessary evils when you’re job hunting. Put these tips to work to craft a resume that’s impressive for all the right reasons, and you’re sure to end up at the top of the pile!

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Kat Boogaard

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Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

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