Almost everyone has an opinion on the best format and what to include in a resume. In the end, there are five basic areas to pay attention to that will allow you to hit on the most critical aspects of a resume and get it as close to “perfect” as possible.
Here are five ways to make your resume stand out from the competition.
Respond Directly to the Job Description
Hiring managers have specific ideas about what skills and experiences candidates need to do well in open positions, and your resume should mirror the description they’ve included in their listings or ads, says Mark Slack, a career adviser at Resume Genius.
“In a sea of bland candidates, the most captivating resume is the one that seems to match all of their requirements, including necessary technical skills, work experiences, and degrees, certifications, or licenses,” he says. “If your previous work experience is not relevant to the job description, you will need to get creative and frame your current skill set as being transferable into a new role.”
Describe Accomplishments, Not Responsibilities
Joseph Terach, CEO of Resume Deli, gives the example of a pizza delivery person: It’s not enough to say you deliver pizzas because that’s what you’re supposed to do. “The question is: are you good at it? Or, did you deliver pizzas late, cold and in a crushed box to the wrong address?”
Instead of regurgitating your job description, focus on the accomplishments you’ve made while living up to that description. Describe the ways you’ve excelled in your profession and have gone above and beyond.
Quantify Your Accomplishments
“There’s no better way to describe your accomplishments than with cold hard numbers,” says Slack. For instance: “How much product did you sell monthly? How much money did you save your company due to your efforts? What was the size of the budget you managed? How many people did you train or manage?”
Putting a number on the work you do gives hiring managers an idea of how you might fit into an organization. “If you can quantify any of your job descriptions, do so,” he says. “It will give the hiring manager a much clearer image of your skills and abilities and definitely help you get on the shortlist for an interview.”
Use the Summary Section for Distinguishing Details
If you include a summary statement on your resume, remember it occupies the most valuable spot — front and center, Terach says. “So many job-seekers waste it on self-descriptors, such as ‘creative,’ ‘results-driven,’ and ‘excellent communicator,’” he says. “Guess what? If you need to label yourself an excellent communicator, then you’re probably not one.” Instead, drop the generics and use the summary section to provide details of your achievements.
Ignore Irrelevant Information
Knowing what to leave off your resume can be as important as knowing what to put on it. You might think it’s a good idea to include as much information as possible to pad a weaker resume, but this approach can backfire.
Including irrelevant jobs or extraneous accomplishments from relevant jobs tells your potential employer that you don’t understand what they’re looking for, Terach says. “Don’t make your target reader fish through a bunch of noise to find what’s really important to her because she won’t. She’ll assume that you don’t get it and move on.”