Rise to the top (of the pile)! 9 tips to ensure your résumé stands out

9 tips to ensure your résumé stands out

If finding a job can be a marathon, sending out your résumé is the first step in a long test of endurance. Unfortunately, our résumés are often at risk of getting buried under ones from other candidates – and with it our chance of even getting an interview. To make sure this doesn’t happen, here are nine tips to ensure your résumé stands out and doesn’t get lost among all the other files handled by recruiters. Are you ready?

Be clear and concise

This piece of advice is as old as they come: don’t blather on! Remember that you want to facilitate fast and efficient reading for the recruiter. This is because on average, you have only 6 seconds to grab their attention before your résumé is discarded.

The key here is to differentiate the sections of your résumé clearly so that the recruiter can quickly locate your personal information, your education, official training, and professional experience.

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Remember the importance of the ‘upper half’

According to a study by Jakob Nielsen, initially the recruiter will glance at the top half of the first page of your résumé to determine whether it’s interesting or not. This is all the space you have to show that you are the perfect fit for the job.

A good idea is to start with a title that summarizes your résumé. In other words, start with the conclusion that the recruiter should come to if they were to conduct an in-depth analysis of your professional and academic background. A great title usually follows the structure: “What do you do?” + “What do you excel at?” The key here is to be as specific as possible and reveal information that is relevant for the job and which will catch the recruiter’s interest early on.

When it comes to structuring your experience on your résumé, you have a number of options. You can present it in reverse chronological order or in order of relevance, or you can combine both models. But remember it’s normally always better to highlight your recent practical experience wherever you have performed duties that are similar or related to the post in question.

Talk about yourself

The main purpose of a résumé is to advertise your professional background, making it the ideal place to showcase yourself. Therefore, why not also include a small description of your background.

  • This should be about 50-200 words in length.
  • Strive for a natural tone despite using formal language.
  • Use the first or the third person.

Adapt the content of your résumé to the position

Every job offer has its own unique features so adapt your résumé to the role you’re applying for. Don’t be afraid to showcase any experience related to the job offer (mentioning them first in a functional résumé) or to give details about the tasks you carried out in your previous roles.

Given that you can rarely include everything, don’t hesitate to give preference to any training or professional experience that will add value to your application. The key here is to ensure that your background is as closely aligned as possible to what the company is looking for.

Focus on your achievements

When we talk about achievements, we’re talking about positive results – not necessarily wild successes. For example, how many sales calls on average you make on a good day, the average number of customers that are satisfied after you’ve tended to them, how you’ve enhanced your job role, how many teams you’ve headed, etc. Select the figures that demonstrate the quality of your work and remember that you won’t select the same data for different job applications.

You can include this information just below the responsibilities for each previous job role. Get into the habit of gathering this information in your job on a daily basis. This won’t just provide you with data for improving, it will also indicate analytical capabilities and an interest in the business.

If you don’t have any experience, highlight the most relevant academic or formal training that you’ve received. You can also include volunteering and internships.

Mention your interests

This section should be in the lower half of your résumé and reveal your personality and individuality – beyond your professional skills. In today’s competitive labor market, it’s important to say something else about ourselves that will set us apart from the rest. In this section, you can include any awards you’ve won, scholarships, publications, recognitions, interests and hobbies.

Remember that soft skills are increasingly important for a candidate’s profile and if your interests are aligned with those of the company, this will be highly valued. So don’t forget to mention them.

Check for spelling

It hardly needs repeating but a simple spelling mistake can torpedo your hard work. What’s more, in the age of spell checkers, making such a mistake is unacceptable. Don’t hesitate to go over the document many, many times before sending it off. It’s a good idea to ask someone who has good language skills to give it a final look. You never know what they might spot.

Where appropriate, it’s also important to use technical vocabulary that is specific to the role you’re applying for. This will show that you’re an expert in your field.

Stay in your lane

If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t try and pass yourself off as one. You can easily find a host of templates that will allow you to create a résumé with a design that suits your needs. Bear in mind the following:

  • The text size should be legible (11-12 point).
  • Use just one font for the whole document. Opt for one that can be easily read such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana or Tahoma. (Needless to say, forget Comic Sans if you want to be taken seriously).
  • Avoid using too many colors. Two is enough.
  • Check for design errors that could ruin the look of your résumé such as too narrow margins, spaces where there shouldn’t be any, or misaligned paragraphs.

Keep an eye on the document name and format

Your résumé should always be sent as a PDF and you should pay attention to the file name. A résumé titled “Peter résumé” or “Untitled” is more likely to get misplaced among the HR manager’s other files. It also demonstrates a lack of professionalism.

If you make things easier for the recruiter, you’ll have a better chance of them looking at your application favorably. In this case, the correct thing to do is to send the file with the following structure: NAME+RÉSUMÉ+SURNAME.

You’re now ready to polish your résumé so that it stands out from the pile. Follow all of these points and try to think about how you can redo your résumé so that you wow the recruiter.

Now is the time to boost your chances of winning the race!

Translated by Jamie Brodway

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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