Our company reviews over half a million resumes each year, so it’s safe to say we’ve seen our fair share of good resumes, bad resumes, and resumes that fall squarely in between. While the bad resumes tend to be that way for various reasons, the good ones almost always have a few things in common. As such, we thought we’d take a minute to ask our recruiters what they feel makes a resume stand out.
Here’s what they said:
1. Tailor to fit.
A single resume won’t match all job openings. So, outside of clean formatting and relevant job details, a great resume is one that shows you’ve read the listing and that you know exactly why you’re the best candidate for the role. Still articulate your story and make it clear how you’ve grown throughout your career, but do it in a way that demonstrates how you can add value to that particular employer — and you’ll stand out.
~ Judy – Director of Talent Acquisition, Minneapolis, MN
2. Highlight your skills.
It may not sound like much, but I always find it helpful when candidates break out their skills in a bulleted list. And when those skills are set off in a skills section towards the top of a resume, with industry-specific buzzwords peppered throughout, it not only makes it much easier to determine whether a candidate has the relevant background, but also shows a deeper understanding of his or her chosen field.
~ Brooke – Branch Operations Manager, Houston, TX
3. Keep things succinct.
Sometimes, less is more. To make your resume stand out, I often tell talent to keep their writing clean, clear, and concise. When you pad your resume with needless details, you make it that much harder for recruiters to determine if you have the relevant experience required for an opening. Make it easier to identify whether you’re the ideal candidate by describing your skills, work experience, and education as succinctly as possible. Bullet points often help.
~ Stephanie – Recruiting Center Lead, Des Moines, IA
Many times, we see two extremes on resumes: Long novels that explain every minute detail of the job or just a job title with no supporting job duties. We want you to keep it brief, yet include some information on the role and responsibilities. Aim for a short, detailed description of each position with its corresponding job duties. A skills summary at the top helps, too.
~ Kelley – Talent Manager, Coon Rapids, MN
4. Emphasize accomplishments, not responsibilities.
For me, what makes a resume stand out is proof of results. After reading resume after resume that look as if they were literally copied from the job description, the ones that really catch the eye are those that state, “Here is what I was responsible for and this is what I accomplished during my time at the company.”
~ Matt – Client Operations Manager, Plymouth, MN
5. Don’t overlook the design.
I love a nicely organized and clean resume. At a glance, a recruiter can see all the relevant information about a candidate. You don’t have to piece anything together. All the dates, skills, experience, and accomplishments stand out when you get the format right. In my opinion, a resume should have no more than two fonts, bullet points over paragraphs, and your most important information at the top.
~ Ashley – Branch Operations Manager, Appleton, WI
6. Keep up with the times.
For hands-on, creative professionals, embrace all that technology provides by working up two resumes: one for when you need to upload it to the employer’s website and another that’s more interactive, with links that take the reader directly to an online portfolio or examples of your work. You’ll still want to include those links on the Word version, but make them clickable on the second version.
~ Shannon – Senior Creative Director, Chicago, IL
7. Limit gaps in employment.
One thing that makes a resume stand out, and not in a good way, is gaps in employment. If at all possible, limit gaps in your work history. Otherwise, make sure to explain why you weren’t working during that time. Were you taking care of a loved one? Were you furthering your education? As long as there’s an explanation, you should be fine.
~ Shannon – Branch Operations Manager, Burnsville, MN
8. Focus on relevant content.
While formatting and presentation speaks volumes for the professionalism of you as a candidate, I first look at the resume’s content during my first pass-through. Does your previous work experience align with the required background and qualifications for the vacant position? If not, I likely will move on to the next resume.
~ Kadee – Talent Manager, Minneapolis, MN
9. Proof before submitting.
Today, more and more online job postings require you to upload a simple resume, with minimal graphics, prepared in a Word or PDF format. For creative professionals, I recommend always having two versions of your resume on hand: one that reflects your personal branding and the other, a simple Word document so it will be accepted by the application software system. Regardless of which version you use, always remember to include a link to your online portfolio.
~ Shannon – Senior Creative Recruiter, Chicago, IL
You only have a few seconds to grab a potential employer’s attention, so it’s important to make sure that your resume is up-to-date, easy-to-read, and organized. If you’d like to learn more on how to make your resume stand out, contact us today! For other job hunting tips, check out our blog and career resources pages!