If you are job hunting, and you have ever asked someone to look at your resume, you may already have discovered one truth: everyone has an opinion. My experience has been that anyone who has ever worked in Human Resources or who has ever been a recruiter, as well as anyone who offers themselves as a career or job search coach, will have something to say. Furthermore, more often than not, the advice will be contradictory. What to do?
I always advise my clients that it is just a fact that people will offer their best advice with the best of intentions. At the end of the day, however, the resume is your document, and it represents YOU, so make sure you feel comfortable with it. You should feel proud of the impression it creates for you. DO NOT pay hundreds of dollars to an “expert resume writer” thinking that having someone else do it for you takes you off the hook. Oh no, you are still responsible for what it says, and you need to be able to explain it and stand by every part of it in case any questions come up.
I believe that everyone has a responsibility to learn how to write their resume and keep it up to date just the way most people keep their checkbooks balanced. Wait…that may not be the best example…but you get what I mean. You are the one who needs to be able to explain your aspirations as well as your work history. If you had little to do with the writing of your resume, you might be headed for trouble.
Resume writing doesn’t have to be daunting. There are many great guides online that can give you an excellent starting point. Here are five specific tips for making sure YOUR resume stands out from the crowd.
1. Use a contemporary format.
Some more traditional resume writers will get all caught up in fancy fonts too small to read without a magnifying glass. Some offer lots of blocks and double lines. Dump the old style resume for a clean, contemporary look. Use lots of white space and a sans serif font like Calibri or Arial. Don’t make your reader pull out the reading glasses to read it. Keep the formatting clean and simple. Bold with purpose and keep the formatting simple, clean and easy to read.
2. Quantify your accomplishments.
For some people, quantifying their accomplishments may feel like a challenge, but it really shouldn’t. Quantifying accomplishments means providing information in terms of numbers related to your achievements and successes. Did you lead a team of 10 people through the completion of 5 successful projects over the course of the past 7 years? Then say so just like that. Did you save the company $7 million from 2009 to 2013? Great! Did you contribute toward a 30% growth in profit share? Even better. Quantify, quantify, quantify.
3. Use action verbs to describe your accomplishments.
This may seem relatively simple at first, but I want to make sure you get that you need to use meaningful verbs. Additionally, do not overuse the same verbs to the point of appearing not to be very imaginative. Here are some examples of strong action words: led, managed, administered, coordinated, delivered, operated, built, constructed, etc.
4. Remember to keep in mind the question, “What does it mean to your potential employer?”
When a potential hiring manager is looking at your resume, you want to be answering the unspoken question, “What can you do for me?” You want to demonstrate how your experience can benefit him or her and/or their company. As you are crafting your resume, approach it from the standpoint of what you bring to the position. Answer the fundamental question of how your experience makes you different from the other 199 candidates also being considered. Approach your resume from the standpoint of what is in it for the Hiring Manager as opposed to what is in it for you.
5. Make your resume 100% error free.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you may be surprised—or not—by the number of resumes I review that have spelling errors, spacing issues, punctuation problems, etc. You will get tired of looking at it and the more you deal with it, the more likely it is you will overlook errors. Get a dozen people to proofread for you. Don’t necessarily ask them all for their opinion—although asking them if it is clear why you are applying for a particular job might be a good question to ask—but make sure that your resume is 100% error free before you send it off to your next potential employer. Any mistake at all will be all the reason they need to shove your resume into the rejection pile, and if you are really a great fit for the job, that is a shame both for you and for them.
There you have it. Five (5) tips on how to make your resume stand out so that you get the follow-up phone call asking you to come in for an interview. Good luck!
About the author
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT is a Certified Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach and is an ICC at CareerHMO. Visit her coaching page here.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CareerHMO coach. You can learn more about coach posts here.
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