Six seconds. That’s not a lot of time to catch a reader’s attention, but that’s all you’ve got when it comes to a recruiter reviewing a resume. And in some cases, it could be even less. They get so many applicants for a job — an average of 118, to be exact — that they might be looking for any excuse to toss yours out.
After going through piles and piles of resumes myself, I thought it was time to share what really can make a resume stand out. Here are the eight secrets to writing an attention-grabbing, job-landing resume:
1. Format for functionality
People don’t read like they used to. You can thank technology for that. And this means you’ll want to format your resume in a way that’s appealing to today’s readers. Consider the following:
- Embrace the space. Putting a full inch margin along either side of the page and a half-inch of white space between every paragraph will make it much easier for the reader to peruse your resume.
- Avoid blocks. Five or more lines in a paragraph can make it difficult for the reader to skim. In fact, long blocks of text could get skipped altogether. Use bullets of one to two sentences to highlight skills and achievements.
- Cut the fluff. You’ve got limited space to explain why you’re the ideal candidate for the job — no more than two pages, after all. Remove skills that all people applying for a job should have, like Microsoft Office or email.
- Start strong. With recruiters spending so little time on a resume, you not only want to catch their attention but keep it. Make sure each bullet or sentence starts with the most powerful aspect of your skill or achievement.
- Keep it consistent. If using one font size for headings and a second for descriptions, stick with it for the entirety of your resume. It can become difficult to read when you continually change font, font size, etc.
- Offer value. Ditch the objective statement, which explains what you’re trying to accomplish with your career, in favor of a value statement, which states exactly why you should be hired.
2. Quantify your contributions
So few people detail their accomplishments in numbers that it’s one of the easiest ways to stand out. If you saved money for a company, show the dollars and cents. If you improved the efficiency of a process, give a percentage. Support any claim you make on your resume with numbers, not just words.
3. Tailor to fit
Every position is unique. Even if one position has the same job title as the last, it will come with different duties and responsibilities. In other words, don’t submit the same resume to every employer. Tailor it to the role, with all the details and accomplishments relevant to that company.
Related: How Volunteering Can Help You Land a Job
4. Diagnose the problem
Job descriptions only tell you so much about a company. Conduct some research to determine the challenges the company is facing, and use it to talk about how your background and experience meets their current needs. Or, at the very least, use it to position how you solved a similar problem at a previous employer.
5. Drop a few names
Name-dropping almost always backfires — unless you do it in your resume. Then, it can help build instant credibility. Let’s say you worked for a small, little-known startup, but it had Fortune 500 clients. Incorporate their names into the description, especially if you had direct contact.
6. Show some personality
What I find interesting about most people’s interests is that they’re rarely interesting. Your interests section is the perfect opportunity to bond with the reader. Instead of telling us you enjoy reading, movies, and travel (who doesn’t, really?), make yourself memorable by being specific.
Examples: Joel and Ethan Coen films, Diana Gabaldon novels, Sudoku, marathon running, motocross, Thai cuisine, Green Bay Packers, playing Ticket to Ride.
If an interest needs further explanation, feel free to give it. “Volunteering” doesn’t stand out as much as “volunteering at a local soup kitchen on the weekends.” Just make sure everything is as succinct as possible.
7. Tweak your wording
Put just as much energy into editing your resume as you did in writing it. Look for any vague or generic wording, and swap it for more impactful terms. You’re trying to paint a picture here, and each word is a stroke that can strengthen how valuable you are as a worker.
8. Seek insider feedback
If you know someone at the organization, reach out to that person before applying for the job and ask for a little feedback on your resume. This will help you effectively customize it to the company. An employee can suggest the right buzzwords to use.
Besides, you’ve just passed along your resume to someone on the inside. And if that person likes what they see, even prior to the suggested edits, chances are good they’ll put in a good word for you with the hiring manager. It’s like getting your foot in the door without ever setting foot in the office.
If you’d like to learn more, contact us to discuss your employment history and what we can do to help you reach your career goals.