How To Make Your Resume Stand Out

Rachel Schneebaum

When writing your resume, your primary goal is to stand out from your competitors. Of course, you also need to demonstrate required qualifications and skills; but odds are, you can safely assume that most if not all of your competitors have the same (or comparable) qualifications that you do. So what do you do? How do you make yourself stand out? One way to accomplish this goal is to take advantage of new trends.

There are several components of a good resume that remain fairly constant over time: focus, clarity, readability, and demonstrated qualifications, for example. However, just like every other skill in every other industry, the field of resume writing is subject to changing trends and preferences. If you can stay on top of these trends and use them in your resume before they become mainstream, this is one way to separate out your resume from your competitors’. In this article, I’ll describe several tips for crafting standout resumes that take advantage of current trends in the field of strategic resume writing. (Note that although these trends are geared toward resumes for executives and other positions in business, they can usually be applied to resumes in most fields.)

1. Include a personal “brand statement”

A brand statement is a short and punchy sales-pitch-like line or two at the beginning of your resume, intended to catch employers’ attention and focus the rest of the information on the resume. When crafting your brand statement, focus on things that are unique about you: personality traits, leadership experience, areas of expertise, ways in which you benefited past companies, etc. (For more information about writing brand statements, check out our article on giving your resume a focal point.) You can add structure, focus, and brand support to the rest of your resume by repeating some of the key components of your brand throughout.

2. Take advantage of the top of your first page

Employers don’t have tons of time to read tons of resumes, so you want to include as much important, unique, standout information about yourself as early in the resume as you can: this way, your potential employer is more likely to continue reading past the top of the first page. So, how do you make your resume as interesting and attention-grabbing as possible, as soon as possible?

Your brand statement should do some of this work for you, and it should be the first substantial piece of information on your resume (immediately after your contact information and, if you choose to include it, your job headline). Next, list only your most important and impressive skills, awards, and accomplishments—especially ones that corroborate information in your brand statement. It’s ok to move this information out of context, even though ordinarily you might have included it further down the resume under the relevant position in your “Professional Experience” section. After all, if you don’t catch employers’ attention early on, they most likely won’t read on to the “Professional Experience” section and then learn about your most impressive accomplishments.

3. Only list key skills and experience once

Instead of repeating your relevant skills, experience, and qualifications multiple times under each past position you’ve held, create a single list of “key areas of expertise” near the beginning of the resume—preferably, immediately after your brand statement and key accomplishments. Doing this not only saves space, but also helps to frontload your resume with the most important and interesting information about you: offering an additional way to use the top of your resume to your advantage. In addition, this allows you to deliver important information quickly and concisely—via a bulleted list, attractively formatted columns, etc.—instead of making employers dig through multiple positions and parts of your resume to find what they’re looking for.

4. Don’t go over two pages

This tip is mostly self-explanatory. Employers are busy, and they’re just not interested in reading eight pages about your past work experience—unless you’ve been selected as one of the top candidates under consideration, perhaps. So, always keep your resume as short as possible (without omitting important information). The above tips—only listing your qualifications once, for example—should help you consolidate your resume. Also, note that if you’re applying for most positions—anywhere from entry-level to middle management jobs—odds are that you don’t have enough relevant skills and experience to warrant going over two pages. You should be able to include all important information in one to two pages if you’re thoughtful with your writing and your formatting: using concise phrasing, presenting information in list form instead of paragraphs, and similar.

If you’re applying for an executive position, though, and you really do have enough experience to fill up five pages, still don’t do it! Consolidate and pare down your achievements to keep your resume at the two-page mark. That said, you can include supporting documents expanding on your skills and achievements—this way, employers can read more if they want to, if you’re under final consideration.

5. Think about how your formatting will affect the reader

I’ve already discussed several benefits of presenting your information in list- rather than paragraph-form: lists save space, make it easier for employers to find the information they want, and more. It’s also worth noting that many employers—especially employers at top companies doing a lot of travel for business—might be looking at your resume on their phone: and nobody wants to read dense, paragraph-heavy documents on a mobile device! In addition to using bulleted lists, think about including plenty of white space between sections and in the margins so that your bulleted information stands out. Also think about using a font that converts well to mobile software, and submitting your resume as a document type that won’t change format when read on screens of different sizes: for example, .pdfs are better than .doc files for this reason.

Although strategic resume trends mainly affect job seekers in the highest levels of employment, the above tips above should help anyone looking to craft a compelling, attention-catching, reader-friendly resume that will appeal to employers and make you stand out from your competitors!

About The Author

Rachel Schneebaum

Rachel Schneebaum is a PhD candidate in philosophy, with a graduate minor in cognitive science, at the University of Arizona. She graduated from Williams College in 2009 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in both English and Philosophy. Rachel hopes to more effectively help students decide on, prepare for, and eventually succeed at their dream jobs.

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