How to Make Your Resume Really Stand Out

Creating the most impressive resume with practical tips

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Get the first step right. Get your career bright.

If you are looking at this article, you must aim high for a resume as you know that a great one will open many doors to interviews hence increasing the chance of landing a dream job. So let’s start this step-one career business by looking at 1) what employers really want and then 2) understand what you can do to not just meet but also exceed their expectations. The good news is when you meet companies’ preferences, you are already above the average candidate as most people, sadly, rarely make true investment in their resumes. So if you can exceed employers’ expectation, you are surely destined for an interview.

What employers usually expect when reading a resume based on survey findings & What you can do about them:

  • According to a CareerBuilder survey, 61% of employers expect the resumes to be tailored to the open positions. Indeed, many companies have a tracking system to scan for resumes that may meet the job requirements before the recruiters even read them. Else, they will skim through received resumes for evaluation. So use the key words from the job description and of course, without make-up or exaggeration. If you apply for a job much different from what you have been doing, you may want to put all related experience first followed by the other experience, and any professional development efforts like taking courses, volunteering, etc. are of great value.
  • Based on a Saddleback College Resume Survey, 41% of employers prefer one-page resumes. What you can do to make your resume concise and condensed is to remove unnecessary information like home address, headshot (which is already on your LinkedIn profile that all recruiters look at nowadays), career summary, references, etc., and to break the content into two columns. Also, use bullet points and best is to have two to four per position. In case you have 15 and above years of experience and cannot really cut the details down, two pages should be acceptable.
  • Per Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, 73% of employers have hired a candidate through social media, so a link to your profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter,… for your online presence reference in a resume is now the norm. So make sure you have at least a LinkedIn profile which looks good, reads good, and feels good with your expertise sharing, opinion, etc.
  • According to Glassdoor, hiring managers might just have a look at resumes for 30 seconds or less. Therefore, it is supposed to be clean, meaning no grammatical, typing and formatting errors, consistent, and easy to read. Generally, it reflects your quality of work through “this work”. Especially for roles requiring a detail-oriented candidate, an error would just leave you out of the game right away. Using grammar checking tool and having someone with professional eyes like a career coach review your resume would be most effective.

The fact is that the majority of the candidates I have met through my HR career so far rarely make the mark for even two out of these four areas. Many fail to truly customize their resume to the jobs they apply for. Not few have a few pages of description instead of one or two. 99% have errors of some type. While most have a LinkedIn profile, they are virtually “absent”. This explains what I said earlier: if you meet employers’ expectations, you are already above the labor market.

What employers do not expect and would be IMPRESSED by if you have them:

  • A resume is telling of your work. It is actually the work. It is your showcase product. So make the best look and content as you can. I myself spent 8 – 10 hours revamping my resume last year after being inspired by Marrisa Mayer of Yahoo’s and the turn-around time for me to be contacted by recruiters after sending my application ranged from one to a few days (I landed a great offer but due to relocation, I had to sobbingly decline it). As most people do not focus on the LOOK, when you have a great substance plus an awesome form, your resume will absolutely stand out. Look at Mayer’s resume for a great format example or select a resume template in Word program for customization.
  • Most candidates just stop at describing what they do. Some are better by going into how they do it and what accomplishments they have gained, but most of the times, superficially. If you could do the later well, any hiring manager definitely wants to talk with you (of course if your experience is relevant). Use power verbs like boosted, created, assessed, delivered, designed, developed, exceeded, improved, introduced, launched, solved, overhauled, revamped, maximized, etc. Quantify wherever possible to demonstrate how your work has saved time, money, or increased revenues for the companies. Examples are “Created an automated tracking tool that saved 2 days of work a month for the whole department.”, and “Revamped the departmental sales pitch and approach that pivoted annual sales revenue by 50%.”

I hope this article provides some good insights and tips and inspire job seekers enough to invest in their resumes: a truly great one changes lives. If you are not sure whether your revamped resume is the best as it could be, seeking for help from a career coach would be worth the investment.

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